Home Page Home Page Events Events Photos Photos Diocese of Ogdensburg Home Page  
Follow Us on Facebook

Archives Talk to children about boundaries

April 13, 2022

By Darcy Fargo

OGDENSBURG – As the Diocese of Ogdensburg marks Child Abuse Prevention Month, the diocesan Safe Environment director advises parents, caregivers and adults who work with children to keep lines of communication open.

“Teach children at an early age how to set boundaries for themselves,” said John Morrison, Safe Environment Office director. “Let them know those boundaries can change over time. It’s important, as parents or caregivers, that we talk with our children and make sure they know how to say ‘no’ and know they can tell someone if someone makes them feel uncomfortable.”

To set healthy boundaries, it’s helpful for children to know how to talk about their bodies and personal space.

“Teach appropriate names for body parts,” Morrison said. “Using nicknames or slang names for body parts can be used by a predator to their advantage. Children should know about their private parts, how to identify them and that they’re private for a reason. Using correct names also makes it less of a taboo subject, and it makes children aware it’s ok to talk about these things.”

Morrison suggests giving concrete examples of how boundaries can change based on age or situation.

“For example, a child may know about unsafe touching or inappropriate touching, but that child should also know that when they visit the doctor, he or she might have to examine and touch parts that are normally private parts with a parent or caregiver present,” he said. “That would be unsafe in other settings, but it’s safe in that setting. It’s important for kids to know that and be able to put situations in context.”

While it’s important to discuss who are trusted adults as it relates to who could be supervising youth, picking them up or available for emergencies, it’s also important for children to know they can and should discuss it if anyone makes them feel uncomfortable.

“Saying all family members are safe isn’t necessarily correct advice,” he said. “A large percentage of abuse – the majority of abuse – comes from people the child knows, not strangers.”

Morrison also noted that as children age, it’s critical to include technology in discussions of boundaries and privacy.

“As children get older, they naturally have more freedom and less supervision,” he said. “It’s important for them to understand boundaries are still in effect. You may need to look at technology boundaries in some cases, since that’s where they’re meeting and seeing people. They need to know that someone you meet on the internet and have never met in person is still considered a stranger and not a friend. If you haven’t met them in person, you don’t really know who that person is.”

Probably most important, Morrison noted, is that children and youth know they can talk to adults if something is out of the ordinary and makes them uncomfortable or scared.

“They need to know there’s always an out,” he said. “Situations that arise can be embarrassing, but the alternative could be so much worse. They need to know they can talk to the adults they trust, and those adults will listen to them, support them, love them and remain calm about the situation.”

Morrison also suggested that parents monitor technology use, as well as other activities of youth and children.
“Know who your children are communicating with and keep communications open, so they feel comfortable talking to you,” he said.

Morrison also noted that boundary violations – actions that make a person feel uncomfortable but may not rise to the level of abuse – should be discussed and reported.

“In some cases, a person may not know they’re behaving inappropriately,” he said. “Some people just have less awareness of things like personal space. But boundary violations can also be a way of grooming someone. If you see someone violating boundaries, they need to be made aware, and it needs to be reported.”

For more information on diocesan efforts to prevent child abuse, visit rcdony.org/safe-environment or contact Morrison at 315-393-2920.


North Country Catholic North Country Catholic is
honored by Catholic Press
Association of US & Canada

Copyright © Roman Catholic Diocese of Ogdensburg. All rights reserved.