The topic of consent is something we should all be very familiar with talking about - especially with children.
I would even go as far as to say it should be openly talked about from an early age. But, how can you explain the meaning of consent and all its layers to children?
Firstly, it is important to teach children about boundaries both in terms of their bodies and others'.
Here are some tips on how to talk about consent gently and appropriately with your little ones.
They have ownership of their own body
A great place to start is a nice and simple example of consent. Remind your child to ask before they kiss or hug someone and if they say no, then tell them not to.
For example, “Ask Billy if he would like a hug?”. It is so important to never force your child to kiss a family member or hug one in case “Aunty Mary’s feelings might get hurt”.
What is most important is your child’s feelings and they should never be encouraged to do something (as little as a hug to a relative) just to make another person ‘feel happy’.
Teach them to respect ‘no’
"No" is a word most little ones definitely know how to say. But do they fully understand what it means? Teach your child to use the word no and also to hear the word no and stop whatever is they are doing.
It is important for them to understand that if they are doing something like hugging or rubbing or playing with their friends’ hair and their friend says "no" or "stop", they need to stop.
Teach them about their ‘gut’
It can be difficult to explain even to an adult what a ‘gut feeling is, never mind a child. But, try to be as simple and as clear as possible.
Explain that sometimes we may feel that something about a person or a situation doesn’t feel right even if we can’t really figure out why.
Tell them that this is their gut and it is always important to listen to it and tell an adult if they feel something isn’t right.
Not waiting for a ‘no’
As they get a little bit older and can comprehend it all a little more, teaching them the signs that also mean no is incredibly important. Teaching them they may not always get a no, that there could be body language or even just a lack of the word ‘yes’ and until they actually hear the word then they do not have consent.
They may roll their eyes or tell you how embarrassing you are, but lines get blurred very easily and by teaching them clear boundaries and normalizing it all, it will only be beneficial to them as they grow up