When did you learn about consent? It’s possible that you didn’t get to have this important conversation with a trusted adult in your life. You may have had to create your own understanding of consent through your own life experiences- which can cause many problems. It is imperative that you provide your children information about consent. Conversations about consent should start at a very young age and continue throughout their life. How do you have these conversations with the children in your life?
What is Consent?
Put simply, consent is giving permission for something to happen. We generally talk about consent in regards to sex, but consent is important in virtually all aspects of life. We practice consent when deciding what kind of physical contact we are comfortable with, developing boundaries in our relationships, setting limits with others and expressing our desires. Depending on the age and maturity of your child, you may choose a variety of examples to demonstrate the concept of consent.
Young kids: “If you don’t want to hug your uncle, you don’t have to. Do you want to give him a high five instead?”
Middle school: “You don’t have to text the girl from your math class anymore if she is making you uncomfortable. You get to decide who you text”
High school: “Even though you are going to prom, you don’t owe your date anything. Don’t feel pressured to have to do anything you don’t want to do.”
Why talk about consent?
When parents have consent conversations with their children, it is often focused on avoiding sexual assault. While this is one important aspect of these conversations, there are also many benefits to fostering conversations about consent.
Consent Conversation Tips
It’s not enough to just talk about consent, you must also model it in your daily life. Once again, consent applies to most of our normal day to day interactions. Take advantage of these moments by showing what respectful communication and interactions look like. Normalize communicating about boundaries in your family. Use simple situations, such as asking before taking a bite of food off your child’s plate, to show how you ask for permission, wait for a response and accept an answer. Show your child how you accept the answer of “no” with respect and kindness. Model healthy boundaries in your relationships.
What to Avoid
Expressing judgment– you want your child to feel comfortable talking to you. You may not intend to sound judgmental, so be conscious of your reactions and body language.
Focusing on the law– it is important for people to understand the legal implications of consent, but there should be more to your conversation than just the law! This is especially important when talking to teenage boys, there is more to consent than just age of consent laws.
Victim blaming– sometimes we tell women “safety tips” with the best of intentions. But make sure your advice isn’t subtly placing blame on women for not preventing their assault. For example, telling your daughter to not wear revealing clothing may give the impression that clothing can imply consent.
Showing your own discomfort– if you express that you are uncomfortable talking about consent, relationships or sex, your child may think these are unacceptable topics to discuss. Push yourself to respect your boundaries while also being the resource your child needs you to be for them.
You don’t have to have all the answers to start talking about consent! Check out the links included in this blog or call 419-774-5840 to speak with a trained advocate.
Resources referenced in this blog post:
Other resources about consent: