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No Means No

5 things to consider when it comes to teaching “consent” to your children

I don’t think there is any good way to talk about this, so let’s just dive right in. I’m talking about consent!  As a parent, about a million different questions have entered into my mind about how to talk about this, among other “hard topics” with my own kid, who is only 2.  It can’t even be possible, right?

Well, it is!  The earlier you can start, the better!

Below are 5 things to consider about teaching your children about things like consent, but really about any of those “hard” things we as parents, sometimes dread having conversations about.

It’s never too young to start.

I am a big believer and advocate of this idea: it is never too young to teach any child respect, ESPECIALLY for their own and other people’s bodies.  By teaching them anatomically correct words, you are helping to prevent confusion. By speaking about body autonomy, you are teaching them that it is ok to tell someone they cannot touch you without their permission. By teaching consent, you are teaching them that no mean’s no. When it comes to others space, we have to show respect (whether we like it or not).

It’s our job.

As parents, we are our children’s primary teachers.  We have the opportunity, and truthfully the responsibility, to teach them about EVERYTHING first.  No matter what the topic, I ask myself this question: “Would I rather them learn it from me?  Or someone else?”

We cannot control everything our children learn and hear outside of our home, but if we are teaching them, then they begin to question the things they hear contrary to those teachings.

Use current events.

Listen, I get it.  No one wants to start a conversation with their kid or teen about topics like sex, so use current events as an excuse to open up an otherwise awkward conversation. Another thing to consider is talking about something that isn’t currently personally affecting your kids or someone they know can be way less “threatening” of a conversation.  Talking about things doesn’t prevent them from happening, but it equips our kids to deal with hard things that they will one day encounter.

Be the “askable” parent.

This is a HUGE challenge, because we (yes, myself included) as parents tend to have pretty immediate emotional reactions to certain things our children might bring up to us.  But here’s the deal:  if our children feel they are responsible for managing our emotions, they WILL STOP talking to us.  Start showing your kids now, that it’s ok for them to talk to you about big, awkward, scary or just plain strange things.  And in those moments where you feel like you can’t “control” your emotions, it’s ok to ask for a minute to think.      

Designate someone else they can talk too.

Surround your kid’s with people YOU TRUST to give sound advice and THEY TRUST to be confidential.  Because let’s just be real:  there will most definitely be a time or situation that comes up that, no matter what you have done, your kid may not feel comfortable talking to you.  Aunt’s, Uncle’s, teachers, friend’s parents—all these are great examples of people you could trust with helping teach and guide your children

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Sarah Howard

Sarah is a Licensed Professional Counselor - Intern, Supervised by Huston McComb, MA, LPC-S. Sarah enjoys working with young adults, adults and couples.
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