It is important to help your child to understand what is “good touch” and “bad touch”. A “good touch” can include physical gestures that convey care and love that a person welcomes, like hugging and holding hands. A “bad touch” include actions that cause a person discomfort or hurt, like kicking or touching of private parts.
When your child tells you that their friend kissed them out of the blue, revisit the topic of “good touch” and “bad touch” with them. For instance, you can say, “Do you remember when Daddy and Mummy talked to you about what’s a good touch and what’s a bad touch? When your friend suddenly kissed you, was it a good touch or a bad touch?”
If your child says it is a good touch, talk with them more on why they think so. You can perhaps follow up by asking, “When your friend did that to you, what do you think they were doing?” Your kid may respond by saying that the friend was just trying to joke around or it was part of a game.
If your child says it is a bad touch, have a conversation with them on how they can respond to unwanted touches, like hugs or kisses. Teach them to say no to such touches if they happen again. You may want to rehearse with them, so that they are prepared next time: “The next time your friend tries to kiss you again, you can move away and say, ‘I don’t like that. Please stop that.’” This helps them to understand that their personal comfort about physical touch is important and needs to be respected.
Explain to them that if their friend keeps trying to do that, even after being told not to, they need to tell you immediately and you will help them. This allows your kid to know that as their parents, you are there to protect and stand up for them if they face an uncomfortable situation. Tell them that they should approach a teacher for help if they need to do so.
If you know the other child’s parents, you can bring this to their attention. You can also speak with the teachers about the situation your child is facing.
The same principles apply if your child is in an older age group, but parents can afford to delve deeper into the issue. Parents need to keep in mind that if their kids has received unwanted sexual attention, the way they respond provide cues for their children to know if they can bring up this topic with them again.
It is important to explain to your kid that if what they received from their friend was an inappropriate touch, they are not to be blamed or shamed. They also need to understand that this unwanted sexual behaviour is to be taken seriously, and not brushed aside flippantly.
Assure them that you are not angry at them and you still love them. Make sure to communicate to them with both your words and facial expressions that you are not ashamed of them nor do you blame them because of what they experienced. When you respond in a level-headed and loving way, this sends a clear signal to your child that they can talk to you should such incidents happen to them again in the future.
Ask your child some questions to find out more about the situation. Stick to finding out key information, and refrain from overwhelming them with a barrage of questions. If you assess that they are ready for this, you may like to coach them on how to talk to their friend and draw clear boundaries about the incident.
If you think it is better for you to step in to contact their friend’s teachers or parents, do so in discussion with your child. Involving them in the process helps them to know how serious the issue is and allows them to know what these steps are—should the need arise for them to act on these steps themselves in the future.
You may wish to also take this opportunity to talk to your child about appropriate physical and emotional boundaries according to the stages of relationship: acquaintances, friends, boyfriend/girlfriend, married couple. Help them to understand that kissing on the lips is reserved for a committed relationship, and not just for friends or acquaintances. And even in a serious relationship, a peck on the check or lips is different from French kissing or kissing of body parts, which may lead the couple to further hasty, unwise decisions in the heat of the moment.
As your child understands the healthy physical and emotional boundaries in each stage of relationship, this will allow them to determine for themselves what are considered appropriate and inappropriate touches with different people.
© 2020 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.
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