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Private behaviour

Knowing the difference between public and private behaviours is an essential skill your child needs to learn in order to keep safe and participate in the community.

Introduction

Knowing the difference between public and private behaviours is an essential skill your child needs to learn in order to keep safe and participate in the community.

A quick and simple rule to help your child learn this is:

“Private behaviours involve private body parts and can only be done in a private place.”

Read more about private parts here and private places here

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Private behaviours can include:

  • going to the toilet
  • showering/bathing
  • getting changed
  • touching private body parts
  • masturbating
  • having sex

These are private behaviours because they involve private body parts being touched or uncovered.

Touching private parts is not always sexual, particularly in young children. Children might touch their private parts as a form of self-soothing, stimming behaviour, because it feels good or to scratch an itch. However, it is still important that your child learns early that touching private parts is a private behaviour and needs to be done in a private place. This is to protect your child as they grow into an adult.

There are some places that can be a bit confusing for children when talking about private behaviours.

  • Public toilets and change rooms

While toilets in the community are a private place, it is important to teach your child that they are private for changing and going to the toilet only. Exploration of private body parts should happen only in private places at home. To learn more about this, go to Masterbation;.  As your child gets older, it’s important to communicate with them about the law and private behaviours. SECCA has some great easy to read information about private behaviours and the law.

If your child needs support to use a public toilet or change room, it can be a good idea to use the accessible toilet to give them as much privacy as possible.

  • Shared bedrooms

Some children share bedrooms, some families sleep co-sleep together. This is OK! It’s important to ensure that when your child shares a bed or a room that private behaviour is:

  1. scheduled for a particular time of day or signalled with a sign on the door
  2. evenly allocated between room occupants to make sure your child isn’t constantly in the private place reducing access for others
  3. redirected to the toilet or bathroom if the room is occupied by another person

Watch Kaidee and Liam talk about private behaviours:

You may find that it takes your child a long time to get used to public and private concepts. This is normal! Consistent reinforcement and redirection is the key to mastering private behaviours in private places.

 

Conversation Starters

Touching your own body can feel really nice! I feel good when I brush my hair. What makes you feel nice?
It can feel nice to touch our private parts, but it’s important to make sure you are in a private when you are touching your private body parts. Can you tell me/show me where your private place is?
When you go to your room for private time, can you tell me/show me what you need to do to get ready? (Answer should be along the lines of closing the door, closing the curtain, signage, etc.)

Strategies for you to try

Create a private place sign

Signs are a useful way to help your child identify when they want private time to do private behaviours. You can create a “PRIVATE PLACE” sign for:
• the toilet
• the bathroom
• your child’s bedroom
Here is an example of a sign that was made for a bedroom.

You can also use the resources below to help your child understand where private parts, places and behaviours come together. Resources like social stories are useful as they help blend individual concepts into a real life situation.

 

Use games or images to practice categorising private behaviours with the appropriate private place

You can also print out photos of places in your everyday life and use them to reinforce the differences between public and private places. Ask your child where they think certain behaviours should happen and use photos to redirect them to a private place when needed.

 

hands in pants, taking their clothes off in public

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