We often hear the word “consent” when we talk about romantic relationships, but what does it really mean to give and get consent? And does consent only pertain to sexual relationships? It’s in most basic context, consent means asking someone about their boundaries and respecting their answer. Having a conversation about consent is important at any age.
Talking to children about consent
It’s never too early to talk to young children about consent. When kids learn to have respect for their own bodies and others’ bodies, it reduces the likelihood of them being victimized.
Healthy Relationships Initiative offers these five steps for teaching young children about consent:
- Teach correct vocabulary. Teaching kids the proper names for body parts helps them to communicate effectively and feel less embarrassed about future conversations about consent and sex.
- Teach them body autonomy. Kids should be taught they control who they have physical contact with – from hugs and kisses to high-fives and fist bumps – and that they always have the right to say “no.”
- Teach them to ask for consent. It’s important that kids understand that body autonomy is a two-way street. Remind them to ask their friend before a hug or high-five.
- Talk about consent with friends and family. It’s important to talk with those around you about the consent conversations you’ve had with your child. Their respect of your child’s boundaries is crucial to the child’s understanding of consent.
- Talk about appropriate versus inappropriate touch. Explain to your child that sometimes it may be necessary for a parent, doctor or teacher to touch them in private areas during a medical exam or while helping them in the bathroom. However, it is important to teach them to tell a trusted adult if they ever feel uncomfortable in these situations or if anyone else touches them inappropriately.
Talking to teens about consent
When it comes to teens, we often talk about consent as it relates to romantic relationships. Giving consent means that you are clearly saying “yes” to any touching, kissing or sexual contact. According to Planned Parenthood, here are the things teens and young adults should know about consent:
- It should be freely given. Consent should be given enthusiastically and without pressure or influence from alcohol or drugs.
- It is reversible. You can change your mind at anytime, even about something you’ve done before.
- It must be informed. To give consent, you must know the full picture. If you consent to sex with a condom and your partner doesn’t use one, there isn’t full consent.
- It must be enthusiastic. Sex should only entail what you want to do, not anything you feel pressured to do.
- It must be specific. Consent should be asked for every step of the way. Consenting to one action doesn’t automatically mean you’re giving consent to everything.
Respecting boundaries is part of any healthy relationship and getting consent is one way we show that respect to others. Non-consensual sexual contact is assault. If you or someone you care about has been sexually assaulted, call our 24-hour crisis hotline at 317.920.9320.