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Tips for parents: Introducing ideas about consent

Monday, 11 Apr 2022

Early education about consent lays the groundwork for healthy and respectful relationships.

When your child knows about getting and giving consent, they’re more likely to have healthy, respectful, safe and enjoyable sexual experiences when they’re ready for them. So how can parents help teach their children about consent and healthy relationships?

Tips for parents: Introducing ideas about consent

  • Teach them they have a choice. Teach children agency from a young age. This could be as simple as asking them questions like, “Do you want to play?” “Can I hold your hand?” Or Saying no to a friend if they don’t want a sleepover. Of course, there are times when we will have to take the lead or deal with resistance. For example, if you are going to cross the road and your preschooler doesn’t want to hold hands because they think they are a “big kid”, this is a time to let them know that yes, they are growing up, but they still need help from trusted adults to keep them safe. This extends to the teenage years, too. “Yes, you are becoming more mature, however, there’s still a few years before the thinking part of your brain is fully developed, so you do need my help. We do need to have boundaries and rules that we negotiate to keep you safe.”
  • Let them know permission is important. When they are younger this might be about borrowing a toy. As they get older, this conversation could shift to something like physical affection. Or If they have their own device you can talk to them about asking permission before sharing photos of others.
  • Teach them about personal boundaries. For example, your child might want to hug a friend who’s sad, but the friend says no. You could say, ‘Lily says no thanks to hugs today. If people say no, you need to listen’.
  • Teach your child it’s OK to say no to a friend. If your child doesn’t want to go to a playdate or sleepover, this can be a chance for your child to practice saying no kindly.
  • Teach them is ok to change your mind. Allow them to change their mind. Teach them to respect it if someone else changes their mind as well. Consent is not a blanket “yes” forever and your child should understand that.