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How to Talk to Your Kids About Consent

Consent is a hot topic right now, and rightfully so. College campuses are now providing seminars on active consent and what consent means. It’s estimated that 20-25 percent of college students will be the victim of an attempted or completed rape and 17.1 percent of Indiana girls grades 9-12 have reported being sexually assaulted. Those numbers are staggering, and sadly, under reported. Sexual assault is easily preventable, but we must teach our kids about consent before they enter college. Talking about consent should be a part of your daily conversations with your kids.

I have a 13 year old and a seven year old. We started talking about consent shortly after birth. When I went to pick up my crying baby to comfort her, I told her that I was going to pick her up. When I changed her diaper, I told her that I was going to change her diaper. Telling does not equal consent; I want to make that very clear, but it does set the precedent of telling her, “This is your body and you have control over it.”

As my children grew older and we added another child into the mix, we continue the consent conversation. If we have tickling fights, as most families do, when someone inevitably yells “Stop!” and even if they are still laughing, you stop. We ask for our hugs and kisses and if the other person says no, even if they have the chubbiest, cutest cheeks ever, you don’t give them hugs or kisses. Instead we say, “I respect that and if you decide you would like one, I’m here for you.”

My children now mirror our behavior. When my children are playing at the pool and one starts splashing the other and they respond with, “No! Stop!” the other stops. I’ve also witnessed my children with their friends and if they ask their friends to stop and the friend does not, it is always followed by a stern, “I asked you to stop and you are not respecting my boundaries.”
Teaching consent early does not have anything to do with sex. But it will become a very powerful skill for them as they do begin navigating romantic relationships. Teaching your children early that they have autonomy over their bodies and how to respond to an individual when they say no or how to respond to an individual who is not respecting their boundaries creates a culture that will lead to healthy relationships.