Talking to your kids about consent - 5 tips
There are so many things to say about talking to your kids about consent. Whether they’re younger or older, your kids need to be learning about consent and their right to bodily autonomy. In my book with co-author Marcia Baczynski, Creating Consent Culture: A Handbook for Educators, we share lots of strategies, exercises, games, discussions and ideas to make this process a fun and collaborative one. But for now I’ll share 5 main tips:
A big part of talking to your kids about consent is actually listening to your kids about consent! Listen to what they tell you is happening in their relationships and interactions with their peers in a way that lets them know that you are a safe person for them to talk to. Before jumping to the advice or opinion that you want to give them, listen longer and listen without distraction. Be curious about how they feel and how they see things. And especially, model what consent looks like by listening to them when they say “no” about touching or being touched by you or another family member. By letting them know that their “no” will be heard and honored, you teach your kids what it feels like to have their boundaries respected.
That brings me to modeling consent. Even more important than talking to your kids about consent, is modeling consent to them. This means doing your own work around unlearning the miseducation we’ve all gotten and learning new skills for practicing consent and having better, more mutually agreeable interactions. You can practice these skills with your partner or friends and show your kids what it looks like to say and hear no with grace, what it sounds like to check in with yourself to figure out what you really want, what it looks like to change your mind, to be compassionate with yourself, to support others to express their boundaries, and on and on.
As important as talking to your kids about consent, is talking to the other adults in their lives. Have conversations with them about how you’re teaching your kids about consent with your friends and family and ask them to become part of a community that models and appreciates these skills in your kids when they use them. Talk to them about how to hear and honor your kids’ “no” when it comes to hugs and touching at family gatherings or community events. If they express a lot of resistance to this idea you may want to consider this when deciding who your kids are safe around. By creating a bubble that normalizes consent culture around your kids you give them more opportunities to experience how it feels when consent is the norm.
Talk about consent in non-sexual interactions. By talking about and practicing consent in low stakes non-sexual interactions it gives kids a chance to have these skills become second nature before they are in a more high stakes or sexual interaction. Our book teaches exercises that are a fun way to learn and practice these skills. They could become a fun part of your routine, and give you and your kids an entertaining way to practice reading body language, asking for what they want in a clear way, and handling rejection gracefully, among other things.
Practice scenarios. Ask them what they would do if they said “no” to someone, and that person then called them a name, or told them they were mean, or started to cry. Have them practice their response. Have them ask for something they want and then tell them “no” and give them the opportunity to practice hearing “no” while it has no emotional charge for them. The next time they’re not sure what they want, have them practice checking in with themselves in order to figure out what they actually want and asking for it clearly. There are so many scenarios you can practice to prepare them, and it can be fun!
In our book, Creating Consent Culture: A Handbook for Educators, we talk about how the basic skills of consent need to be experienced in an embodied way and practiced, practiced, practiced! To learn more about practicing consent skills, or to find out more about the workshop or the book, come learn more at my website, www.creatingconsentculture.com.
Order the book here!