Consent - is not a dirty word
I don't think parents and caregivers understand just how vitally important and necessary, consent education is for our children and teenagers and that unless you have been taught consent, it's not something everyone intrinsically understands or respects properly.
In my experience, many sexual assaults and attempted sexual assaults (between both adults and teenagers) would have been avoided had consent education been mandatory and explained properly to children and teenagers.
Consent in its bare bones basics is 'permission to do something' and can be taught from as young as toddler age until adulthood, but is also 'fluid', can be taken away or revoked and should continue to be considered when you do something differently eg. can I touch you there?, is it ok if I kiss you/hold your hand? etc.
The language we use when dealing with consent doesn't have to be difficult either. It just needs to be a question and consideration when asking permission or when doing something with your child.
It could be asking if they are ok to be in a photo; 'do you mind if I take a photo of us?' or 'do you mind if I post this photo online so nana/grandpa/aunty/uncle can see how big you've gotten', or 'do you mind if I apply this cream/bandaid/ointment' in the case of medical treatment. It could be asking if it's ok to hug them or if they want a hug when upset.
There is no real end to what you can ask consent for, but the big kicker is that as parents/carers, we also need to respect their no (as long as it is safe to do so).
But Kristi, what do you mean by that?
If you are doing something that your child no longer wants to do ie. tickling them/play fighting/teasing them/hugging them etc and they say no, stop or some other variation, it is your duty to respect their request to stop and cease immediately.
It is our duty to model that when they say no, the person stops the unwanted behaviour.
If we model and respect their 'no', then they will also expect others to stop and respect their 'no' as they get older, develop, grow and go out on their own, to respect it. And if the other person doesn't, they will be quicker to identify that this behaviour is not accepted and not tolerated.
Consent should be:-
- Freely given (not coerced, forced or guilted)
- Reversible (they can change their mind whenever they want to)
- Informed (they know what they are getting into when they say yes)
- Enthusiastic (they are excited and enthusiastic to do it)
- Specific (to that thing only)
But what if they say no and it's something that they need to do?
There is always going to be cases where a child/teens don't want to do something but needs to. Maybe its getting their immunisations, doing a presentation in front of their classroom, getting a haircut, having a bath, putting their shoes on etc.
My advice there is to explain and share why it's necessary for them to do it and that sometimes we need to do things we don't want to but they keep us safe and healthy and that we should never do something that is inappropriate or unsafe and that this doesn't fall into that category.
For more information about consent and a more detailed explanation, please check out my book, Operation KidSafe - a detectives guide to child abuse prevention available in paperback from our store or on Amazon Kindle.
Thank you for helping fight child abuse!