Each month, this series will provide important facts and tips surrounding child safety in an effort to support parents and caregivers as they navigate reducing risks and creating the safest environment possible for the children in their lives.
It is never too early to start the conversation around consent.
Every April, National Child Abuse Prevention (CAP) recognizes the month as time to remind communities of the important role each of us collectively play to strengthen families and protect children against abuse through education and other resources. Abuse comes in many different forms and doesn’t discriminate against children’s age, race, gender or socioeconomic background. An estimated 42 million survivors of childhood sexual abuse exist in America today, which is why helping create a firm foundation your children can build on to understand how to protect their bodies and themselves from unwanted touch, behavior and more is imperative.
Many parents understand the importance of these conversations but feel a little lost on where to start or how to know age-appropriate ways to begin addressing the sensitive subject of consent with their children. Here is a checklist of ways you can create open dialogue around consent no matter how old the children in your life are:
Three Tips for Having Conversations About Consent with Children
#1 Remember to be open, honest and create a safe space for questions and conversations with your child. When it comes to bodies, sex and boundaries, children will learn things from lots of places, but you want the information they receive to come from you, your family values and experiences first and foremost whenever possible.
#2 TalkWithYourKids.org shares a basic dialogue reminder for parents to keep at the heart of your consent conversations. “Your body is your body. You get to say whether, when and how people touch you. If someone touches you in a way that you don’t like, tell them to stop. If they don’t stop, tell me or another adult you trust. That includes if the person who touched you is also an adult. I love you, and your safety and well-being are my number one concern.” More than 90% of abusers are people children know, love and trust, so these reminders may be scary but are crucial.
#3 Keep the conversation age appropriate to best help your child comprehend what’s being said and take the most away from the conversation.
- Babies & Toddlers – Learning their body, understanding the anatomically correct terms for body parts, teaching which body parts are “private parts,” instructing how words like “no” and “stop” are to be honored and respected
- Young Children – Speaking on body-related boundaries, reviewing words like “no” and “stop” can be used to honor boundaries (both their own and others), safe touch vs. unsafe touch, respecting other people’s bodies, asking permission before physical touch with friends
- Big Kids/Preteens – Understanding your body’s cues and other people’s cues, internet and cell phone safety & dangers, how to share if a friend is in danger or you/they have experienced negative physical touch and who to tell
- Teenagers/Young Adults – Creating a policy where “there are no stupid questions” around bodies and sex, empowering them to love themselves and their bodies, educating on healthy relationships, reminding to trust their instincts if something or someone feels off, specifically talking about what consent looks and sounds like and respecting partners
Keeping Children Safe Takes A Village
Every child should grow up in a safe, stable and nurturing environment knowing their bodies and boundaries are respected. While parents and caregivers are keys to making this a reality, it is the support and commitment from their community that makes all the difference in making it a reality through encouragement, education and preventive measures.
This month, we hope as you read through this checklist, you feel confident to talk with the children in your life to help empower them to have power over their bodies.