Let’s be honest. We’ve all learned hard lessons as adults that could’ve been prevented with a little bit of advice or education earlier on in life.
Doesn’t it feel frustrating that the bumps and bruises we got could’ve been avoided altogether if we’d just been prepared at a young age?
Consent is one of those lessons.
And to be clear, we’re not just talking about having sex. Consent is as fundamental as your kid setting rules for the kinds of physical touch they’re comfortable with.
At some point, it’s a lesson our kids will have to face, but what if we could help protect them from learning it the hard way?
You see, teaching about consent shouldn’t start when your kid is a teenager or in their first relationship. It may seem like that’s the natural time to educate your kid about the importance of setting boundaries about their body. But in reality, those lessons should begin at a much younger age.
We’re talking about having the foundation laid by the time your kid heads into preschool or kindergarten.
So how do you start?
1) Have clear conversations that define consent.
Notice that the word “conversations” is plural. That’s because it’s not enough to have one conversation and assume your kid has absorbed the lesson.
Talk repeatedly about the boundaries your kid is allowed to set with their body.
This is especially important when they are young. Without your guidance, they won’t understand that it’s ok to say “no,” even if it’s a family member. They’ll feel pressured to let people cross their boundaries even though they feel deeply uncomfortable. This could be a simple as letting them decided they’ll give someone a fist bump or high five instead of a hug when they’re young.
As they get older and enter elementary or middle school, they’ll likely encounter different situations with a classmate, teacher, or even family member that will test their ability to stick to their boundaries.
Empower them to take control and enforce the rules they’ve set about how they will allow themselves to be touched.
Encourage them to leave situations that make them feel uncomfortable and objectified.
All of this work lays the foundation they’ll need as they face the challenges that come with having access to a smartphone (if you have a teenager and haven’t had a conversation about consent yet, don’t stress! Just start talking about it right away).
You see, consent matters when it comes to social media and the internet. As they spend time online, they will most likely encounter peers or even predators that try to pressure them into doing things like sending nude photos. If you’ve instilled in them since they were young that it’s ok to say “no” whenever they’re uncomfortable, you’ve laid an important foundation.
If they’re in a relationship with someone who’s trying to pressure them into sexting, they’ll know it’s ok to stick to their boundaries.
If they’re talking with an online stranger, they’ll have the confidence to end a situation that might have spiral into sextortion.
As parents, don’t we all want that for our kids? It’s not an unachievable goal; it just takes time and effort to consistently talk about consent as our kids age and their relationships evolve.
2) Use Clinical Language.
Yep, we’re talking about using the words “penis” and “vagina” when talking about consent, even from a young age.
We understand if you’re worried using these words might rob your kid of their innocence. It might feel awkward if you have older kids but here’s why it matters.
It protects your kids from suffering in silence if they’ve been touched without their consent.
Here’s an example.
Imagine this. You have a little girl and let her pick a cute name to describe her private parts, like “cupcake”. One day, she tells her teacher at school, “my uncle likes my cupcake.” Or she says to you, “Jimmy touched my cupcake at school today.” Doesn’t that sound so harmless? Nothing would alert her teacher to the fact that she’s suffering sexual abuse at the hands of a family member. Nothing would set off warning bells in your head that she’s been inappropriately touched by a schoolmate. She would be left to suffer in silence.
Now here’s the thing. This doesn’t have to happen to your kid if you’ve educated them to use clinical language since they were little. You’ve taught them those aren’t dirty words and helped strip away any awkward feelings that might prevent open communication.
This is especially important as your kid gets older and starts spending time online. Why?
Sexting is common among teens.
The primary goal of internet predators is to get kids to send them nude images.
When you prepare them by talking openly about consent while using clinical language, you set yourself up to be a trusted guide if they find themselves in a difficult situation. Instead of feeling ashamed to tell you they’re feeling pressured by a girlfriend, boyfriend, or online stranger for a picture of their penis or vagina, they’ll have the tools in place to come and talk to you about the situation. It doesn’t mean it will be easy but they’ll know that they can come to you for help while experiencing this violation of their consent. There won’t be any ambiguity about what they’re being asked to do because they’re used to using accurate language to describe their private parts.
All of these things set you up to support and protect your kids as they navigate the challenge of teenage relationships in a world driven by the internet.
So when should you start talking about consent? Right now.
It’s never too early to empower your kids with the ability to set their own rules for how much they want to be touched and to communicate clearly with you if those boundaries get crossed. Laying these foundations when they’re young sets them up to recognize and handle the situations they might encounter as they get older. If you already have a teenager and haven’t had these conversations about consent, it’s ok! The key is to start now and make this a regular habit in your family.
If you want to support your kid online, it’s time for the Aqua One smartphone!
Your Parent Dashboard mirrors every scroll, online interaction, and sent message in your Activity feed (even deleted messages)! It’s online transparency like never before. No matter what happens, you can be there to guide your kid through any difficult situation!