What was once a hazy area is now becoming clearer and more well-understood.
Even though consent is one of those must-have talks, even the most well-intentioned parents may find themselves squirming. Consent discussions are both vital to have and difficult to have at the same time. But it must be done, and the sooner parents begin, the better.
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Why It’s Important To Discuss Consent
Parents frequently make the mistake of assuming that all conversations regarding consent are about sex education. The truth is that permission is all about respect, and respect can be taught to anyone at any age.
Talking about Consent Teaches About Personal Boundaries
Teaching children that they must ask permission before touching another person can help them grasp the importance of consent in any healthy connection.
Young children, for example, must learn from the start that they must ask permission before touching or kissing their playmates or even siblings. They should also cease doing things like holding hands when someone else asks.
In a similar way, their playmates should respect their boundaries. They just tell their pal, “No, thank you,” if they do not want to be embraced. If a friend does not respect their wishes, they should enlist the help of a responsible adult.
Even while there’s nothing sexual about preschoolers randomly squeezing, kissing, or holding hands with their pals, consent can still be a problem, especially if their friends don’t want to be squeezed or kissed. It’s critical that they realize that not all affection, no matter how well-intentioned, is always accepted.
Talking About Consent Teaches Kids It’s Ok To Say No When Uncomfortable
In fact, discussing permission with children at a young age is one of the greatest ways to guarantee that they understand not just that they must respect others’ limits, but also that they have the right to refuse any form of touch they don’t want, including kisses from Grandma. Meanwhile, as children grow and mature, these early dialogues serve as the foundation for future discussions.
As tweens and teens approach dating age, for example, parents can build on these general consent standards by expanding their talking points to include topics such as sexting requests or sexual activity pressures.
Saying Yes Is Important When Talking About Consent
The majority of people think of sexual assault in terms of safety. As a result, their discussions frequently become one-sided, focusing solely on what children, particularly girls, should do to keep safe, such as going in groups, avoiding alcohol at parties, wearing conservatively, and enrolling in self-defence lessons. However, the difficulty with this strategy is that it excludes boys, transgender, and gender-nonconforming kids. The best way is to educate the value of consent to all students, regardless of gender.
In the past, parents approached the subject of permission with the assumption that the other person had to say no or stop the action in order to indicate that they did not consent. As a result, young couples made the mistake of assuming that if their partner did not say “no,” they were okay with what was going on. They never thought to pause and inquire if their companion wanted to proceed. In many cases, they want things to come to a halt.
This scenario, according to study, is not uncommon. Many young people find it difficult to say no in a high-pressure situation, and many young people mistakenly believe that their partner consented since they did not say no.
Instead, to safeguard everyone involved, kids should be educated that they should not proceed unless both persons in the circumstance declare, “Yes, I am fine with this.” Yes is a sign of agreement. Similarly, there is no consent if one of the partners refuses to say yes or is unable to say yes due to intoxication or passing out.
Consent is the act of giving someone permission to do something. And if anyone in the relationship responds with anything other than a resounding yes, it’s an indication that they need to end the relationship right now.
How To Talk To Kids About Consent
When educating children about consent, it’s critical that they understand that there are two parties to consider. When unwanted attention or affection is given, it is frequently because the individual applying the pressure is primarily concerned with their own interests and desires.
Instead, children must be taught to have empathy for others and to treat them with love and consideration. They will most likely understand the concept of permission once they have done so.
Be A Role Model
When teaching children about consent, it’s also crucial to set a good example at home. If your child does not want to be tickled, hugged, kissed, or wrestled with, for example, you must follow his or her wishes. Forcing somebody to do something physical against their will gives confusing signals about permission.
Remember that children imitate the conduct they observe. You’re conveying the wrong message if you ignore their demands, their siblings’ requests, or even your partner or spouse’s requests. All of the lessons you’ve tried to instil in them about consent will be thrown out the window.
When parents set firm boundaries for their children, such as when they can use electronics, eat snacks, or have curfews, they are laying the groundwork for consent. Before they watch television, eat snacks, or play video games, kids understand the concept of asking permission.
As a result, when you explain that acquiring someone’s consent is essentially asking for their permission, children will get the notion immediately. For them, everything will make sense.
Allow Kids to Say No
Children are empowered and equipped with the tools they need to express consent when they have a say in everything from what they wear to whether or not they hug Grandpa. Similarly, you can allow kids to make decisions about their bodies. “Do you want me to put the ointment on your cut or do you want to put it on?” you can ask if they have a scratch on their knee. When you give children such options, you are giving them control over their bodies.
Allow them plenty of opportunities to say no as kids become older, such as declining a playdate with a neighbour or a sleepover party invitation. “No, thank you” is a difficult phrase to say and requires practice. By providing plenty of options for your children, you are arming them with the skill to say no when it counts most.
Teach Children Alternative Ways To Show Affection
While it is critical to educate children how to say no, they must equally be taught how to deal with rejection of their devotion. It might be difficult for affectionate young children to understand why a friend or playmate does not want to be hugged or held hands. They might instinctively conclude that this means their friend no longer likes them.
As a result, it is critical that young children learn that affection can be shown in a variety of ways other than physical touch. They can make a card together, draw a picture together, say loving words together, or play a game together. Encourage your child to express his or her love in a variety of ways.
Talk About Society Standards
Girls have always had the burden of consent placed on them by society. When this occurs, it implies that they are to blame if they do not speak up and something goes wrong. Meanwhile, guys have long been taught by the media and others that having sex is synonymous with being confident and macho. As a result, they feel compelled to compel girls to participate in physical activity.
These teachings are harmful to all children and should be avoided at all costs. Girls should never have the full weight of a personal decision on their shoulders. Similarly, boys should never believe that their masculinity is defined by their sexuality.
Discuss What Consent Is Not
It’s just as vital to teaching kids and young adults to understand what isn’t consent as it is to help them realize what is. Wearing provocative apparel or flirting, for example, does not imply permission. Similarly, appearing “into it” or failing to ask someone to stop does not imply permission. The only way to acquire consent is to say “yes!” loudly and enthusiastically.
Talking About Consent Is Important
It’s crucial to tell children while they’re young that they should always ask permission before exhibiting physical affection. And if they forget, you can intervene and remind them. When they’re feeling down, you should also assist them in finding their voices. Then, as kids get older, reinforce these messages by emphasizing the significance of asking and not moving further with anything physical unless both partners say yes. When you do these things, you are teaching your children that permission is important and that even genuine affection should never be pushed on another person.
When Do Kids Need To Learn About Consent
You can talk about bodies and safety with your child before he or she can even speak. Explaining what you’re doing, for example, during a diaper change—”I’m just putting balm on to calm your skin”—and asking for permission—”Is it OK if we take these wet pyjamas off now?”—can send a powerful message, even if she doesn’t yet understand the words you’re saying.
Be Their Advocate
It is critical to believe in and advocate for children. Inquire about and validate your child’s feelings if he or she exhibits discomfort or unease. This is a critical step in the Emotion Coaching process. When you trust somebody, you open up a line of communication between you. It teaches kids to put their faith in you and their own senses. As a result, people might believe someone else’s storey.
Inquire whether they want or require assistance. It is then your job to speak out for them with whoever is bothering them. This could entail speaking with a parent, teacher, coach, or another responsible adult. We may need to step in and have those difficult conversations with our children until they are old enough to do so on their own.
Rather than having “the talk” with your kids, think of consent education as a series of little talks and everyday activities that can help them feel secure and safe in their own bodies while also respecting the sanctity of another’s.
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“GENTLE PARENTING IS A LIFESTYLE THAT EMBRACES BOTH YOUR PHYSICAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL BEHAVIOR, NOT ONLY TOWARDS YOUR CHILDREN, BUT TO YOURSELF TOO“— SARA HOCKWELL-SMITH
- Del rey R, Ojeda M, Casas JA, Mora-Merchán JA, Elipe P. Sexting Among Adolescents: The Emotional Impact and Influence of the Need for Popularity. Front Psychol. 2019;10:1828. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01828
- Javidi H, Maheux AJ, Widman L, Kamke K, Choukas-Bradley S, Peterson ZD. Understanding Adolescents’ Attitudes Toward Affirmative Consent. J Sex Res. 2020;1-8. doi:10.1080/00224499.2019.1711009
- Widman L, Choukas-Bradley S, Helms SW, Prinstein MJ. Adolescent Susceptibility to Peer Influence in Sexual Situations. J Adolesc Health. 2016;58(3):323-329. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2015.10.253