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Teach your kids how to recognize child abuse. Here are the 3 R’s of safety

Make sure your kids know what to do if they are in a child abuse situation.

One in five children in the U.S. is sexually abused before the age of 18.

Health Educator and Wellness Coach, Stacy Goulding, says these experiences create long-lasting trauma that affects school performance, relationships, and physical and mental health. She shares conversations we should have with our kids to help prevent child abuse from happening to them.

To learn more, head over to She offers more helpful coaching and resources for parents there.


The 3 R’s of Safety

  • Recognize: Is it safe? Does it break a safety rule?
  • Refuse: You can say no to any unsafe situation or touch you don’t want.
  • Report: Always tell if someone makes you feel uncomfortable or breaks a safety rule.



90% of victimized children know the abuser. They don’t need to be scared of stranger danger (aka the white van down the street) but they need to recognize strange behavior in people they know. If friends or family break safety rules, children can recognize they are not safe. Your family’s rules could include:


  • We keep our clothes on
  • No one can touch your private parts
  • We don’t send nude pictures
  • Don’t be alone in closed areas with friends, cousins, neighbors, etc.
  • We don’t keep secrets. Secrets based in fear are different than fun surprises like a birthday.


Tips: You can have “what if” conversations with your kids: “What if your friend’s older sibling touched your private body parts—is that okay?” “What if a boy at school sends you a nude picture, is that ok?” “Is it ok if the doctor checks your private parts if they’re in pain, while mom is in the room?” Revisit safety rules and practice “what ifs” on a regular basis.



Help your child come up with different ways of saying no to uncomfortable situations or situations when a safety rule is broken. Come up with alternative ways to say “no” such as, “Stop that,” “I’m not allowed to play touching games,” “‘No, I have a safety rule not to take my clothes off,” and “I don’t want to do that.” Have them practice out loud. Help kids understand that when it comes to their body safety, they can say no to people who are older or who have authority over them (grandparents, teachers, coaches). And saying a firm “no” isn’t being unkind. It’s keeping everyone safe.



Teaching children to report reminds them you are a trusted adult who wants to know about unsafe situations or broken safety rules. It’s not their fault if someone breaks a safety rule with them. By reporting we are getting help and support for both people involved. Let them know you will believe them and will find them help.

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