Abuse talk must not frighten children, say experts

Adults should take care when approaching the subject of abuse with children.

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ABU DHABI // Carers who talk to children about physical and sexual abuse should focus on empowering, not frightening them, experts say.

"Your body belongs to yourself," is a good place to start, said Carmen Benton, who teaches parenting at LifeWorks Counselling in Dubai.

Toilet training is a natural time to start addressing the issue, said Dr Muhammad Tahir, the head of psychiatry at Health Call Clinic in Dubai.

"That is the time they start differentiating between private parts - these are the private parts, and nobody should touch that, nobody should do that," Dr Tahir said. "That kind of learning happens automatically."

Adults should teach children about "good touch", such as friendly hugs, and "bad touch", which hurts or makes children feel uncomfortable.

They should also be taught the difference between good secrets, such as holiday surprises, and bad secrets, which they should not keep.

If a child discloses abuse, adults should proceed cautiously and avoid reacting with shock, anger or disgust.

"Tell them, 'This is not your fault. What happened, it is not your fault'," Dr Tahir said.

"The parents need to listen very carefully to what they say and not to assume things … Ask questions but not as an investigator. Ask questions just like you want to know about the story."