The Importance of Teaching Consent to Children
A lot of parents share their experience of having an awkward conversation or that their child does not want to talk about consent and sexuality. But as you talk about it and practice it constantly, you’ll realize that you get more comfortable and it’s not really that hard.
Rosalia always recommend using what’s called the Scaffolding Method which is where you really start from the very basics. Here are some great ways she shared on how to start talking about consent to your child.
- Start from the very basics. Start from talking about the actual, proper names of the genitals and explain what they are. This may just be a simple act of explaining what our genitals are in the same way that you would an arm or an elbow.
- Normalize the conversation without putting your own beliefs. Try to be mindful in normalizing the conversation and not adding shame to it. This is really important as it takes the stigma away from it, removes the charge of sexuality and normalizes it.
- Read a book together and discuss what you read. Having books helps you with the language you need and the ability to be more comfortable with having the conversation. You can read the book, then talk about what you read. Let them the child ask you more questions and it will evolve from there.
- Have some additional help/tools. If you feel like you can't just talk about it yet, there's other ways you can get the tools to explain these things to your child. There are great information and videos from www.amaze.org and www.consentparenting.com
There's a lot of important pieces to this conversation and it can start with the very basics and then develop it from there, depending on your child’s age. It is also important to have a calm nervous system so when we step into it, we don’t show them that we’re anxious. We have to be able to get the mind frame in place and have all the support and tools we need to make sure that our mental health is still at the top of the pyramid because it would be more difficult to continue teaching this to kids when you feel triggered.
Practicing consent with your 0-5 year old
People think that consent has to start once the child is verbal, but it doesn’t. You can actually start teaching and practicing consent as soon as your child is born.
Start off by communicating what you're doing with intention. For instance, let them know that you need to change the diaper. They may not understand what you are saying but they do understand your tone of voice and your intention. As they get older, that becomes the norm - they expect someone to speak to them before touching them.
Once they become verbal, you can explain how it is important for them to know that they have a right to be asked first and not to just have somebody touch them when they don't want to. And because they've already been set up for that basically since day one, they will understand it much more clearly than if you start later. However, even if you do start later, start having a little conversation telling them that you want to make sure they understand their body is theirs and that they can always say no.
Start with the fundamentals and then you can dive into books more and more. There are great reading resources like a book called C is for Consent which doesn’t have a lot of text or writing. As long as they can see because there's so much language and communication that happens before we even speak.
How to start the conversation when toddlers start exploring their bodies
Being able to teach your child the correct anatomical names of our sexuality will make it easier for them to understand the normal body functions, such as an erection, and how there is nothing shameful about it. Even with females, you can explain what the clitoris is, what it does and that they have one and are allowed to explore it.
It is important that these are normalized conversations and we have to normalize that those are something for them, that they are part of their body for them to enjoy. It is critical that we also emphasize how it is a private exploration only with themselves.
If these situations trigger you of if you feel like you can’t talk about it yet, there’s other ways and tools that you can get to explain it to your child. There are great videos from www.amaze.org that talks about body parts and private parts, privacy and all those kinds of things.
If you need additional information about this topic, here are the resources Rosalia talked about.
- C is for Consent by Eleanor Morrison
- I Said No! By Kimberly King
- It's Not the Stork by Robie H Harris
You can also visit Rosalia’s website, www.consentparenting.com, for more information about body safety, boundaries and consent. You can also follow her on Instagram @consentparenting, join her free Facebook group - Consent Parenting, or subscribe to her YouTube channel, CONSENTparenting by Rosalia Rivera.
To listen to this amazing episode by visiting https://www.thebeyondresiliencelife.com/blog/the-importance-of-teaching-consent-to-children.