The Three Rs of Safety

Children can be taught to use these ways to stay safe to protect themselves from any unsafe situation or when someone breaks or tries to break safety rules for private body parts.

  • Recognize: Is it safe? Does it break a rule?
  • Report: Always tell if someone breaks a safety rule.
  • Refuse: You can say no to any unsafe situation or touch you don’t want.


Remembering rules can help your child stay safe—and if someone breaks a rule, including a safety rule for private body parts, your child will recognize it. You can help your child practice recognizing unsafe situations or broken rules with “what if” questions: “What if your babysitter touched your private body parts—is that okay?” Revisit safety rules and practice recognizing with “what ifs” on a regular basis.


“Report” reminds children to tell an adult they trust about unsafe situations or broken safety rules as soon as they can. Help your children list people they could tell—both family and non-family members—and have them practice telling.

Kids have limited power in abusive situations. They’re often unable to get a person to stop the abuse. In these cases, telling a trusted adult becomes even more important. Reassure children that it is not their fault if someone breaks the safety rule for private body parts, but teach them that they do need to tell an adult as soon as possible.


Help your child come up with different ways of saying no to unsafe situations or situations in which a rule is being broken. A simple “no” is not always the best response and can provoke an offender. Come up with alternatives such as, “Stop that,” “I’m not allowed to play touching games,” “‘No, I have a safety rule not to take my clothes off,” and “I don’t want to do that.”

Help kids understand that they can say no to people who are older or who have authority over them, to people in their family, or to adults who take care of them (for example, teachers and youth leaders) if safety rules are being broken.

Is your child’s school teaching safety rules? Is the staff trained in how to recognize and report signs of abuse, and do they have the right policies and procedures in place to help keep kids safe? If not, recommend the Second Step Child Protection Unit.