Appropriate Caring and Touching of Children
Ensuring everyone is and feels safe
There are sensible ways for adults to show warmth to children while still protecting their own integrity:
- Make a point of showing affection to all your children in open places where other can see and share in the warmth. If you are comfortable with others watching what you are doing with children, you are probably OK.
- Touch children in safe places on their bodies avoiding private places. The back, the head and the shoulders are acceptable; the buttocks, the breasts, and thighs and the groin are not acceptable.
- If a child is hurt or feeling ill and needs to be examined, ensure that another person of the same sex as the child is present in the room while you are carrying out the examination. If possible, leave an examination of private places to health professionals. Don't force the child to remove clothing for an examination.
- If a child is sad and needs to be comforted, show affection by placing your arm around a shoulder and giving a gentle hug or a good squeeze from the side.
- If the child needs to have a private conversation with you, remove yourselves the necessary distance from the others but stay in view of the group or leave a door slightly ajar.
- It is impossible to avoid situations where you must be along with a child. But if you are along, be sure that you have considered some safeguards and that parents are aware of the nature of your activity with the child. For example, when doing bed checks at camp, bring a second counsellor if one is available. When travelling long hours by car, try to take a number of children or bring along another volunteer.
- Don't be alone and naked with the child, anywhere. If you must change a public swimming pools, use the kind of discretion that is appropriate for such places and change in a part of the change room slightly away from the kids.
- Be cautious about any conversations with the children that involve sex. It is understood that children ask honest questions about sexuality and teenagers might seek advice. Listening with respect for the child is appropriate; it is also appropriate to distribute and discuss agency approved information which is part of a general educational program about sexuality. Joking around with kids in ways that encourages promiscuity and the acceptance of sexually explicit material is dangerous for you and the children.
- In all things, respect the integrity of the child. Allow the child to back away from your well-intentioned affection if they wishes. Ask the child if they feels OK about being touched. Abused children are sometimes fearful or distrustful of any physical contact. Most of us sense the difference between positive and caring intentions and those which are meant to exploit us. Use your common sense and good judgement to guide you in protecting the personal space of the children in your care.