Consent, seems like a small word but holds an important place in today’s fast paced world. Whether it is the MeToo movement or greater than ever child harassment cases, they have left everyone fearing safety and security of their kids. Thankfully, many parents are already aware that it is very important to teach kids about consent and boundaries. But, they will agree that at the same time it is really hard to discuss it.
Have you also been wondering about how you can feed this sensitive information to the tender mind of your kids?
First of all, let me tell you what consent is.
What is Consent?
Consent is like a pact between all involved parties to decide whether something is allowed to happen or not. It is usually done by giving the opposite person a choice about actions and respecting their response. In simple words, taking consent can also be said as asking for permission.
Are consent talks and sex education the same thing?
NO, consent is not exclusively sexual, it is about respecting boundaries. Respecting one’s own choices and more importantly respecting the opposite person’s choices needs to be taught to children.
It is not necessary that getting consent or permission should include hearing another person shouting yes. It should be more like affirmative consent which means each person involved should vocally as well as by body language agree to do something.
Things one should make sure while taking consent
- Opposite person is not under any pressure mentally or physically by you or someone else.
- There are not any power dynamics that are restricting them to deny.
- They are not intoxicated or under influence of any substance that can restrict them to make the right decision.
Now, the question is when you can start this conversation.
What is the Right Age ?
The earlier you start, the better. You must be thinking about why your 6 year old needs to be taught sexual consent? It is not like they are in any relationship or attracted to the opposite gender. Point to be noted is, consent is not just about sex, it is about having authority of making decisions about your own body. Your little one might not be ready to learn about sexual harassment but that doesn’t mean they need not to learn what giving or asking permission really means.
And, when you start earlier, it is easier to level up the ongoing discussion step by step as per kid’s maturity level, circumstances and stage of life they are in. In that way, you need not to dive into the deep end and explain everything at once.
Are you too late if you are starting this discussion when your kid is a teen ?You can catch up at any stage of your child’s life. Yes, it will be a little bit harder to get comfortable with your kids once they grow old, but it is better late than never.
Why Is Discussing Consent An Important Decision?
Talking about teens, when they are aware of getting and giving consent, they experience more healthy and secure sexual encounters when they are ready for them.
For young kids, awareness about consent and boundaries can help them identify sexual harassment happening with themselves or their friend. Moreover, they start appreciating other people’s boundaries.
How to Teach Your Kid About Consent and Healthy Boundaries
You cannot teach consent to your younger kid and teenager sitting on the same bench. Their age, maturity level, needs and all other things that matter are different. Hence, I will tell you separately how you can teach them.
Ways to Teach Your Younger Kids
With your elementary school kid, you need to be a little bit sensitive. There is no need to directly jump on sexual violence talks with them. You can start with teaching them the meaning of basic respect and permissions.
Here are simple but effective ways in which you can talk to your kid about consent:-
Practice Consent at Home
Change starts from within. Firstly, model consent at home. For example, you are tickling your kid and they start denying it, then stop immediately. We know your intentions are pure, you are just looking for a fun time with your little one but , it is important to model consent at home if you want them safe out there.
Moreover, you can also start with asking permission before doing anything physical like “May I give you a hug?” or “Can I kiss you on your cheek?”
Establish Firm Boundaries
When you put boundaries for your kids, you are actually teaching them to practice consent. Encourage kids to ask your permission before using media or watching television. It will help them to understand the meaning of getting permission.
Respect Their Answer
Try to offer choice to your kids in everything you do for them. From small things like, which dress do they want to wear today? To bigger things like, Do you want Grandma to get you dressed? In that way, you are giving kids the charge of their own bodies.
Encourage Them to Respect Others’ Choices
Discuss with them that it is okay if they want to show their affection to their playmate by hugging him and he is saying no. Teach them that it doesn’t mean that their friends hate them, they just don’t want to be hugged.
That’s all for your younger kids. With time, you can advance your discussion according to their stage of life and circumstances. Now let us see how you can deal with your Teens.
Ways to Teach Your Older Kids And Teens
If you are starting with your teen, it will need some extra efforts from your side. But, the good thing is you can have a more detailed discussion with them as they are probably ready to talk about physical boundaries.
We know, you will hesitate to say words like rape, sexual assault and harrassment in front of them but it’s important that they should be aware enough to protect themselves and their mates from these issues.
Here are simple but effective ways in which you can talk to your teen about consent:-
Start with teaching them non-intimate ways to model consent
Start with deciding whether they are allowed to date yet or not. You can encourage them to remain friends for some time with the person they like and only jump into something serious when they are ready. In that way, they will not do something they don’t really want in the heat of the moment.
Showing affection doesn’t have to be just physical touch
Talk to them about consent in friendship too. Like, they should ask their friends before hugging them or taking a bite from their lunch. Teach them that if their friend has told them something privately, they should keep it to themselves.
Overcome Double Standards
Our society is equipped with many flaws. One of the major flaws is double standards. Only girls are considered responsible for consent and if anything goes wrong, they are blamed. It’s a shame that their dress, their eating and drinking habits, their parties decide whether they are ready or not. And, talking about their voice, it seems to be ignored most of the time. On the flip side, the media has portrayed that boys who are physically active are masculine and confident. Teach your teens to eliminate this dangerous thinking. They should not get influenced by any of these factors.
Take Help From Media
I know the media portrays unrealistic expectations and false beliefs but you can use it in your own favor. Use examples from TV shows to start conversation. Like, the girl never asked the boy before giving him a peck on the cheek. How would a person have asked ? Or do you think while being drunk, your consent can be unbiased? Then, give them the right answers too.
Be Their Friend
Encourage them to share what they think or know and correct them subtly if they are wrong. Don’t react furiously even if they tell you something big. Remember, they will come to you again only if they feel comfortable.
Most importantly, be their friend and encourage them to tell you anything which is bothering them without the fear of being judged.
I hope this blog has helped you to know how you can approach this subject with your child. Move step by step. You don’t have to talk about everything at once. You can have small talks whenever you and your kid are having a peaceful talk or whenever need arrives. These talks will help your kid to stay safe in real world situations. And, for the digital world, do not forget to install Bit Guardian Parental Control. It will help you to keep them in your radar offline as well as online.