Sunday, October 13, 2013

Helping Our Children Understand Consent

Consent is an important issue for parents to understand. When, or if, Consent is discussed it is usually in a conversation regarding sex, intimacy, and/or rape. Because of this, parents of young children are often unaware of the issue. Most of us who are adults and parents now weren't raised in a time when the topic of consent was discussed in much detail, if at all. Parents of young children who are aware of the topic of Consent feel that it's not something they need to worry about until their kids are older. They're wrong. How we parent our children, from birth, influences their understanding of Consent

I originally wrote about consent and parenting on my With The Family blog, read that post Here.

Consent is permission for something to happen. When we parent respectfully we model giving consent and asking for consent in our interactions with our children, as well as our interactions with others. We support our children in learning about consent as they interact with people inside and outside of the family.

If a relative wants to hug or kiss our child in greeting and our child is not comfortable with that, we support our child in not giving consent, in saying no. If our child isn't old enough to say no, we politely say to the relative that our kid isn't feeling like being hugged and kissed, and if our child is very small, we may suggest the adult blow them kisses instead if that feels appropriate.

If our child wants to play with a toy and their friend says no to sharing it, then we can support that friend in the boundary they have set and our child in accepting that boundary if that's needed, explaining to our child why the friend may not feel like sharing, and helping our child find something else to do.

If someone, or we, are tickling a child and they ask us to stop, we stop. If we are tickling a child and they show any sign of being uncomfortable we stop and check in before continuing. Some kids may love this type of play, but others strongly prefer to avoid it. We need to be sensitive to that.

Consent is important in all relationships.

Understanding the concept of Consent means knowing that if someone else says "No" or "stop" then I need to stop what I'm doing to/with them immediately.

Understanding the concept of Consent also means knowing that I can say "no" or "Stop" or "I don't want to do that," and other people will listen to me, or should listen to me, and respond by stopping.

Learning about Consent is a process that begins at birth. It starts with learning that other people will respond to your needs and pay attention to your non-verbal/pre-verbal communication of what you like, don't like, want, and need.

Learning about Consent involves learning to understand the non-verbal cues from other people, and this is learned by other people modeling that behavior, as well as through conversations and discussions about characters in picture books, actors on TV, people we know, and how the express what they want and don't want, how we can often tell what people are feeling even though they aren't saying anything.

Learning about Consent ultimately means learning that unless someone explicitly says they'd like to do something,then they haven't given consent. It also means that threatening them, manipulating them, bribing them, or discounting their feelings in order to get them to say yes, when we want them to say yes but they want to say no, does not constitute consent.

This article, The Healthy Sex Talk: Teaching Kids Consent, Ages 1-21, does an excellent job of explaining how to communicate with children age appropriately.

Consent Ed, an incredibly informative site that gets into the details about what consent is, what isn't consent, and how we all deserve a world that is free from sexual violence.

Parents often talk to their daughters about being safe and how not to dress, but here's The Conversation You Must Have With Your Sons.

A mother blogs about modeling consent with a two year old: Teaching Kids About Consent (and How Not to Rape.) 

And if you haven't read it already, here's my post on Consent and Parenting Young Children.

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