Friday, November 24, 2006

Good Touch Bad Touch

Teaching through play works. Work is children’s play: their business. Business needs reinforcing on a daily basis or business begins to fail. So too with the business of protective play, reinforce the protection by playing everyday with the five important elements of the BITSS model of Protective Behaviours Body Ownership, Intuition, Touch, Say no, and Support network.

Touch is a difficult area to play protectively with if you do not understand the subtle difference between good touch/bad touch. Child sexual predators use normal touch (good touch) to desensitize a child and move them toward accepting bad touch. It happens gradually and sometimes without the child even realizing what has happened. If someone pats your child’s shoulder in friendship, it may be acceptable. If that same someone tomorrow pats your child’s breast and claims it was a mistake, it is a warning sign that they are moving toward bad touch and that your child is allowed to react, to come and tell you.

Our natural environment is useful for teaching about good touch/bad touch. When we look at the early warning signs in nature, we have a better understanding of how early warning signs work inside of our body and how a situation can very quickly move from being good to being awful. Many nature based activities can be designed around the below two discussion starting points.

Flowers: As beautiful as some flowers may be, they have the potential to turn from a good touch to a bad touch. Use them as an example. Running up to smell a beautiful flower may result in being pricked by a thorn, stung by a bee, or getting a rash on your face from poison leaves or petals. Some people too can be tricky. They start off being nice but it's a trick. They end up hurting us with their words or touch. When the good touch turns to bad touch it is okay to come and tell someone.

Animals: Many parents warn children about patting dogs, “Be careful! That dog might bite”. This is a perfect example of good touch/bad touch. Use these teachable moments to explain that sometimes, good things can turn to bad things and that children need to watch for changes and know when to back away. If you are patting a cat and its tail starts flicking it is the cat’s early warning sign to us that it is unhappy. Your child is at risk of being bitten or scratched by the cat. People have signs in their behavior too. When people move to bad touch, back away from them and tell someone what has happened.

Can you share a game idea that you use to teach about good touch/bad touch? The more we share, the quicker all of our children stay safe.

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