We’ve reached a distinct moment in time in our culture when teaching kids about consent has simply never been more important.
From Hollywood scandals to home-grown horrors, we’re learning how about the insidious nature of sexism and misogyny has been allowed to fester when left unchecked. Domestic violence campaigns have shown us the true face of violence against women and children in this country and we’re learning quickly about how consent cannot be taken at face value.
But how to have these conversations with children? Teaching kids about consent, particularly when they’re young, does not have to be confronting. But it does have to be done.
And here’s how to do it.
When No Means No
Establishing with children early on how to pick up verbal and non-verbal cues is a vital step towards teaching children about consent. It can start with play. Work with your children so they understand that when someone says no, stops playing or say that they don’t like it that the game stops – regardless of whether you still want to play or not. This is a vital lesson to learn and one that can occur early.
Does anyone in your home use sexist language? “Throw like a girl?” “Stop crying like a little girl?” “Mama’s boy?”.
While they may seem harmless to some, using language in this way is demeaning to women. It places them as lower or less than – something that a male should be ashamed of being like. When you transfer that concept to consent you can see how problematic that becomes. It becomes easy to make the link between “I think women are worth less than men” to “It’s fine for me to hurt women because they don’t matter”.
Monkey See, Monkey Do
As we all know, young children are ALWAYS watching and absorbing EVERYTHING around them. They notice the way that their parents interact with each other and with those around them.
Be mindful of what you are projecting. This may take some confidence building of your own if you’re going to be teaching children about consent! Try to establish a model that presents women as deserving of, and entitled to, as much space as they need.
Our Bodies Are Our Bodies
Talk to your young children about the importance of establishing their own personal boundaries. The recommendation is that you use appropriate, accurate words for body parts so that there is no confusion for the child.
Talk about who has, and who hasn’t, got the right to be inside their personal space. Talk to them about what to do when someone makes them feel uncomfortable. Talk to them about how to speak up for themselves and how to firmly establish that no means no.
Many childcare centres, kindergartens and primary schools have fantastic programs along these lines that they implement with children so make sure you talk to your educators to get some more ideas.
Teaching children about consent
Let’s make sure that this next generation learns from the last. Let’s teach our children about the importance of consent and respecting the bodily autonomy of others. Let’s make sure this real change starts with us.
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