How Nannies & Au Pairs Should Teach Children About Privacy

Safe, Unsafe, and Unwanted Touches

To continue the discussion of privacy and children here is information about teaching children about safe, unsafe, and unwanted touches.

Although there is no medical concern when children touch their genitals, they must learn not to touch their genitals when other people are present.

In her article, “Teaching Preschoolers About Privacy” psychologist Debra W. Haffner, explains, “Regardless of your values about privacy, all children need to learn that touching their genitals is a private behavior, just like using the bathroom for most families is a private behavior — at least once everyone in the household is toilet-trained. Preschoolers are old enough to understand that other people will be upset if they see them touching their genitals in public, and that this type of behavior should be reserved for when they are alone in a private place.”,1510,9036,00.html

Ms. Haffner explains, “A simple definition of privacy for a preschooler is: ‘Private places are places where you can expect to be alone for a while when you want to. In [your] home, a private place for you is (your bedroom, the bathroom, whatever you think is appropriate).’”

When discussing privacy and self respect children must be allowed to decide who is allowed to touch them as well. After being potty-trained nannies do not need to touch children’s genital areas.

Caregivers must teach children there are three kinds of touches.

According to the Committee for Children web site the three kinds of touches are safe touches, unsafe touches, and unwanted touches.

Safe Touches. These are touches that keep children safe and are good for them, and that make children feel cared for and important. Safe touches can include hugging, pats on the back, and an arm around the shoulder. Safe touches can also include touches that might hurt, such as removing a splinter. Explain to children that when you remove a splinter, you are doing so to keep them healthy, which makes it a safe touch.

Unsafe Touches. These are touches that hurt children’s bodies or feelings (for example, hitting, pushing, pinching, and kicking). Teach children that these kinds of touches are not okay.

Unwanted Touches. These are touches that might be safe but that a child doesn’t want from that person or at that moment. It is okay for a child to say, “No,” to an unwanted touch, even if it is from a familiar person. Help children practice saying “No” in a strong, yet polite voice. This will help children learn to set personal boundaries.

If children violate the privacy of the parents, au pairs, or nannies, they should immediately be disciplined. The rules about privacy should be fair and consistent. Children cannot be rewarded with attention for swearing or telling secrets. Instead, time-outs should be used when inappropriate public behavior occurs.

Have you had the discussion about safe and unsafe touches with children? Click “comments” to respond below.


  1. I am having trouble getting the 3 boys (7, 5, and 4 yrs old)I care for to keep the bathroom door shut when using the toilet. They are all toilet trained. Even when their friends come over to play they just keep the door open. I keep telling them to shut the door. I don’t want to see or smell their business. I think they are old enough to know better. I tell them all the time. I think that since the parents set-the-tone for the household if they don’t insist upon privacy while using toliets then it won’t happen. I fell like my efforts are in vain. I never did ask the teachers to see if they close doors at school though, and I’m sure that’s required especially for the older boys.Nanny in S.C.

  2. My charges still have trouble with privacy issues using the potty too, but I have never discussed these private area touching talks with them. The most I have ever done is while giving children baths I ask them to clean their private areas. I’ve never given any speeches about why I won’t touch their privates once they are out of diapers. I personally don’t know how to bring up the topic with the parents. I think I will leave these subjects in the parents hands. Too sensitive a topic and I don’t want to be misunderstood. maria au pair new york city

  3. I’m scared to bring up the topic of safe and unsafe touches with my charges because I don’t want the parents thinking that I am trying to cover up some indiscretion. Good to know but I won’t be discussing it unless absolutely necessary. Lilly, DC

  4. This is a very sensitive subject that you ought to discuss with the parents before discussing it with the children. I think it naturally is easy to discuss during bathtime but not until you get the ‘go ahead’ from the parents.

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