The Importance of Teaching Consent to Children
Consent-based parenting is a whole way of thinking of parenting. For Rosalia Rivera, a consent educator and a sexual literacy advocate, consent-based parenting is making this big shift of how we interact with our kids. It's more than just teaching kids that their body belongs to them but actually implementing it in our day to day activities and interactions.
It’s not only about what we say, but it's on our daily behaviors - how we behave with them and how we live by that on a daily basis. One great example shared by Rosalia would be talking to a two-year old in a way that we are requesting their permission. Instead of saying “Come here so I can brush your hair, we have to get ready for school”, you can turn it into a question of "We need to get ready for school. Can you please come here so I can brush your hair?” When you start to apply this to all areas of your parenting, you start to see that it really is a whole different way of thinking where we're not implementing our control over them and their autonomy and physical selves. You are empowering them and they start to feel in control of their body and of who they are.
It's so important to start early and to make it ongoing - practicing consent on your day to day activities, talking about it, their sexuality, their boundaries and body safety on a regular basis not just once or twice here and there every few years. It's about weaving this into the fabric of your parenting style so they get to learn about these things and get empowered as they grow older.
Rosalia shared a couple of reasons on the importance of teaching consent to children.
1. It’s a body safety issue.
Children are the most vulnerable. If we look at the statistics, the highest percentage of sexual abuse is actually to children. Helping them have that sense of empowerment over their bodies can result to better chances of preventing that situation from happening. Or if a situation happens, for them to be able to tell someone, from their trusted safety network, who can help prevent that from happening again.
It is so important to realize that you are not with your child 24/7, as much as you think you can be. When they’re at school, for instance, you do not know what’s really going on there. And as they get older, they're going off into the world and you can't always be there. The more that you protect or prevent the child from having interactions with the world, the more rebellious they're going to get. If you don’t equip them with the tools and skills they need, you're going to send them out into the world without the ability to protect themselves.
Teaching consent also creates body positivity and eliminates any kind of shame against their bodies. That's a really big part of consent-building because in the long run, when there is grooming predatory behavior that predator would actually target a child that has low body image or low self esteem. The more that we can help our children have body positive perspectives of themselves and self image, the less they become a target to others.
2. It educates them on their boundaries for others.
You’re not only teaching them to be empowered but they also get to understand how to respect the boundaries of others. Regardless of gender, it's important that we are teaching what autonomy is and how it needs to be respected so that it can prevent future situations in relationships. As our child grows older, they have this understanding of what a healthy relationship is and knows how to respect everyone’s boundaries within those relationships.
When kids aren’t taught about respecting both physical, mental, emotional, physical, sexual boundaries and they get into relationships as teenagers or even as adults, they don't understand how to respect someone else and how to have a healthy relationship because they have not been taught this all the way through.
Some factors that hinder parents from teaching consent
Unfortunately, there are some parents who are hesitant to talking about consent with their children because of different factors. The most common ones are:
- The fear on how to get started. If you came from a home where you weren't taught this yourself, it's very hard to know where to start because you have no example to follow from. Especially if you come from a home where it was a taboo topic to talk about sex or sexuality. There is a lot of fear about how to even start and then what to say when you have these conversations.
- Not having the tools when you hit some triggers along the way. If you have had a lot of trauma in your life, this kind of conversation can bring up a lot of that. And if you haven't stepped into your own healing journey as a survivor, there's a lot that you need help or support and guidance with. It’s not just having the conversations but it’s about learning how to cope with your trauma triggers as well.
Read PART II of the blog HERE to get amazing recommendations on ways to start talking about consent, how you can practice it with your 0-5 year old and starting the conversation when they start exploring their bodies.
To listen to the full episode, please visit https://www.thebeyondresiliencelife.com/blog/the-importance-of-teaching-consent-to-children.