In a world where some individuals view innocence as an opportunity, parents must talk to their kids about consent candidly – and soon.
Consent isn’t just about sex. It’s about teaching kids to respect the boundaries of others and to assert their own boundaries, ensuring that others do the same. In the era of #MeToo, a growing number of once hidden discretions have come into the limelight. These events highlight the importance of teaching kids not to become victims – or perpetrators – of sexual assault.
Why You Need to Talk to Your Kids About Consent
In America, a sexual assault takes place every 92 seconds, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN).
“The sex talk” is a conversation that’s typically uncomfortable for both parents and kids. Nevertheless, it’s essential. Today, however, that talk should include a discussion about topics such as consent and affirmative consent.
Researchers estimate that malicious actors assault 63,000 children under the age of 12 every year. The first step in teaching young children about consent is by offering brief lessons whenever the opportunity arises. By taking small opportunities to teach kids about consent, parents can hopefully reduce the number of children whom predators assault every year.
Often, a toddler may want to show affection to a newfound friend with a hug, while the young receiver grimaces and disgust. Many adults find this scenario amusing.
When discussing the concept of consent between two young children with toddlers, it’s as simple as explaining that even well-intended affection is not always welcome. When children are young, parents can teach them that affection isn’t always a good thing if it’s unwanted.
Having the Consent Conversation
What’s more important to discuss compared to well-intentioned but unwanted affection between toddlers, however, is the discussion about consent between children and adults.
For example, in relatively recent years, officials from the Girl Scouts of America have emphasized that it’s acceptable for all children to refuse affection from a family member. Parents should explain to their children that they are not obligated to accept a hug or kiss from a relative.
Affection is positive and essential for healthy childhood development. It’s important not to stifle a child’s ability to display or receive affection.
The goal is to teach your child how to establish and respect boundaries. In other words, the lesson to teach is that everyone has a right to decide what happens to their body.
Parents can do this by teaching their children the right way to say no. For instance, you can teach your kids to use phrases such as “No thank you.” or “I don’t want to hold hands.”
You can show your kids how to handle continued unwanted affection by teaching them how to escalate. As an example, after initial reproach, teach your child that the next step is to use firmer wording, such as “No!” or “I don’t like that!” Finally, if someone still continues to offer unwanted affection, it’s time to seek help from an adult.
Talking to Teens and Young Adults About Consent
As children move closer toward adulthood, the dreaded “sex talk” is unavoidable. Today, it’s essential to teach teens with freshly budding hormones that consent is a prerequisite to affection. Furthermore, both parties must exhibit repeated – or explicit – consent before any affectionate activity moves forward.
The idea is simple enough. However, teens may find it difficult to ask for or offer consent.
One way to make it easier is to expose your children to the idea of consent at a young age. Furthermore, parents must have the “consent talk” when kids reach their teen years, whether or not they’re familiar with the concept.
When talking to kids about affection, parents should prepare themselves for exclamations of disgust, contorted faces and other displays of discomfort. Nevertheless, it’s important to power through the conversation. A little discomfort now can protect your kids in the future.
The most important lesson that parents should teach about consent is that it’s essential to consider the needs of both parties. Often, sexual assaults result because the perpetrator is focused on their own wants.
For teens to understand the concept of consent, they need to learn how to view affection from another person’s point of view. This kind of empathy is especially hard to understand for someone going through hormone-charged adolescence.
As young adults enter their college years, peer pressure and hazing sometimes compel them to make bad decisions. As a parent, you can prepare your kids to stay true to what they know is right. Having the sex and consent talks is not easy, but it is necessary.
Unfortunately, there are individuals in the world that would harm your child. As long as this threat exists, parents must ensure that their children know what to do in case the worst happens.
Have you read the original anthology that was the catalyst for The Good Men Project? Buy here: The Good Men Project: Real Stories from the Front Lines of Modern Manhood
If you believe in the work we are doing here at The Good Men Project and want to join our calls on a regular basis, please join us as a Premium Member, today.
All Premium Members get to view The Good Men Project with NO ADS.
Need more info? A complete list of benefits is here.
Photo credit: Shutterstock