Teaching Consent Across All AgesTags: body awareness, girls, safety, sex
Change is in the air. I am excited to announce that I have a new assistant looking after the daily operations; please welcome Elise Noot to our community! While I have loved having a year of working with my daughter Zoe, she has moved on to an entrepreneurial pursuit of her own. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!
In other news, I had the wonderful opportunity of attending a very informative luncheon held by The Canadian Women’s Foundation. I attended as the guest of Kids and Company and Parents Canada. The foundation does a lot of important work for women in areas such as gender equality, ending wage gaps, women in leadership, and more. They also have terrific programs for our daughters that you should check out.
With the need to create a better, safer, world for women in mind, I’d like to talk to you about a pressing subject. That is, the topic of #MeToo and consent must be addressed in our parenting!
Across all ages, we need to teach our children about having agency over their own bodies and the importance of being respectful to other people’s boundaries (bodily and otherwise). We must teach them about the effectiveness of speaking up, in hopes that when they do, they will be heard.
Tips For Toddlers and Preschoolers
- Ask permission, or at least announce, when you are checking to see if they have a dirty diaper rather than just pulling out their pants to peak in.
- Don’t force your toddler / preschooler to kiss people they don’t choose to, including grandparents.
- Some young children like to hug their friends, but not all friends like being hugged. Teach your child to discern the body language and social cues of someone who doesn’t want to be touched, or who needs more personal space.
- Never tickle a child who is screaming “stop” or looking distressed.
- Enforce your own personal body boundaries with your children. Don’t allow a child to maul your face, grab at your blouse to help themselves to nurse, sit on your lap when you don’t want them there, etc.
- Don’t force children to eat or use the toilet. They need to learn they are responsible for running their own bodies. Check out the Peter Alsop “Body Song”.
- Challenge gender stereotypes by offering free access to all types of toys, play styles or choice of clothes.
- Read story books with strong female characters like the Paper Bag Princess, for example.
Tips for School Age Children
- Have family meetings every week so children can learn that their voice is important and that they can bring about change in the matters that impact them.
- Help you child become responsible and independent by training them on such age appropriate skills as making their own bed, packing their lunches, managing their homework, etc. These skills help develop their confidence and self-esteem. It also demonstrates that we don’t put others in our service.
- Teach them about their bodies and how they operate. Books on their changing bodies can help open dialogue and show that you are a safe resource for them to talk to about their body.
- Begin discussions about sexuality (not just the act of sex) but also about gender stereotypes and how genders are depicted.
- Begin age appropriate discussions of inequality and how that can change. For example, why are so many of their teachers female? When should sports be differentiated by gender and why?
- Discuss the difference between pornography and healthy sexual relationships.
- Discuss the fact that women and girls do not “ask for” any mistreatment based on what they wear.
- Discuss the mistaken idea that degrading comments that demean women are just silly locker room talk or “boys being boys”. Explain that, in actuality, this is sexual harassment.
Tips for Tweens and Teens
- Discuss consent directly, and openly. Explain that you cannot assume you have permission to touch someone sexually without getting their consent first.
- Show the popular Ted Talk by Al Vernacchio who argues that sex needs a new metaphor which moves away from the competitive “bases” system and instead compares sex to ordering a pizza. Sometimes you feel like olives, sometimes you don’t. Or, maybe you only want olives on your half. Check it out here.
- Teach them that “NO” can be inserted into any interaction even if you have previously said “YES”. Teach them to listen and trust their inner voice, and to follow their emotions. If they are not comfortable, they need to speak up.
- A non-response is not the same as an enthusiastic “YES!”. Don’t accept neutrality or lack of negativity as given consent.
- Model appropriate and respectful behaviour in your own relationships; “May I kiss you?”, “Do you like it when I touch you there”?
- Be sure they always know they can come to you with ANY problem – they are NOT alone. The stronger your relationship the more adult support you can be to your teen.
Hope this helps!
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