Welcome to the new age of Sex Education.  In 2024, it is not a decision about IF your child will learn about sexuality and adult sexual acts, its a matter of WHEN and HOW.   Statistically, most children will learn SOMETHING about sexuality before 3rd grade, that is 8 or 9 years old.  This may include phrases they hear, websites they visit or  images they see.  If you didn’t know, it’s very likely the images are of adults engaging in non-consensual or violent sexual acts. I know, scary, but true!

My preference and recommendation is that children learn positive and accurate messages about human sexuality from their parents.  My preference is that all of their curiosities are satisfied, that they know what private parts look like, they know what the medical terms and slang words mean, they know what happens under the covers, and they know how to decide when it’s OK to have sexual experiences. My preference is that every single child has access to a Sexual Education Book , a book with hand drawn pictures, a book about relationships, a book they can go to about things that are too embarrassing to say out loud.

Please Trust me, NOTHING BAD can happen by having a book, but LOTS OF BAD things can happen if a child  doesn’t have access to human sexuality information.   At the very least, please get a book for yourself, my all time favorite is Dr. Laura Berman’s book, Talking To Your Kids About Sex.

More of my Favorite book selections are found here: sex ed books 2024

When things are so frustrating, you barely know what to do, this card may help.  Please put something in each square of the card, then you will have pre-planned ways to help yourself; ways to give yourself some comfort when life really gets rough.

The six parts of the card are………….

  1.  Thing:  This can be anything that you can hold, a photo, a fuzzy blanket, a piece of jewelry from your grandmother. If you are a teen, this item is likely a phone, or a similar electronic device which takes on the purpose of a security blanket. This “thing” may also be a pet, but for some folks, a pet falls in the category of “person”.
  2. Place:  Think of someplace where you can go where you feel some peace or comfort, just by being in that place. It must be a place that you can get to within one hour of travel, so being in Nebraska, this is not the mountains or the ocean. If you are a  child, it needs to be a place you will always have permission to go to, like your room or the fort in your backyard.
  3. Person:  The ideal person is someone that makes you feel loved and special even if you do not talk about what is bothering you. If this person has died, then scents and odors are very powerful in re-creating the same feelings and memories you shared with this person.  Like I said in number one, this “person” could also be beloved pet
  4. Food/Drink: It is pretty easy to think of comfort food or drink.  Most people have a favorite when they are stressed, feeling ill or when it is  a special occasion.  Alcohol and large quantities of food may or may not be a good choice for you.  In fact, all of the items on this card are meant to be used in moderation.  The idea is to use many different kinds of things to help distract yourself when stressed or upset.
  5. Image/Memory:  This is something you can picture in your mind that will help you remember a positive event or feeling. It may be an actual memory of a vacation or visiting a calm place.  You can also invent something on your own, like a deserted tropical island with unlimited chocolate and a personal maid.
  6. Activity:  For this category there are two kinds of activities that can bring you comfort.  The first one is an energy releasing activity.  This would be something like cleaning, dancing, running or jumping on the trampoline.  Something that will help you get all of the stress out of your body, something that gets your heart rate up for at least 20 minutes.  The second one is a soothing activity.  Something that will help you relax and lower your heart rate.  This could be a bath, meditation, reading, listening to music or an old fashioned nap.  Please include both ideas in this box, ‘cuz sometimes you need one or both of these types of activities.

To print out your own comfort card, please use this pdf:       COMFORT THY SELF

When there is sexual abuse, either from an adult or another youth, there must be some level of coercion. Most situations of sexual abuse involve coercion, which is emotional ways to force someone to do something, usually tricks and threats.  A young child may consent to sexual behaviors because they are not aware of what sex is, how the private parts are supposed to be special and kept private (they don’t know the privacy rules) or they have been taught that sex is OK for kids by a caregiver.

Sometimes this diagram helps folks understand who is really responsible for sexual abuse because healthy sexuality is 100% consensual for both parties who are old enough to consent.

click on this link to see the diagram in a pdf form which you can copy  coercion arrow

The dynamics of consent in relationships can get really complicated.  True consent only involves people who have the same level of power and control, for example, a teen may fully consent to sexual activity with their teacher, but it’s not true consent because the student doesn’t have the same amount of power in the relationship.   For information on unhealthy dynamics in relationships, visit  https://www.itspronouncedmetrosexual.com/2016/11/rest-columns-shadows-healthy-relationship-model/




Each family and situation is unique and The Privacy Rules can be tailored to suit your individual needs.  Please consider the development, emotional maturity and past behavior of the child.   I recommend that the child or family make their own poster by choosing which cards to use and what the title should be.  Then they can use their own creativity to decorate it and post it in the home.  If you would rather just download the list, then that is fine too.   Please read the post on this site called “The 9 Rules about Private Parts that may Prevent Sexual Abuse” for more information on how to explain the privacy rules to children.  http://sheryloverby.com/9-rules-private-parts/ 

Hover your mouse over the titles and click on them to be linked to a PDF that you can print out and use.

The basic Privacy Rules for anyone who will grow up someday, own a mobile device or know how to use google images.  privacy rules cards

The Privacy Rules for pre-teens or anyone who has at least one underarm hair, or thinks the pictures on the other cards are way too dumb for them.  The youth can make their own title and decorate the numbers and keep the list safely hidden where no peer can find it….which is fine, as long as they follow the rules.   privacy rules no clipart

Credit for knowing about privacy rules goes to the lovely folks at Oklahoma University and NCSBY.


Maximizing Sexual Respect  for Children under 10

Sheryl Overby  MS  NCC  LIMHP

 If everyone in the world has sexual respect, then there would be no sexual abuse.  One of the best ways to help kids have healthy ideas about sexuality is to teach sexual respect.  The world and its “pornified culture” will have a huge impact, sure, but do all you can to minimize that impact by implementing ideas of sexual respect.

Here are my best tips…….

  • Clothing Choices:  It is a good idea for ALL family members to be conscious of what they wear outside of the bedroom. Seeing others in their underwear or pajamas may be over-stimulating to a child.  Reframe desire for clothing choices from sexual “hotness” to appropriateness for the event or comfort
  •  Language:  Suggestive, sexualized, objectifying or obscene language is not allowed from anyone.  Reframe focus of compliments from attractiveness to character strengths.
  • Objectification:  The concept that people are treated like objects, most typically a sexual object.  Do all you can to avoid this from a very early age.  The American culture is prevalent with pornography, sexualized media and the meeting of sexual desires with people outside of relationships.  But, it is more than sexual objects, so teachers are more than just teachers, waiters are more than just servers, husbands are more than a paycheck, etc.
  • Sexually explicit materials such as magazines, videos, catalogs, or TV programs should be completely eliminated from the household.  Don’t keep TV and Video game systems in your child’s room that have adult swim or internet access that they can use in the middle of the night.
  • Computer time should be monitored to make sure the youth is not “accidently” exposed to sexualized images.  Remember, the youth has more time, energy and motivation to break through the parental controls software than the parent has to maintain it.  This includes ALL MOBILE DEVICES and gaming devices.
  • Explain what you are doing  Kids want to know why.  Depending on their age, you can give varying degrees of explanations about why you are putting filters on the internet, or not allowing TVs in their room, etc.  Most of them will appreciate your involvement.   Go to commonsensemedia.com for videos you can show your kids about how sex is used for marketing and advertising.
  • Don’t use porn Sexual respect means ADULTS have sexual activity in a RELATIONSHIP with a REAL LIVE PERSON, not an image on the computer screen, which may or may not be real.  Make sure the adults in the child’s life model this message in their own behavior
  • Sex Education: All children need basic information about how they develop sexually.  They also will benefit from an atmosphere in which it is OK to talk about sex.  Appropriate words for body parts, such as penis, vagina, breasts, and buttocks, will give the child helpful words to use to describe themselves, especially if they have to talk about sexual behavior.  All children (any age) should have an age appropriate explanation for the sexual behavior that has been done to them if they have been abused by an older teen or adult.
  • Encourage them to Say NO Children need to learn that they have the right to assertively say “no” when someone touches them ANY WHERE or in ANY WAY they do not like. Help them to practice this. A youth should NEVER be pressured into touching someone or showing affection if they are not comfortable. If your child has been sexually abused, this is especially important that they can say NO in any type of situation they do not like.  This may include situations of feeling intimidated or taken advantage of.
  • Mutual Respect Among Siblings Sometimes intimidation is a part of a problematic sexual behavior.  This needs to be turned into mutual respect.  Encourage equality among siblings by giving younger children equal power when deciding family activities.  Teach the appropriate use of drawing straws, taking turns and rotating responsibilities.


  • Privacy for Children: Everyone has a right to privacy. Children should be taught to knock when a door is closed and adults need to role model the same behavior. Children also deserve to have privacy with their thoughts, feelings, personal belongings, personal space and time.  I am repeated this for a reason, Children also deserve to have privacy with their thoughts, feelings, personal belongings, personal space and time.  Think about it.  Children who have been abused or who have sexually harmed another person deserve the right to privacy when determining who needs to know about their history


  • Secrets:  Help the child understand the difference between secrecy, surprises and privacy; this is a tricky thing for all of us, frankly. This relates to gossip, tattling, reporting abuse and sharing feelings.  In general, it’s always OK to ask mom and dad for help to figure this one out.  Secrets are usually discouraged, privacy is usually encouraged and surprises are usually a lot of fun, except if there is a spider in bathtub.


  • Privacy for Adults: Don’t forget that adults need privacy too, especially if engaged in sexual activity.  Lock the bedroom door always and make sure children cannot hear sexually related noises.  This is extremely overwhelming and arousing for a youth who may not have a healthy understanding of sexuality.
  •  Follow the 9 Rules:  See Handout on the 9 Rules that May Prevent Sexual Abuse
  • Practice Critical Thinking: Ask your child why they think the strawberry commercial pretends to be sexual or why a restaurant wants their waitresses to look a certain way.  Ask your child why they think a swimsuit top for a 2nd grader would have padding or ask about the current jokes kids tell at school.  The goal is to help your child think; send the message that they have a choice about their sexual behavior, their sexual thoughts and their sexual gender issues.  Things they will have a long time to figure out if they wait until they are grown up to share their bodies with someone.
  • BE PEPARED:  Now that your child knows they can talk to you, knows they have a choice, be prepared to have lots more discussions with them about their sexual choices and the sexual messages in society when they are teenagers. That’s a whole ‘nother paper and much more complicated, so come find me when they are about 11 or 12, I’ll have something on sheryloverby.com.




Stop  –  means no

Turning away  –  means no

I don’t want to  –  means no

Shoving you away  –  means no

Leave me alone  –  means no

Not touching you   –  means no

I’m not ready  –  means no

Playing dead / not moving  –  means no


I don’t feel like it   – means no

Drunk or drugged  –  means no

Get away from me  –   means no

Screaming  –   means no

Don’t   –  means no

Crying  –  means no


Yes means one thing only:   FREELY GIVEN CONSENT, where BOTH person’s needs, wants and desires are the foundation for the interaction.


Sheryl Overby’s Personally Recommended

Resources (updated 2024)


I keep a running lost of resources that are I use personally and recommend often to other professionals or consumers/clients.  If you know of an especially great resource, please let me know via email.  We need all the help we can get and sharing resources is something we can all do. Click on the Title below to get my latest list of resources concerning sexual respect, sexual health, sexuality, youth culture, online safety and sexual behaviors.

Sheryl’s favorite resources 2024


A child who has been sexually abused will benefit from clear guidelines that set the rules for their behavior. These kinds of rules provide the structure, comfort and security all children need to grow into healthy adults.

Sexual Respect

  • Suggestive or obscene language is not allowed from anyone. It is sometimes a trigger for old feelings and does not create sexual respect.
  • Do all you can to avoid objectification, which is seeing a person as an object, most typically a sexual object. The American culture is prevalent with pornography, sexualized media and the meeting of sexual desires with people outside of relationships.
  • One possible message is: “every person, young and old, deserves to be respected and sex is a great and wonderful thing for adults, when they think and think about when to share their bodies”.


Sex Education


  • All children, including the child who has been abused, need basic information about how they develop sexually. They also must know the terms for what was done to them so they aren’t surprised during sex ed at school or with their friends.
  • They will benefit from an atmosphere in which it is OK to talk about sex.
  • Appropriate words for body parts, such as penis, vagina, breasts, and buttocks, will give the child helpful words to use to describe themselves, especially if they have to describe their abuse.


Saying NO

  • Children need to learn that they have the right to assertively say “no” when someone touches them ANY WHERE or in ANY WAY they do not like. Help them to practice this.
  • A child should NEVER be pressured into touching someone or showing affection if they are not comfortable.



  • Everyone has a right to privacy. Children should be taught to knock when a door is closed and adults need to role model the same behavior when entering their child’s room.
  • Reinforce that “It is NOT OK to look at other people’s private parts or show your parts to someone else unless there is a medical reason”.
  • Children also deserve to have privacy with their thoughts, feelings, personal belongings, personal space and time. Remember, this privacy is different than secrets.
  • Children who have been abused deserve the right to privacy when determining who needs to know about their history. If parents need to talk about the event for support, make sure it is with the child’s approval.



No Secrets

  • Make it clear that any “secret games”, particularly with adults, are not allowed. Tell children if an adult suggests such a game, they  should tell you  immediately.
  • Help the child understand the difference between secrecy and privacy. This relates to gossip, tattling, reporting abuse and sharing feelings.




  • Help children differentiate between feelings in your body and feelings that are emotions. It is normal to have all kinds of feelings, including sexual feelings. However, everyone does not always act on all the feelings he or she has.
  • Make sure the child knows how to react to feeling aroused emotionally or if their body is aroused and help them to excuse themselves from difficult situations.
  • Some children need very specific instructions on how to distract themselves when aroused.
  • Children who have been abused need to know that if their skin/body parts were aroused during the abuse that they are still NOT responsible for the abuse and it does NOT mean that they liked it. It is possible that their offender has already convinced them otherwise.



  • No one should touch another person without permission. Everyone should ask for hugs.
  • Do not allow them to sit on the laps of adults, as this is a common behavior that offenders encourage and they may be more likely to be abused by others in the future.
  • A person’s private parts should not be touched except during a medical examination or in the case of young children, if they need help with bathing or toileting.
  • Help your child understand that “It is OK to touch yourself if you are in private and it does not interfere with other fun things like playing with friends”.
  • Children need lots of NON SEXUAL touch. The need to feel affection, friendship, caring and love in non sexual ways. Please consult with the child’s therapist to identify what types of touch will be the most helpful.



Wrestling and Tickling

  • Tickling and wrestling is not allowed.
  • As common and normal as these childhood behaviors are, they are often tinged with sexual overtones. They can put the weaker child in an overpowered and uncomfortable or humiliating position. Touching of private parts can be “accidental” or not accidental and justified as tickling.


Bedrooms and Bathrooms

  • These two locations are often prime stimuli for children and will sometimes trigger traumatic memories. In general, children who have had sexual acts forced on them are probably confused about sexuality it is recommended that they have separate bedrooms and bathroom time.
  • It is not advisable to bring a child who has been sexually abused into an adult’s bed. Cuddling may be over stimulating and misinterpreted. A safer place to cuddle may be the living room couch.
  • If a child is scared at night, work out a plan to help them feel safe without sleeping with another person.



  • It is a good idea for family members to be conscious of what they wear outside of the bedroom. Seeing others in their underwear or pajamas may be over-stimulating to a child.
  • The goal is to create the feeling of sexual respect with clothing choices.
  • You can send the message that a woman’s worth is based on more than just looking “hot” or “cute”.


Being Alone With One Other Person

  • Sometimes children who have been abused behave seductively or aggressively, they need direct supervision. This means they are never alone with another child and sometimes this includes older children and other adults.
  • This eliminates the possibility of false allegations or confusion about the intent of a behavior.
  • Provide coaching and feedback to your child as they learn to interact with others.
  • Babysitting is a choice that needs careful consideration. Ask your therapist for advice.


Let’s be honest, the rules about private parts are usually not talked about and not talking about them makes a child vulnerable.

You know there are unspoken rules about all sorts of things: what to do in church, when and where to pass gas, how to pick your nose, and when to ask a lady if she is pregnant.  If you didn’t know, the rule is to NEVER ask.  It’s hard figuring out all these rules as a kid, especially the rules about private parts.  This makes children vulnerable to participate in sexual behavior because they simply don’t know what the rules are.  Even when older children do know the rules, they might not have the sophistication to know how to handle stress, control sexual urges, or respond to unintentional exposure of explicit material (which by the way, will happen to 70% of them).

Kids get mixed messages about sexuality.

To complicate things further, kids simply don’t know the difference between acting sexy and acting sexual.  Think about the messages given by you, friends and family, or society at large.  Young girls are applauded for twerking during a dance recital but are promptly told they are being “nasty” by prancing down the hallway.  So, what if their piano teacher wants them to act sexy? Or their cousin tells them to play strip poker? How will they know what to do? Well, hold on to your hat, you will have to talk about sexuality and teach them the rules.

Yes, I know it will be hard, but you can do it.

You will have to teach your child about Privacy Rules; the rules about the private places on their body.

You will have to tell them about sexual behavior and the rules that go with it. You can call it touching rules or privacy rules or just the rules.  Telling a child what is OK and what is NOT OK concerning their private parts goes a long way in preventing sexual abuse.

You can be casual.  Talk about the rules concerning your child’s body in general.  Say, “brush your teeth, use a Kleenex when you pick your nose, and oh, here are some rules about your private parts.”  Or, bring up the rules during bath time, when you encourage your child to wash their own private parts.  Mention the rules when you see someone breaking them (or following them) on TV.

Or, do it formally. Sit everyone in the family down, including teenagers, and have a family meeting.  Go through the rules and explain that you, as the parent, are there to help them follow the rules.  Make a poster of the rules and put it up somewhere.  Don’t forget to add that all grownups are supposed to respect the rules that kids have about their private parts.  If you don’t want to make your own poster, you can download these examples Privacy Rules Cards    Please pick whichever way works best for you, just do it.

Rule # 1   It is NOT OK to touch other people’s private parts.  

If needed, explain to very young kids that private parts are the places on their body that are covered by a swimsuit.  Pretty simple and straightforward, right?  Except nothing about sexual abuse is straightforward.  That is why you will need to have more than one, maybe even dozens, of conversations about privacy rules.  To be more specific with this rule, you may add:  If an older person makes you touch their private parts, it is not your fault and you will not get into trouble.  The older person is almost always to blame for breaking this rule since they are older and know more about what is OK and not OK.

A case in point is the 7 year old child abuse victim who is forced to “do things” (sexual things) to a much older youth. For years, the victim was asked if anyone had “touched him inappropriately,” and of course he responded with the technically correct answer of “no.”  Even worse, was that he felt responsible for his abuse, and his own traumatic memories, since he was the only one “doing the things.”

         broke yours off2

Rule # 2  It is NOT OK for anyone to touch your private parts.

This rule has an exception:  Sometimes, very rarely, it’s OK for someone to touch your private parts.  If you are not sure, please ask me or someone you trust ( also rule #8).  One way to tell if a type of touch on private parts is OK, is to think about secrets.  The times it is OK to touch private parts is when it is NOT a secret, like when someone is changing a baby’s diaper or the doctor checks them for medical reasons.  If someone touches your private parts and you feel like it should be secret, then that is NOT OK, and this is called secret touching (thank you Jan Hindman and the Very Touching Book).

Side note: I also like to use the term secret touching instead of bad touching so kids don’t associate sex with something “bad.”  Their future spouse or partner will appreciate it.

Rule # 3 It is NOT OK to look at other people’s private parts (in real life or in pictures).

This rule gives you (and me) a chance to talk about pornography.  I believe it is especially important to enforce this rule as generations of kids become more advanced with technology and even toddlers know how to access the internet.  Unfortunately, the internet is filled with billions of inappropriate images and pornography, mostly homemade.  However, it is natural and healthy for children to be curious about the difference between the private parts of boys and girls.  There are lots of good sex education books available with cartoon drawings of private parts that are appropriate, healthy and positive for children. Please visit the book store and find one that matches your family’s values and place it in your child’s room.  Then remind them: it’s OK to look at pictures of private parts in this book that I gave you since it will help you know how bodies are made.

My advice about pornography for adults :   Please don’t have pornography in the house or on any electronic device your child even touches.   Or in the car, or the attic, or the box in the basement leftover from college that actually belongs to your old roommate. I haven’t met a kid yet that didn’t find the “hidden” porn collection. Let’s be real, kids have more motivation, time, and energy to go looking for porn and other “adult” items than adults have the motivation, time, and energy to keep the same items locked up and hidden.  Please just think about it, even if you think it’s OK for adults to look at porn, it is really damaging to kids.

Rule # 4  It is NOT OK to show your private parts to other people.

This rule is the counterpart of “looking” at private parts in rule #3.  Younger kids need this concept split into 2 rules to cover all the bases.  I like this rule since it will help prevent your child from being used for child pornography.  It happens more often than you think.  Again, follow the advice in Rule #3 as to help kids with their natural curiosity to know what the private parts of the opposite sex look like.

Rule #5 It is NOT OK to take pictures of private parts.

As of 2017, the average age of a child getting a smart phone or internet capable mobile device is 10.3.  That means children as young as 4th grade have the ability to send and receive sexualized images of themselves or their peers.  Current research indicated that about 15 percent of kids age 12 to 17 had either sent or received a sexualized image from a peer.  So, besides hoping that your child will be in the other 85%, lets plant the seed early that this behavior is NOT OK.  Private parts are special and sharing them, even in a photo or an app on a smart phone is a big decision that needs to be made when you are much much older.  To read the research on sexting, look here:  https://cyberbullying.org/new-teen-sexting-data

Rule # 6  It is OK to touch yourself if you are alone and behind a locked door and do not take too much time.


Rule #6A   It is OK to touch your private parts to keep them clean.

This rule doesn’t really have all that much to do with preventing sexual abuse, but since all human being touch their privates, even if it’s only to wash them, the rule about touching yourself needs to be explained.

OK, get ready, this rule is a tricky one; stay with me.  Many, many people have strong opinions about touching their own private parts, and you may already know how you will handle this topic.   But maybe I have some new information for you to consider?  I believe that kids need guidance.  You may not believe me, but before puberty, before the influx of hormones, children who touch themselves are most likely doing it for comfort, not sexual satisfaction.  Some children are very sexualized because of their environment or history and it would appear that they are trying to achieve a climax of sorts with their genital stimulation.  I have specifically chosen not to use the term masturbation, as I believe that word describes adult sexual behavior.  When children talk to me about their genital stimulation, their desire is to relieve stress, feel better, end anxiety, or cope with a difficult situation.  You will have to trust me that they are not thinking, “oh, I’m aroused and I want an orgasm.”    If you have a kid that seems to really be compelled (not the same as a sex drive) but very powerful indeed, to touch their own private parts, then please use balance in helping them understand themselves.  I know it’s tempting, but telling a child that genital stimulation is nasty, gross, or perverted can damage your child emotionally.

Rule # 7 It is NOT OK to make others uncomfortable with your behavior or language when it is sexual or wrong for the situation.

These rules are all about BOUNDARIES.  Very simply,every kid will be less likely to be sexually abused if they are not confused about acting sexy or acting sexual.  These boundaries are 100 percent learned, either directly or indirectly from a child’s environment and the people in that environment.  This rule is helpful when teaching your child what’s OK and what’s NOT OK if they or anyone else:  tells a dirty joke, says Uranus (the planet), makes sexual hand gestures, calls their sister butt-face, or imitates Miley Cyrus’ twerking. Let’s go back to the statistic that 70% of children will be accidentally exposed to explicit sexual material on the internet. It may seem like you are powerless, but you do have a choice.  The choice is if you will teach them about what they see and hear OR stay silent about what they see and hear.


Rule #8 It is NOT OK to talk about private parts for fun with other kids.  If you have a question about privacy or sex, please ask a grown-up.

Almost all kids are exposed to some sort of sexualized information or images via their phones, social media or plain ole TV.  They want to know what all the fuss is about, especially if these images are immediately removed without explanation.  The most likely source to discuss these questions is with their friends, and the most likely source of misinformation is their friends.   The age in which this occurs is age 8 or 9.  Yup, that’s about 3rd grade.  Your kids are talking about sexual things in 3rd grade, trying to make sense of it all.  And if they tell you they have seen pictures of “naked people doing things” aka pornography aka sexualized images, then you are in for a great big discussion.  Remember, if the rule is to ask a grown up, that also means the grown up MUST give correct and helpful answers.

Rule #9  It is OK to tell (insert name here) if you have broken a privacy rule.  They will try to help you.

So this is rule can help in two different situations in which a child knows that they have broken a privacy rule.  First, it could help when a child is coerced to break a privacy rule by an older youth or adult as a means of sexual abuse, and the child doesn’t understand that their cooperation is not the same as consent.  Second, it could help in situations in which a child has a problem following the rules and they are afraid to ask for help.  It may be that the child broke a privacy rule before they knew what the rules were or they have broken a rule and are afraid they will get into trouble if they ask for help.  There are many times when children need consequences for their behavior, but this is not one of them.  Consequences alone will not solve this problem if a child feels compelled to participate in sexual behaviors with other children.  If you learn that your child has this problem, or you are unsure if your child’s behavior is concerning,  please seek professional advice, read other articles on this website or go to NCSBY.org for more information.

Rule #10  If someone else breaks a rule, tell an adult you trust and keep telling until someone helps you.

The purpose of this rule is to encourage kids to talk about sexually inappropriate acts, not to make them feel bad for keeping secrets. Only 20% of sexually abused children report sexual abuse voluntarily and there is whole list of reasons why.    Children can be coerced, tricked, bribed, and threatened into doing things and keeping secrets EVEN THOUGH they sort of know it is breaking this rule.  Children are not fully developed human beings and are NEVER at fault for complying with abusive acts or not telling someone sooner.


Rule # 11  If you are not sure about something, ask someone to help you decide.

So even if we include the exception to every rule, you cannot really cover everything that could possibly happen.  Therefore, the 11th rule is the net to catch everything else that falls through the cracks.  One word of caution, you might be faced with some difficult questions, like your 10 year old asking about the word orgasm or worse, what “69” means.  You better be ready, ‘cuz it could happen.  And if you go back on your word and avoid the question, don’t worry, the internet won’t let them down, it has plenty of answers.

Main Points About The Rules

  1. Don’t wait, it won’t be easier or better later; you can start teaching the rules as soon as they can take off their own diaper.  If you want to download one of my versions of a privacy rules poster, look at this post Privacy Rules Cards
  2. Be simple; there are 11 rules and you want your child to follow them. You should pick the ones that are most important to you and your situation; if you child is very small, just pick two or three of the rules to start with.
  3. Talk about it, mention it, give examples, notice things on TV, make a poster, bring up the rules whenever you can.  You will need to go over these concepts again and again to be the most effective.
  4. There is a very good chance your child will accept these rules without question and be grateful that now they know what to do (and not do) about their private parts.
  5. You will have to follow the rules too if you are going to be completely effective in preventing sexual abuse.  Is your porn collection more important than that??  Just saying.
  6. Human sexuality is complicated and there are more issues to think about and talk about. But start with the basics. You can get into the other stuff as the child gets older and sees you, hopefully, as the best resource for his/her questions about sexuality.  Check out Dr. Laura Bermans’ book “Talking To Your Kids About Sex” for more great ideas.

 Sexual abuse is real, and now preventing sexual abuse can be real too.

When a kids knows what is OK and NOT OK, then they will know something isn’t quite right IF an older youth or an adult tries to convince them It’s OK, or no big deal to look at porn and wrestle in their underwear, or pose for a picture.  I know I know, it’s not a visual you want to have.  So have this visual, your child will say “NO!  My mom said looking at naked people is against the rules and it’s NOT OK, so I want to go home now.”  Wouldn’t that be a great thing?

For more information on sexual abuse prevention, problematic sexual behavior (PSB) or child on child sexual assault visit these websites:

www.darkness2light.org (sexual abuse prevention)
www.nctsn.org (National Child Traumatic Stress Network)
www.stopitnow.org (sexual abuse prevention hotline)
www.ncsby.org (National Center for Sexual Behavior of Youth)


Silovsky, J.F. (2009). Taking Action: Support for Families of Children with Sexual Behavior Problems. Vermont: Safer Society Press.