A Parent’s Guide to Teaching Consent to Children

This week we have read one after another of the harrowing stories of sexual assault. We’ve heard the old “boys are boys” excuse. We have seen how unforgivable behavior is dismissed as common teenage jokes. One thing has become clear: whatever we do to teach our children to agree, it is not enough. Building a culture of consent doesn’t come out of one awkward conversation about sex. It is an ongoing process that starts earlier than you think. Here’s how to make consent the norm at any age.

Teach them the anatomically correct names for body parts

Your son has a penis, not a pee. Your daughter has a vulva, not girly pieces. The use of cute nicknames suggests that children find their genitals embarrassing. They are not. Laura Palumbo, prevention specialist at the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), tells The Atlantic that using what linguists call a “standard” dialect for body parts, rather than euphemisms and colloquial expressions, “promotes a positive body image, confidence in yourself and to your parents. -children communication; discourages criminals; and in the event of abuse, it helps children and adults to navigate the process of information disclosure and forensic medical examination. ” If you’re helping to start a vocabulary lesson, check out Robbie H. Harris’s great book It’s Not a Stork !: A Book about Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Family and Friends .

Give them a specific language to talk about pleasure

We live in a binary culture. Anything that is not clearly bad is “good.” But that might not be good. We need to give the children more guidance on how to express the many special feelings that can arise when touched. In the speech at the TED Talk writer and director Sue Jay Johnson describes the word game, in which she plays with their children: “I scratch my nails on the hand his daughter and said:” Give me one word to describe it. ” “Violent,” she says. I hug her, hold her tight. Protected, she tells me. This exercise helps them understand what it means to be in their body and know when they are not.

Don’t make them hug anyone, not even relatives.

Your kids shouldn’t be hugging anyone, not even their aunt, whom they only see once a year during their holidays. Lifehacker writer Jamie Greene explains that this guide “lays the foundation for a strong understanding of consent and can affect a child’s relationship with his body – by telling her that she is in control of who she hugs, you are also telling her that her body is hers , not to serve the senses of others. “

If your child wants to cuddle, let him hug! But if she doesn’t want to, suggest an alternative – high-five, punch or wave at her. Also look out for other potentially awkward physical collisions. From what I’ve seen, grandparents and other adults sometimes try to communicate with children through touch, such as tickling, because they don’t know how to interact with them otherwise. It is helpful to equip yourself with some items to start a conversation: “Sloane just joined the No Cavity Club at the dentist’s” or “Ruthie caught a caterpillar today.”

Teach them to see rejection as part of life.

Too often, one goal of parents is to make their children feel good. Entrepreneur and father Jia Jiang says this is a mistake – instead, he believes we should focus on improving their comfort level. This means teaching them to be okay with receiving no. Known as the “rejection guy” who shared his TEDx 100 Days of Rejection Experiment, Jiang told me that “When we are less attached to results, it allows us to focus on our own efforts.” He learned that being rejected has nothing to do with our value – it’s just that what we offer doesn’t match what the person wants or needs at the moment. To help his son Brian develop a healthy relationship with rejection, he encourages him to ask for what he wants and to accept the final answer.

Imagine a tea analogy

In a recent Atlantic article on how teens think about Cavanaugh’s accusations , high school students told writer Joe Pinsker that they learned about consent through social media, and three of them mentioned the YouTube videoTea and Consent. Good. The video explains sexual consent with a simple metaphor: tea. This is a “clean” version without profanity – perfect for teens and teens.

Have a conversation

As your kids get older, keep talking about consent. Sketch what “affirmative consent” looks like – remember, the mantra is no longer “no means no” but “yes means yes”. Tell teens to look for enthusiasm in a partner, and nothing less. Use TV shows and movies as a conversation starter – in the #MeToo era, movies like Sixteen Candles may sound unappealing and outdated, but as Common Sense Media points out , they can serve as a launching pad for deeper discussions about such topics such as the myth of the “hard-to-get” woman, the role of alcohol, and how strangers contribute to bad behavior.

If your children share a difficult personal problem, tell them that you are glad they came to you and make sure they know they can ask you questions at any time. These days, it seems like a lot of people don’t understand what consent is, or they just don’t care. Starting early, we are confident that this is not our future.


Leave a Reply