Despite expert recommendations to talk about inappropriate touching during preschool years, researchers have revealed that only less than half of parents of preschoolers have begun that discussion. One in four parents of elementary school-age children say they have not yet begun talking about inappropriate touching, according to the CS Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health at the University of Michigan in the US.
The report is based on responses from 1,106 parents who had at least one child age 2-9 years. "This is a conversation parents should be having multiple times in age-appropriate ways," said Mott Poll co-director Sarah Clark. According to the poll, three in five parents agree that the preschool years is the right time to talk about inappropriate touching. But among parents of preschoolers who have not talked about it, 71 per cent believe their child is too young.
Many parents also said they want more help navigating the conversation - but two in five say they haven't received any information on how to talk with their child about inappropriate touching, the study said.
According to the researchers, just a quarter of parents have received such information from a health care provider.
"Many parents have not gotten any information about how to talk with children about inappropriate touching. Without practical tips or suggestions, parents may be at a loss for how to begin," Clark said.
Among parents of elementary school-age children who have not talked about inappropriate touching, the most common reason was just not getting around to it (39 per cent).
Another 18 per cent said that discussions are unnecessary because inappropriate touching of children rarely happens.
"Parents shouldn't disregard the reality of child sexual abuse. Statistics show that up to 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18," Clark said.
The researchers noted that parents may start this process during the preschool years by teaching the anatomically correct names for body parts and explaining what parts are private.
Other common reasons for not talking about inappropriate touching with school-age children include feeling the child is still too young (36 per cent), not wanting to scare the child (21 per cent), and not knowing how to bring it up (18 per cent).
According to the researchers, sixty percent of parents said they'd like their child's school to teach students about the topic, and 76 per cent want the school to provide information for parents.
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