As your child grows, it's important that they understand appropriate and inappropriate touch. Clearly setting boundaries in your family for what touches are safe and unsafe, and what types of touch are allowed and prohibited, will help your child regulate his or her behavior. Keep your child safer in public and private settings by explaining appropriate touch.
Teach Children About the Three Kinds of Touch
For children to touch others appropriately, it's important that they understand that there are different types of touch. Teach your children that there are three kinds of touch: unwanted touches, safe touches and unsafe touches.
Unwanted touches are those that are safe, but may not be wanted at the time. For example, your child may not want his little sister to hug him multiple times per hour, or he may not want to hug and kiss his great aunt goodbye each time he sees her.
Safe touches are touches that are loving and appropriate. Friendly, nonsexual touching from family, friends, teachers, emergency response personnel and medical workers are all examples of safe touching.
Unsafe touching is touching that is harmful physically or psychologically. Sexual touching, hitting, kicking and biting are all examples of unsafe touches. Teach your child that this type of touching can originate from anyone -- another child, an adult or a professional. Warn them about how to handle and report unsafe touches.
Work with Your Children to Help Them Develop Self-Regulation Skills
According to Ida Rose Florez, assistant professor of early childhood education at Arizona State University, children begin to develop appropriate self-regulation skills around the age of four. As they learn how to control their emotions, they also learn how to regulate the way that they touch others. As a parent, it's crucial that you help your child learn to gauge how others respond to their touches or invitations for touch. Teach them about body language cues, so that they can recognize the signs that a friend may not want to be touched, hugged or kissed. Small children are naturally affectionate, so it's important to teach them how to touch appropriately.
Discuss Inappropriate Touch with Your Child
Unfortunately, the world we live in isn't always safe. As your child grows, it's important to teach them about inappropriate touch, as well. While sexual experimentation and exploration can be a normal part of childhood development, it's important that you provide your child with the information he or she is seeking so that there is no inappropriate acting out or inappropriate touching.
When your child begins to ask questions about their body parts or the body parts of the opposite gender, answer them clearly and concisely, in a gentle and scientific manner.
Discuss Safety with Your Child
Explain to them the "bathing suit rule" -- that they should not touch another child or allow anyone except a parent or doctor to touch them where a bathing suit would cover. Children are visual, so this provides them with a clear guideline as to appropriate and inappropriate touching. Teach your child to tell a trusted adult if anyone attempts to touch them in a private area.