Teaching consent to children can be difficult because we are often telling them what they should be doing. So it is easy for them to fall into the line of thinking that they always need to do what is told to them. But it is important for us to have our children understand that they have control over their bodies. If someone does or wants them to do something that is uncomfortable, they don’t have to do it and they need to tell someone.
It is called Bodily Autonomy, and basically it means that a person has control of what happens to their bodies. EVEN KIDS. Because this is an uncomfortable conversation to have for some folks, here are some rules that you need to teach your kids in order to stay safe and a video that is good at explaining the concept. These are some of the tools I use as a Therapist and as a Mom. Let me know if you guys have any questions or anything else you all would like me to follow up on.
Rules your kids need to know:
-Use the Real Names. I know I say this a lot. But just call their genitals by the medical names. It shows respect for their bodies by not using silly names and it lowers the likelihood of confusion as they get older.
-Always Ask for Consent. This includes hugs, kisses, handshakes, etc. Even if they were fine last time giving so and so a hug, they might not be this time. Everyone needs to ask every time.
-Teach that ‘no’ matters. When they say ‘no’ whatever is happening should stop. It might seem small now, but it sets a foundation for bigger ‘nos’ in the future.
-Teach that ‘yes’ can become ‘no’ at anytime. They can change their mind (and so can you). Often times we feel we can’t change our minds because we dedicated to an answer. Not so- they might be mid interaction and if they say ‘no’, it needs to be respected.
-Seek to understand. The most important piece of this puzzle is being there when something happens that they don’t understand or that is uncomfortable for them. You need to build this trust over time and demonstrate your worthiness. Help them learn to express their emotions and be open with their communication.
-Respect is always there. Everyone deserves respect, even our small children. They should have say in as much as they can. The overall feeling here should always be ‘You Matter and You Have a Say’.
And here is the video that is very good at explaining consent to small children. Check it out.
My Challenge to you: Have the Consent Conversation. I know it is uncomfortable and scary. But it is better to discuss this little bits at a time and answer their questions as you go then to have this talk for the first time when they are teenagers.
Happy awkward conversations friends!
– Jessie the Therapist