The Underwear Rule - Seven sentences to use to help keep kids safe from sexual abuse

In our offices we have a copy of a book called "Everybody has a Bottom".  It's a book for kids to help them understand that parts of our bodies are private and not for showing or touching other people.

I was transporting it between offices recently and my kids read it aloud with great gusto and laughter.  But it was a perfect opportunity for me to have another conversation with them about what is okay and not okay with regards to bodies and touching, and helping make sure they stay safe.

Maybe you've already talked with your kids about this.  I had too.  But one - or two - conversations are not enough.  Think about how often we have to remind our kids to speak kindly to each other!  Children need reminders at least once a year about this issue.  

However, it's not always an easy conversation to have.  Parent understandably get stuck knowing exactly what to say. If this is the case for you, I've listed the 7 most important concepts to teach children about self protection and sentences to use to help you do this.

1.Teach kids the idea that parts of their body are private

Hey Jane, you know that some parts of your body are private right?  What parts are they do you think?

If you forget, here's a way to remember:  The Underwear Rule.  Are you ready?  The parts of your body which are covered with underwear - like your jocks or a bra for girls when they get older - they are private.

2.Teach kids about what it means to have private parts of their body

So John, what do you think private actually means?

Private means that no-one is allowed to touch them, or look at them, take a photo of them or kiss them.  So you don't touch other people's private parts and they don't touch yours.  Adults aren't allowed to touch your private parts, and neither are kids or teenagers.  And adults and kids aren't allowed to make you touch their private parts either.  It doesn't matter whether it is someone who is normally really nice to you, or someone you love.  It's still not okay.

3.Teach kids that doctors might need to touch their private parts sometimes

Sometimes a doctor might need to touch your private parts.  But this should only happen if they explain WHY they need to do this and there is another adult with you at the same time.

4.Talk to kids about what to do if it happens to them

What could you do if someone asked you to touch their private parts or wanted to touch your private parts? Who could you tell?  What if you were feeling embarrassed or upset?  Who could you talk about it to then? Who else could you talk to?

Could you tell me about it?  How about if you write me a note or draw me a picture if you were embarrassed or upset?  Would that work?

5.Talk to kids about the fact they are too young for secrets

Do you know the difference between a secret and a surprise?  A surprise is something like a present, that you don't have to keep forever.  A secret is something that someone has said you can never tell.  Kids aren't old enough to have secrets.  If someone asks you to keep a secret, you can say "it's not okay to have a secret when you are a kid".  

If another kid tells you a secret, it's important for you to tell an adult so the adult can help make sure that kid is safe.

6.Teach kids about different feelings and the importance of listening to feelings

Sometimes we have feelings like being uncomfortable, or feeling guilty or upset about things. These feelings can be hard to explain.  Sometimes these feelings are usually a sign that it would be good to talk to an adult about something.

7.Remind kids that private parts of their body are not "bad" and they don't need to feel guilty

I just have one more thing I want to remind you - there is nothing wrong with YOU touching the private parts of your own body when you are by yourself.  There is nothing wrong with private parts of our body.  It's just that they are JUST for us.

You know it's normal to be curious about what body parts look like.  Can you think of a way to find out about bodies if you are curious, without asking to see other people private body parts?


This conversation should be had in a matter of fact, light hearted way.  Try to use the same tone of voice you have when explaining the rules of a sport.  It is important that kids understand these rules but we don't want them to feel ashamed, upset or scared about them.

When I spoke with my own kids about this just the other day, it opened up a way of having a conversation about a few other topics which were important for us to address.  

If you have any concerns about sexual abuse and your child, please call 131 478.

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