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Private places

Knowing the difference between public and private places 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 places 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.”

Check out these pages for more information about private body parts and private behaviours.

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private places:

  • a person’s own bedroom, bathroom or toilet is a private place
  • other people must ask your permission before entering your private place. You can choose to say yes or no
  • private body parts can be uncovered and private behaviours can happen in a private place. The door and blinds or curtains must be closed.
  • public places:
    • any place where other people can be around is a public place. These places are shared with other people
    • anybody can use a public place, even if they need to buy a ticket or have an invitation to be there
    • private body parts must be covered in public places
    • private behaviour must not happen in public places

public places:

  • any place where other people can be around is a public place. These places are shared with other people
  • anybody can use a public place, even if they need to buy a ticket or have an invitation to be there
  • private body parts must be covered in public places
  • private behaviour must not happen in public places

Public and private places can look different depending on whether they are:

  • in the home
  • in the community

In the home, the private places are:

  • your child’s bedroom
  • the bathroom/toilet

Public places in the home are the:

  • living room
  • kitchen
  • backyard
  • other people’s bedrooms
  • any other place in the home

These places are public because anybody can be there and you cannot control who comes and goes from the place. In the home, this might be siblings, parents and other visitors.

It is important that your child can tell the difference between public and private places in the home. While some families feel comfortable with nudity in public places of the home, this can be confusing for some children especially when they require more learning support. Children need to be able to transfer their knowledge about public and private places to different living situations, especially when they grow up and live out of home, so it’s important to make sure that public and private boundaries exist in living spaces. The intention of having clear boundaries of public and private is not to be ashamed of the body, but to set your child up for success when they get older.

Some children share bedrooms and some families sleep together in the same bedroom. This is OK. It’s important to ensure that when your child shares a bed or a room, that private behaviour is either:

  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 that your child isn’t constantly reducing access for others
  3. redirected to the toilet or bathroom if the room is occupied by another person

If your child needs support in the bathroom, it’s important to:

  1. seek their consent – See Consent And Personal Care
  2. ensure that doors are closed to avoid others being able to see into the private place

This shows your child that they should expect privacy in the home and that people should ask before entering their private place.

If your child wants to be alone in their private place that is something they should be able to do. It’s important for everyone to have private time and you can encourage this by scheduling time in private for your child. Make sure to knock or announce yourself before entering someone’s private place to help reinforce learning.

 

You may find that it takes your child a long time to develop their public and private skills. This is normal! Consistent reinforcement and redirection is key to mastering private behaviours in private places. It is also very important for other family members to practice asserting ownership of their private place. This is positive modelling and will help cement the public and private skills.

You should also schedule private time for yourself! See Self Care.Having time to yourself in a private place is important for everybody, including parents. Don’t be afraid to say no to being interrupted when you are in your private place. This is a great way to model to your child that respecting people’s private places is important and is something they should expect for themselves.

 

 

When you are out and about in the community, the only private places are:

  • toilets and change rooms

While toilets and change rooms in the community are private places, 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 Private Behaviours.

Public places in the community are everywhere. This includes places like school, shopping centres and outdoors. They are public places because anybody can be there and your child cannot control who comes and goes from the places. Public places in the community are also subject to restrictions and laws around covering private body parts. Private parts should always be covered in a public place.

Conversation Starters

We are watching TV in the living room right now; do you think this is a public or private place? Can you tell me/show me why it’s___? (example: the living room is public because there are other people here)
Your bedroom is your own private place. Let’s make a sign for your door to let people know. Can you show/tell me some of the rules about private places?
What is your FAVOURITE public place? Why?

Strategies for you to try

Create a visual sign

Signs are a useful way to help your child identify and own their private places. You can create a “PRIVATE PLACE” sign for:

  • the toilet
  • the bathroom
  • your child’s bedroom

This can help them identify places where their private parts might be uncovered for things like toileting, personal care and self-exploration.

Making a sign like this can empower your child to make decisions for themselves. It gives them the opportunity to practice giving and withdrawing consent as well as having their decisions listened to and respected.

Use games to practice differentiating between private and public places

You might also help your child differentiate between private and public places by using a categorisation game.

You can also print out photos of places in your everyday life and use them to reinforce the differences between public and private places. See how Kaidee and Liam do this below:

taking their clothes off in public

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