It may not always feel like the most comfortable thing in the world, but we need to teach our kids—both boys and girls—about consent. And we need to do so as early as freaking possible.
You can start the conversation in the simplest ways, teaching your children that they are the ones in charge of their body, always. And then you can build from there as your children get older, teaching them how to ask for consent from their peers, and how to continue to do so as they move into more intimate or romantic relationships.
I know, I know. No one wants to think about their kids becoming sexual with someone else. But it’s going to happen, whether you like it or not, and not on your timeframe. So, kids must be prepared to do it in a loving, mutually enjoyable, and completely consensual way. And it’s more than just being respectful and kind (though, of course those things count too). It’s a matter of safety.
The fact is, according to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey Report from the CDC, half of all rapes in females occur before the age of 18, with 22% occurring before the age of 12. What’s more, 1 in 5 females, and 1 in 7 males first experience sexual violations and violence in their intimate relationships between the ages of 11 and 17.
These are shocking statistics, I know. But it’s all the more reason that we really must teach our children about body safety and consent ASAFP.
I know it can get a little dicey as your kids grow up. Believe me, I have a tween boy who would rather do just about anything in the world than listen to me drone on about consent (thankfully, we started talking about this stuff when he was young, so even though he has begun rolling his eyes anytime I bring it up, at least he knows what I’m talking about).
Seriously, we parents need all the support we can get when it comes to addressing these important topics with our kids. But the good news is that there are a ton of awesome resources out there to help us now—and more are emerging all the time thanks to a renewed and much-needed interest on this topic in our culture right now.
I recently came across a totally rad video about consent that I immediately fell in love with, and highly recommend for parents of tweens and teens everywhere (even younger kids would benefit from watching it). The one-minute video, found here, is produced by The Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance, and can also be found on YouTube.
The video depicts two young teens (a boy and a girl) hanging out one afternoon. There are five instances where the teens ask each other for consent, and receive a clear and definitive “yes” or “no.” It’s not cheesy or anything like that—pretty chill and very relatable.
Check it out:
How awesome is that? So realistic, and adorable as anything. Honestly, the kids don’t even seem much like actors to me. And the activities they are doing together (hanging out, playing video games, and umm, smooching on the stoop) are normal activities that almost all tween and teens would find relatable.
I mean, if I watched this with my tween, I don’t think it would be the most embarrassing experience in the world.
The makers of the video ask the viewers to find the five times consent is requested during the video. And while they are fairly easy to find, I bet it would be totally eye-opening for many to see that consent is an important part of life and comes into play all the time — not just in the instance of sexual intimacy. Furthermore, practicing consent in all aspects of your relationships with your peers is key, and is what sets you up for good communication when it comes to the potentially more intimate aspects of these relationships.
The video is powerful enough on its own, but the good folks at The Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance put together some resources for both parents and educators to help facilitate meaningful and useful discussions with our kids. I particularly appreciated the guided questions that the “parents resource” sheet offers for us parents who frequently feel tongue-tied when it comes to topics like this.
The explanation of what counts as a “yes” when it comes to consent was illuminating, and something I need to remember to address with my kids right away. As the document describes it: “Explain that only ‘yes’ means ‘yes.’ Just because someone doesn’t say ‘no,’ it does not mean that person is giving consent.”
YEP. Our kids need to get very comfortable with vocalizing their “yeses” and “no’s” loud and clear. And most importantly, they need to get very good at listening to others—and then acting accordingly.
Again, although these conversations may feel awkward to have, we really have no choice in the matter. We need to teach our kids these things from the get-go, and we need to do so thoroughly, honestly, and with gusto.
Thankfully, we are not alone. There are resources like this fantastic video out there to help, as well as the many incredible parents and educators who are working hard to make sure that the next generation of kids grow up in a less violent, oppressive world—and that each and every one of them can live safely and with respect.