Are you afraid of talking to your child about abuse?

You may be afraid of:

  • Scaring your child
  • Corrupting your child’s innocence and trust

You want to help your child feel safe and confident. You do not want them to be fearful and not trusting.

Do you have fears for your children?

If you want to prevent child physical or sexual abuse, talk to your child. Start talking with them when they are young. Keep talking with them through adolescence.

Talking to your child about staying safe from abuse

Find the right time and place to talk. Look for teachable moments. Talk about abuse prevention during everyday events.

  • Do not rush into abuse prevention talks. Start with body safety talks, such as crossing the street or wearing a helmet.
  • Do not let your fears get in the way. Make sure you are calm before you talk with your child.

Finding the words

  • Talk about prevention skills with your partner before you talk with your child. Agree about what language will be used.
  • Make yourself comfortable with anatomically correct language. Your child will sense it if you are not comfortable. Teach your child terms such as penis, vagina, buttocks, and anus when they are 2 or 3 years old. If you do not teach them the proper terms at a young age, they will soon learn incorrect words from peers or friends.
  • Talk about how to stay safe instead of what may happen outside after dark or how dangerous strangers may be.
  • Do not use big and scary words such as kidnap, kill, or death when you talk about safety skills.
  • Use words like safe and unsafe touching. Do not use words like rape or sexual abuse.

The focus

Focus your talk on what a child can do to stay safe when they are in a dangerous or uncomfortable situation. This will help them feel more confident and to have less fear.

Prevention skills

Find time to talk about these safety skills with each child 1 or 2 times a year.

  • Teach them: “Your body is your own. Nobody should touch your body without your permission.”
  • Many children believe saying “no” to an adult is wrong and they will be punished. Give your child permission to say “no” to anyone who scares him or her with their words or touches.
  • Give your child choices for when they are in a scary situation.
    • Run away from danger. Run to school, to a neighbor’s, to a store, or home. Run to the closest safe place. Help your child list and remember these safe places.
    • Yell loudly and do not stop yelling until you are safe.
    • Tell your child it is ok to hit, kick, bite, scratch, or scream to get away.
  • Help your child learn the difference between safe and unsafe secrets.
    • Surprise parties are safe secrets. They do not make a child feel afraid.
    • Unsafe secrets often make children feel scared or uncomfortable. Unsafe secrets should always be shared with a safe adult who will help. Help your child list the names of safe adults to tell unsafe secrets.
  • Let your child know, “Whenever you have a problem, no matter how scary or embarrassing, I will listen and believe you. If you share problems with me I can help and protect you from harm.”

Self confidence

  • Help your child believe in his or her own skills to be safe.
  • After talking about safety, tell your child you know he or she will remember safety skills at home, in the neighborhood, and at school.
  • Give your child a hug. Show them you believe in them.

Safe, strong, and independent

All parents want their children to grow up feeling safe, strong, and free. Parenting is hard. It takes practice. Communication is the most important tool parents have to make sure their children are protected. Listening to children and talking honestly with them is a good way to practice prevention skills.

All of us have the right to grow up free from abuse.

  • Call Center Telephone: 1-800-777-8442 or 1-319-384-8442
  • Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room if your child is in immediate danger.
  • Report suspected abuse/neglect to the Iowa Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-362-2178.

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