Consent and body safety are both concepts that can be understood by young children, and can and should be taught long before they are old enough for sex ed. Healthy attitudes towards our bodies and respect for personal boundaries are not ideas exclusive to romantic or sexual relationships. It’s become abundantly clear with all the media coverage of the #metoo movement as well as the rates of sexual assault on college campuses that we need to do a better job of teaching our kids the meaning of consent.
But how do we go about this in an age appropriate manner? Here are a few ways to introduce the ideas of consent and body safety in a way that young kids can understand.
My body belongs to me.
Kids should know that no one can touch their body unless they say it’s ok. We should never force a child to hug or kiss someone if she doesn’t want to – instead, we can give her the option of waving, or otherwise saying goodbye politely, if she is uncomfortable with hugging a relative or family friend.
Hands to my own body.
Kids should also know that it’s not ok to touch anyone else’s body unless they say it’s ok. We can teach them to ask their friends before they hug them, and to accept “No thank you” for an answer.
Private parts are private.
Some parts of kids’ bodies are only for them to touch, except in bathing, toilet, or dr. checkup situations. We should teach them the proper names for their private parts, and provide accurate and age appropriate books to help explain how the body works. Yes, this may be a bit outside many of our comfort zones, but muscling through a little embarrassment can go a long way toward fostering an environment where our kids feel secure coming to us for answers. Which is of course what we hope they will do if they are ever in a situation that makes them feel uncomfortable.
Probably the most important way to teach kids about consent, as with all things we hope to teach them, is by modeling appropriate behavior. We should always respect the boundaries of other people, adults and children alike. If we want our kids to feel their words are important and should be respected, we can demonstrate this by listening and acknowledging what they have to say.
There are plenty of materials out there to support having this discussion, like this excellent Youtube video, created by a young girl and her mother to explain consent to kids : Consent For Kids
Some relevant book suggestions from A Mighty Girl Blog : Body Smart, Body Safe: Talking With Young Children About Their Bodies
If you’d like to delve deeper into how to approach the topics of consent and body safety with young children, check out this article: Healthy Sex Talk: Teaching Kids Consent, Ages 1-21
About the Author: Laura Perras is a mom and Realtor who grew up in Needham, lives in Brookline, and makes up half of the Perras Group with William Raveis Real Estate. She’s involved in Parent Talk as Board CoChair of Marketing and Communications, Blog Coordinator, and Sale Committee Member.
Please reach out if you would like to submit a post to the blog or have feedback or ideas regarding what you’d like to see here : Laura.Perras.Realtor@gmail.com