How to Teach Your Children About Consent

Photo by SI Janko Ferlic on Unsplash

As uncomfortable as it can be to approach our children with tough subjects revolving around consent, bodily autonomy, and body awareness, they’re important subjects to learn. Teaching your children about setting boundaries for their bodies can mean they’re empowered to say no if someone tries to overstep those boundaries. If you know they are important topics but aren’t sure where to start, here are a few helpful tips for teaching your children about consent:

Tell Children They’re the Boss

As hard as it can be to tell children they’re the boss, it’s an important statement when it relates to their bodies. Children who know they’re the bosses of their own bodies know they don’t have to hug, kiss, or be affectionate with anyone they don’t want. They also know they can say no to affectionate greetings and goodbyes, even with people they love.

While it will likely be a long time before they learn about lewd and lascivious behavior, this rule can help them set healthy boundaries early on. They never have to be in an uncomfortable situation with their bodies to please someone else.

Talk About and Model Permission

Most parents wouldn’t think twice about kissing their child on the head or leaning in for a hug. However, asking for permission before touching any child can show them how important this action is. While modeling this behavior, you can tell them it’s okay for them to do the same.

If you’re touching a student or child for an activity like buttoning a shirt or flicking away a bug, tell them what you’re doing as you’re doing it. Children should understand what’s happening to their bodies at all times.

Discuss “OK” Touch Versus “Not OK” Touch

Young children won’t always understand what an ‘OK’ touch is versus what isn’t. That’s why we need to share this information with them. Let your children know that an OK touch is a type of touch that shows we’re caring for the other person. A touch that is not OK makes them feel uncomfortable, scared, hurt, or that they don’t like. A not OK touch is also anything to do with their private parts.

Make Sexuality an Open Topic

Sexuality and sexual development can become a ‘taboo’ topic in homes due to discomfort. Parents don’t always want to discuss their sexuality or the types of sexuality there are with their children.

As uncomfortable as the subject can be, talking about it early and often can often be helpful for children. A household discussing it openly may mean that your child has the most appropriate information about their sexuality and can develop healthy attitudes. They may also feel more comfortable approaching you with conversations about sex, boundaries, their bodies, and consent.

Remind Them to Rely On Trusted Adults

The shocking reality is that one in five girls and one in 20 boys are victims of child sexual abuse. Many child victims also don’t share their abuse with other people. Let your children know that if they ever feel unsafe with someone, they can report it to a trusted adult.

Teaching children about consent can be challenging, especially when it can be uncomfortable for both caregivers and children. However, you may be setting your children up for success by letting them know they are the only ones with rights to their bodies.


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About the Author: Brian Novak