How to teach your kids about consent

The #metoo and #timesup movements are going strong, and it’s a good reminder that we need to explicitly teach our kids about consent.

You can start teaching kids about consent at a very young age, because it’s really about respecting other people’s boundaries.

Here are some tips for you from experts around the web:

1. Teach kids that no one can touch them unless they say it’s OK.

A lot of parents already know this. But if you haven’t had the discussion several times with your child, do it tonight. Let them know that nobody can touch them unless they say it’s okay, and to tell you if someone touches them or makes them uncomfortable.

I also teach my kids the “underwear rule. It’s simple: You should not be touched by others on parts of the body usually covered by underwear. And you should not touch others in those areas.

Teach them the correct name for all their body parts so they can clearly communicate to you if something does happen to them.

2. Teach kids to ask permission before touching or hugging others.

Many kids love to hug and be affectionate, and that’s a wonderful thing. But sometimes the person on the receiving end does not want to be hugged. This is an important learning opportunity for young children. Encourage your child to ask their playmate if they would like a hug first. And if their friend would rather not, stay upbeat and say that’s okay. Suggest a wave or a high five instead.

3. Teach kids that “no” and “stop” must be honored.

Explain to your children that when someone says “no” or “stop”, we always stop what we’re doing immediately and no matter what.

Remind them that when they say no, it must also be respected right away. If a friend does not stop when they say no, remind your child that it’s okay to choose other friends who respect their boundaries.

4. Foster empathy.

Help your child develop a strong sense of empathy by pointing out how something they have done affects other people, good and bad.

For example, “Wow, look how happy Rosie is because you shared your toy with her.” On the other hand, you might say “Hudson is feeling hurt because you called him a name. He is so sad now.” Ask your child to imagine how they might feel if the same was done to them.

Encourage kids to watch each others’ facial expressions during play time to make sure everyone is feeling happy.

Before a play date, remind your child that good friends plays games that both friends want to play, and help them find an activity they both like if they run into conflict.

Another fun way to foster empathy is by playing body language charades. This can help teach children about how to read body language and non-verbal cues. You can act scared, happy, sad, frustrated, angry, and more.

5. Model consent.

Model consent by respecting your own child’s boundaries.

As kids grow older and more independent, ask them before helping with wiping or washing their genitals. If they don’t want you to do it for them, teach them how to do it themselves.

Don’t force a child to hug or kiss anyone. This one is a tricky one for many parents, who believe it’s fine to let grandma have a kiss or hug, even if the child doesn’t want to. Consider offering alternatives like “Would you rather give grandma a high-five or blow her a kiss?”

6. Talk about “gut feelings”.

Teach your child that they have a voice inside their belly that tells them when something is weird or scary. Ask your child if they’ve ever felt that way and listen to their answer.

7. For older kids, explain enthusiastic consent.

Explain that sexual consent means asking for and waiting to hear a “yes”—it does not mean continuing to touch someone sexually until they hear the word “no.”

Only “yes” means “yes” in a romantic situation.

8. For teenagers, talk honestly about how drugs and alcohol affect consent.

Teenagers will be off to college in no time, and they will surely encounter these kinds of situations there if they have not already.

Discuss questions such as:

– How will you know when you’ve had too much to drink?

– How does your behavior change when you’ve had too much to drink?

– How will you know whether it’s okay to kiss someone when you’ve had a lot to drink? Suggest that they always ask for permission to touch or kiss another person, especially when there’s drinking involved.

– How can you help a fellow partygoer who has had too much to drink?


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