The social rules that say what behaviour is appropriate around other people can be difficult for some children to pick up. This can make them vulnerable to inappropriate behaviour from other people and to, unintentionally, behave in an inappropriate way towards other.
Many of us learned these social rules by observation but some children will not be able to do this and they will need you to teach them.
Here we share some methods other parents have used but you know your child best and will know how they like to learn – through pictures, on the computer, role play etc. so you should adapt these ideas to the method best suited to your child.Appropriate information sharing
Which topics are appropriate to discuss with which people? E.g. you might tell your parent about growing pubic hair but should not tell the school janitor
Some parents have found the Circles of Intimacy model useful to teach a range of learning about appropriate social behaviour and information sharing is an easy starting point. The version below is very basic but you can buy colourful, digital versions of this as an app for a tablet or smartphones:
Start by mapping out all the different relationships in your child’s life; with the closest relationships in the inner circle. They can, write, draw pictures or stick photos of the people in each circle. Give your child examples of different types of information – some personal and ask who they think it would be ok to share it with e.g. what you had for breakfast, your hobby or special interest, where you live, if you did a poo this morning etc. You can then help them to match up which things are appropriate to share with which people
Using the same diagram as above – or other method you have found to work for your child– show or give your child pictures of different types of greetings (hand shake, wave, hug etc) and help them match up an appropriate greeting for each person on their diagram. This short film clip may help you illustrate the learning:
Meeting and greeting other people
Using the same diagram as before, go through each level of intimacy and give an example of a person e.g. teacher, friend, grandparent and work out with your child how close it would be appropriate to sit or stand next to that person. You can do this by moving yourself to the appropriate level of closeness to your child to demonstrate or by giving them chalk and getting them to draw on the ground a line or circle to show proximity to them.
Using the same diagram as before, go through each level of intimacy and give an example of a person and say which types of touch are appropriate for each level of intimacy e.g. a hug from the people you are closest to (if you want one) is appropriate but it is not appropriate for a stranger on the bus/in the street to hug you. These two short films might help to make you explain:
At the bus stop
Stranger in the street
Private areas of the body and touch
To help keep your child safe from abuse, it is important to help them learn that their body belongs to them and being touched is their choice, not another’s.
If you have already created a large body outline of your child, use this diagram. If not, it is useful to do this first as it will be easier to explain appropriate touch if you have already helped your child to name all their body parts.
These two film clips might help to illustrate this rule about touch.
This first one shows a family friend touching a young woman’s breasts and shows an assertive response from her:
This second film shows that even if you are in a relationships with someone, they still need to check out if you want to be touched and that it’s not appropriate to touch intimately in a public place: