Top 5 Tips for Talking to young People about consent
Here are my top 5 tips for talking to the young people in your life about consent!
Consent is about so much more than sex! Talk to your kids about consent in all of their daily interactions. By talking about and practicing consent during non-sexual, and even non-physical interactions, young people integrate the concepts and skills needed to navigate more complex and high stakes interactions later on.
2. Ask your kids about when they have a hard time saying no to others, hearing no from others, or asking for what they want. You could bring this up when you notice them struggling to say no assertively, or hear no graciously. Make sure you share times when you may have had a hard time saying or hearing no, or asking for what you want. It's so important for young people to understand that most people have a hard time with these skills at least some of the time, and some have a harder time than others.
3. This leads into practicing what I consider one of the most important consent skills: hearing no graciously. We could all get better at hearing no graciously. I teach young people to thank others when they set a boundary or say no. This is a new skill and habit for most of us and can feel awkward at first, but I've seen people become comfortable with this within a couple of hours of first learning it. It can be really enjoyable for young people to experience the surprised reactions of others when they are thanked for saying no for the first time ever! Thanking others for saying no can sound like:
-"Thanks for letting me know what you don't want to do."
-"That's cool. I want to know what you're in to."
-"Thanks for expressing your boundaries clearly. I like understanding you better."
You can role model this by thanking your growing child as they express their changing levels of physical autonomy to you. And when they are nervous about asking a peer for a dance or a date, you can role play as the peer and say no, so that they have a chance to prepare and practice hearing "no" graciously. Thanking someone for saying no is also much easier to navigate than an awkward silence or a defeated retreat.
4. What if someone asks them for something, and they're not sure? What if they're a maybe? Have a discussion about how it's totally normal to be unsure about what we want, or where our boundaries are. It's also totally normal and OK to change our minds and our boundaries at any time, for any reason, or for no discernible reason at all. Talk to them about the benefits of saying "no" when they're a maybe, so that they have more time to figure out what they actually really want.
5. And what do they want? Many of us not only struggle to ask for what we want, we also struggle to notice what we really want at any given moment. Are we asking for what we want, or what we think we can get? Or what we think we deserve? Or have we given up and we don't ask anymore? Most of us could use practice checking in with ourselves to notice the clues our bodies are giving us about whether we're a yes or a no to something. And then expressing those wants clearly.
A fun game to play with your kids is to ask them to tell you something they want. The only rule is that it can't be about sex or violence. Once they say something, "I want a sandwich", or "I want the world to change", respond with "Thank you. What do you want?" and continue on like that for a minute. As people relax into this game they go deeper. After a little while, change places.
You can learn a lot more tips, exercises and games to play with your kids in our book, Creating Consent Culture: A Handbook for Educators, which outlines a whole workshop worth of material to share, and more!
To learn more about the workshop and the book, visit www.creatingconsentculture.com
Order the book here!