Helping Your Child with Personal Boundaries

Personal boundaries are more than just standing 6 feet apart from strangers. Some children are too shy to engage with many of their friends, so they don't have a lot of practice with appropriate boundaries. Some children are best-of-friends with everyone they meet, and parents may worry this will put their child in danger someday. Here is a short list of helpful reminders when teaching children about personal boundaries--no matter how experienced your child already is with this subject.

1. It's okay if they don't want to hug their grandparents.

*Gasps* But what if grandma takes offense? What if my family thinks my child does not love them? While it is perfectly normal to worry about the reactions of extended family members, your primary concern here is your child's safety. True, grandma likely does not pose a threat to your child. However, honoring your child's choice to not hug someone teaches them that their consent is important. If this situation does occur with a family member, you may want to politely and succinctly inform the (potentially confused) family member that you are teaching your child about personal boundaries. Explain that you know your child is safe with the family member, but you want to respect this child's ability to refrain from unwanted physical contact. It may also benefit the child to have a later conversation about why the child felt uncomfortable and why the child is likely safe with that person in the future.

2.  "No means no."

This rule doesn't just apply to sexual or dangerous situations. This rule also needs to apply at home when Suzy doesn't want Billy to brush her hair. When someone says they do not want an action to keep occurring, that needs to be respected and enforced. If this idea can be gently taught in the home, it will be easier for your child to respect other children in public. Aside from protesting help when they are in danger, objecting the touch or intervention of a person is something the child must learn is within their rights to maintain their personal boundary.

3. When describing private parts of their body, don't shame them--explain them.

When a child comes home from school with a question regarding different parts of their body, our gut reaction might be to stare in shock or divert the conversation away from the topic completely. The bottom line is: children are curious by nature. They are meant to explore, learn, and question. This should not be punished. Remember, they likely do not know the taboos around the questions they are asking. It is important to react with answers that contain age-appropriate, necessary, and accurate information. You may then calmly explain to them that these subjects are something that would be best to talk about with a parent only. After discussing their questions, a compassionate tone will offer a better chance of your child opening up to you about where they heard about this subject.

The bottom line is that children will learn about personal boundaries whether it is from you or from another source. In order to ensure their questions are answered in a way that demonstrates respect for bodies and accurate information, it is crucial that parents are the first responders to their child's inquisitive, independent, impressionable little minds.

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Wednesday, 08 February 2023

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