May 31, 2021

Ask Margaret: How Do I Talk to My Kids About Consent?

When do we begin difficult conversations with our kids about consent? We can do it early and often, when it’s in an age-appropriate manner. Here’s how to introduce the topic of consent to kids and how to keep those conversations going as they grow.

Conversations with kids about consent are tricky. It can be awkward or uncomfortable to talk with kids of any age about sex, but the more often we have these conversations, the more likely our kids will be able to navigate difficult situations. Have conversations about peer pressure, sex, consent, and personal safety as early and as frequently as possible, while keeping these conversations age-appropriate.

This week a listener on our Facebook page asks:

When and how do I have conversations with my kids about consent?

Regarding their bodies.... touching and allowing touch from others (their peers?)

How to be safe – physically, emotionally, and with their devices?

How they can safely explore their questions and curiosities around sex and sexuality?

The notion of consent is important for kids, and useful well before the idea of sex enters their lives. Play is a great place to start having these conversations. Set rules around play that emphasize consent such as:

  • Is everyone playing, or are you shooting Nerf darts at people who are not in the game?
  • When someone says "stop," all play comes to an end, whether or not you think the person saying "stop" actually means it
  • When we play games with our friends, are we reading their social clues well about whether they are enjoying the game as much as we are?

Once we help our kids define clear language and rules around consent, then we are ready to include sex, control of their own bodies, and respect for other people's bodies into these conversations as they grow. We can expand our conversations around consent into:

  • the role consent plays in sexual and romantic relationships
  • how peer pressure plays out as kids mature
  • the way drugs and alcohol can complicate consent

Margaret cites this article from the Child Mind Institute in this episode:

For another great conversation about how to talk to kids - listen to our Fresh Take episode with Michelle Icard:

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