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With the ‘me too’ movement, consent has become a notable issue, and I have heard this being talked about a lot. In the context of children, what are some of the ways that you are teaching your kids about consent?
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In the school context, we talk with young children a lot about protective behaviours. Part of this learning is about the 'safe circles' and who can come into those circles with consent. Children learn to use the word 'no' and place their hand up when people come into their 'close or intimate' circle, social circle and wider circle as a metaphor for personal space distances.
With teenagers, we have used the Tea and Consent Youtube clip to promote discussion about when and how to say no or yes to give consent for others to touch or come into their personal space - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQbei5JGiT8
Consent is such an important concept and it can be taught. A presentation I attended recently was aimed at discussing consent with teenagers, but the presenter said that learning about consent starts when we acknowledge that children have agency over their own bodies. This means that we should accept and respect their physical boundaries from an early age. Some examples of respecting a child's boundaries is not pushing if they do not want to hug or kiss relatives and explaining to other family members that you will not force your child to reciprocate affectionate engagements if they do not want to. Young children can learn about consent through mutual play for example accepting if a friend does not want to play a certain game. At the same time, you can teach your child about requesting consent for example asking a grandparent if they would like a hug.
I have heard the description of a "body bubble" which is a person's personal space - we can model respecting other people's personal space (including our own kids) by asking before engaging, for example, "would you like to go for a walk?" or "may I hold your hand?". Other people including teacher, coaches, and doctors should also model this behavior. A good example of this would be a doctor telling your child, "I need to look into your mouth to check your tonsils. Is that okay?".
By keeping channels of communication open, and talking about and modelling respect and what consent looks like you will be able to build on this foundation as your child gets older.
This YouTube video about consent is very helpful: https://youtu.be/h3nhM9UlJjc
I think that frequent verbal reminders and discussion is essential to keep your child alert and ready to deal with inappropriate touch. Going over scenarios and how to respond will help them if in an unwanted real-life situation.
Many books will help bring the importance of consent to life in a realistic manner. I'm unsure what ages your children are, but I would start the discussion as early as age 3. Find an age-appropriate book and use that as a springboard for discussion.
Good luck with this sensitive topic.