Consent is a hot topic in our culture right now.
With the emergence of the incredibly powerful #MeToo movement, it is becoming increasingly clear that it is critical that we teach our kids what consent is, what it means to have it, what it means to give it, and what it means when you don’t.
Why is it important for our kids to know this?
The social norms around body autonomy, gender equality, patriarchy, and sexual assault are in powerful flux. Teaching our kids fluency in the meaning and practice of consent protects and empowers our sons and daughters to own their bodies, define their personal boundaries, express them to others, and protect themselves when necessary.
A good place to start is to define the language. Consent is defined as giving or having permission for something to happen. This simple and clear definition makes it obvious that consent is a two way street. It’s important that you know how to give it, as well as how to know you have gotten it from someone else.
We also need to know how to withdraw consent clearly and without hesitation.
We need to know how to teach this to our kids, because as I am always saying, we can’t teach what we don’t know. Period.
There are reams of resources online whose primary purpose are to help parents build their own fluency so they can share that with their children in way that they can understand at every age.
According to The Good Men Project, http://goodmenproject.com , we can start teaching consent to kids as young as one year old. Visit their website, where you will find everything you need to start talking to your kids about consent, modelling what it looks like to get it and give it, and start building their fluency in this critical social skill.
One of the key facets of consent according to teachconsent.org is knowing what enthusiastic verbal consent looks like.This website teaches the skills of asking for, listening for, and respecting verbal consent for young people.Through videos and tutorials, they teach what enthusiastic verbal consent looks and sounds like, how to ask for it, how to recognize it, and how to respect the answer whether it’s yes or no. They also cover how to say no, hear no, and respond to no in these delicate and emotional situations. This website is specifically targeted at young people who are beginning to approach and participate in dating relationships.
An important underpinning of consent is an understanding of body autonomy. What does that mean? At it’s most basic, body autonomy is the notion that your body is your body and no one has the right to do anything to your body that you don’t consent to. From kissing and hugging family members that they don’t feel comfortable with, to uninvited touching from friends, acquaintances, or strangers, all the way to unwanted or forced invasion or assault on their body of a sexual or predatory nature, it’s critical that kids understand this key concept in order for them to be confident with their own giving, refusing, or withdrawing of consent.
Teaching our kids about body autonomy and consent empowers them to move through the post #MeToo world with confidence, knowing that they won’t find themselves in the position of having pushed past no without intending to harm, or worse, having their no disregarded and experiencing the trauma that inevitably follows. Fluency in consent and confidence in their ownership over their own bodies is a fundamental skill for life in the 21st century.
Imagine if you had been given these tools as a young person. Maybe you were one of the lucky ones. Maybe you weren’t. Maybe you have a #MeToo story. If you don’t, you know someone who does. We do not want our children to have those stories, and we certainly don’t want them to be the perpetrator of that story upon others. Teaching consent and bodily autonomy protects them from being either the victims or the perpetrators of such trauma. There isn’t a parent alive that doesn’t want that for their kids.
If you aren’t talking to your kids about consent, start today. Visit the resources listed above and empower yourself. Get to know the topics, get comfortable with the language, and start practising them with your kids. Encourage them to ask questions, create safe spaces for them to talk about uncomfortable or scary situations with you, and explore the web together to find more of the multitudes of resources that are available on this topic.
This is one of the most powerful ways we can prepare our kids to survive and thrive in the 21st century. As time shifts, this is how we turn #MeToo into #NeverAgain.