6 Ways to Teach Kids About Consent
Consent has always been a controversial topic for many reasons. Since childhood, adults have indoctrinated a certain mindset into children that anybody can hug or kiss them. Often around us, we see grandparents, uncles, or aunts being physically affectionate to a clearly uncomfortable toddler.
These situations often create a tantrum if the child refuses unwanted physical affection, no matter how well intentioned or loving.
Growing up, young adults are taught to accept affection from their spouses or partners no matter how they feel since they have a “right” on each other. Being physical is often stressful and traumatizing for people who go through that without consent.
Most of the times, being affectionate without consent can go borderline with physical/sexual abuse, and the very reason for its development is lack of awareness. Seeking consent is still a foreign concept in most societies, and it needs to desperately be normalized now more than ever.
Why is it necessary to teach consent to kids?
It is essential to teach the concept of consent to kids to practice it fully when they reach adulthood. A lot of children are unaware of their bodily autonomy, and it leads to dangerous circumstances. Taking control of your body and saying “no” when something makes you uncomfortable goes a long way into self-care and protection.
Every parent must teach their children consent in a way that is clear to them. It may take some practice and a bit of backlash from certain people, but it will be worth it in the long run. Some of the easy ways to teach consent to your children are mentioned below:
Easy ways to familiarize kids with consent:
Good Touch vs Bad Touch:
The very basic concept about consent is the topic of good and bad touch. We need to start telling children where and how people are allowed to touch them, that too when they’re okay with it.
Use visuals to make them understand it better. Always check up on your child, and ask them casually if anyone has been touching them inappropriately. Keep an eye on the people around them, even if it is your closest family or friends. Also, be open to their questions to clear any confusions.
Hugging or touching a friend:
Always teach them to seek permission from their friends before hugging or touching them. It will create compassion for others and care for their bodily autonomy at a very young age. And when their friends reject their permission for physical affection, teach them that it is perfectly okay to do so.
Being offended at somebody else’s bodily autonomy has been normalized so much that it is essential to teach your child the opposite as soon as possible.
Ask for their consent before touching:
Just like they need to seek permission from their friends before touching them, you need to follow the exact same thing with your child. Ask them before hugging, kissing, or touching them, and make sure they allow you before you proceed.
A child has just as many rights on their body as much as you do on yours. This also strengthens communication between the two, as both parties are clear about what they want.
Teach them to say “no”:
Ensure your child is equipped with the words “no” and “stop” at a very tender age. This will ensure that whoever touches them without their consent, family or not, they have the strength and knowledge to speak up about it and to say “no”. People will definitely be offended, but it is not worth losing your child’s bodily autonomy.
Children should definitely be taught to be verbally expressive, be it for consent, their emotions, or their troubles. It is always a good idea to express yourself without feeling any hindrance in your ability to do so. For example, speaking up when someone violates your bodily autonomy is always a good idea.
Create a healthy space between you and your kid:
Many parents believe that they have a right over their children, making them trespass any healthy boundary that they should have with their children. For example, it is considered inappropriate when parents knock on their child’s door before entering their room instead of just barging unannounced.
The truth is, such healthy spaces create a sense of consent and autonomy that helps them grow more robust and more independent in future. Moreover, when you create a healthy distance between you and your kids, you teach them that they have value. In this way, you teach them respect and a sense of responsibility at a very young age.
Do not allow anyone to force affection on your kid:
Young children may be too young and scared to say it themselves, but when you see ANYONE forcing themselves on your kid, put a stop to it immediately. Make sure your child sees and hears you standing up for them, so they know you are there for them and sees you as a protective figure.
According to Darkness to Light child sexual abuse statistics, 30% of child sexual abuse cases arise from within families, and over 90% of children who are victims of abuse know their abusers. Therefore, do not trust anyone with your children if they’re uncomfortable with them, and be very clear when it comes to consent for physical affection.
Consent holds a critical position in relationships as well as in each individual’s life. Consent is respect for boundaries, bodily autonomy, and the courtesy to care for another person’s comfort and mental peace. When taught at a young age to kids, they understand it better and get used to it for a long time, so applying this practice into adulthood will not be a problem anymore.
All parents need to be aware of the dangers in society and need to protect their children by teaching them these ground rules of basic decency and respect for each person through respecting and maintaining consent.