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Creating Safe Boundaries for Your Children

We have all witnessed it—the not so shy child in the grocery line talking your ear off, or the fearless toddler making friends with anyone they see. While this kind of behavior is typically harmless and will sometimes result in an upset child looking for their parents—is it safe to let our children approach anyone they want to? Is this type of behavior harmless, or does it point to signs of attachment issues? 

Indiscriminate touching, or attachment, is a behavior typically seen in children under the age of five. It can be described as the inability to or inconsistency in identifying and creating healthy forms of attachment. Indiscriminate touching is something that is often seen in children with trauma in their background. Sometimes, children adopted from foster care or a neglectful situation have a skewed view of what a nurturing adult should look like. They view all adults with equal opportunity—meaning some children may attempt to garner the same affection from a stranger that they do from their parents. The commonality between children who engage in this kind of attachment behavior is the lack of consistent care. 

So, what do you do if you see this behavior in your child? First of all, this type of action does not always reflect a negative background, and your child may be a social butterfly, so it’s important to distinguish between the two. A therapist can help you and your family build strategies that allow your child to explore and make friends but in a safe way. This may mean reapproaching your relationship with your child, readdressing boundary and safety issues, and laying down general safety guidelines. 

Start the conversation of personal space and safety within your own home. Lifeline Child suggests placing a hula hoop on the floor to demonstrate personal space. You can explain to your child that every person has this “hula hoop” around them, and we need to respect that. Not only will your child begin to understand when they are too close to someone, but also when someone is too close to them. 

Remember: children are not born with all the knowledge. It’s the parents’s responsibility to teach and guide them. When you start to see harmful or unsafe behavior—don’t sit on it. Find creative and calm ways to address them and then incorporate that into your daily routine.