“One day recently, my three-year-old asked me to tickle him. I knew tickling could be one of those activities that could move quickly from fun into boundary transgression, and kids often nervously laugh and tolerate touch they’re not sure they want.
I wanted to connect with him playfully in the way he was asking, and I wanted to model safe physical experiences for him at the same time.
‘If you start to feel like you don’t like it, you can tell me to stop,’ I said.
‘Stop,’ he said, testing it. I stopped.
‘Go,’ he said, laughing. I tickled again.
We practiced for a few rounds, with him seamlessly taking the lead with guiding the touch.
‘And, if I ever tickle you somewhere that doesn’t feel good, you can say, ‘I don’t like that.”
‘I don’t like that,’ he practiced.
But, we’re not just teaching our kids about the kind of touch to avoid, we also want them to enjoy living in their bodies and to not attach shame to touch that makes them feel good.
‘If there’s somewhere you want me to tickle you, you can ask me. Like, ‘Will you tickle my feet?’ Then I get to decide if that’s something I want to do.’
‘Will you tickle my feet?’ he asked me. ‘Hmm…Yes, I will. That’s something I would like to do.’
And just like that, we practiced boundaries, consent, and normalized pleasure.
It’s not one serious, awkward conversation.
It’s not The Sex Talk you’ve known and dreaded.
It’s a foundation built over years through affection, conversation, and modeling. Tenderly, playfully, and with curiosity and openness.
It’s not solely teaching about sex, either; it’s about conveying that we are embodied beings based in sensory experiences, and there are many ways to relish living in a body rich with sensation.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Catherine of Unsilenced Woman. You can follow her journey on her blog and Instagram. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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