Talking about consent can be tough!
Talking about relationships with your child or young person is one of the more challenging aspects of parenting. Not only can it be embarrassing or sensitive, but there are often disagreements around morals, ideas and views about what is okay and when. Consent, and what it means is often a difficult issue to address.
Nonetheless, recent high-profile events have highlighted the importance for young people of having a good understanding of consent. While they will get some education at school regarding relationships and sex, it is the responsibility of parents to explain much of the tricky social and moral issues.
But, how do you talk to your child or young person about this important but complex issue?
Here are some ideas of how you can talk to your child or young person about consent:
- Talk to young children – make sure they understand that they have to get consent to hug or kiss friends or family. Don’t make them hug or kiss if they don’t want to.
- Tell young children about boundaries – that it is not okay for people to see or touch them in private areas. Nor is it okay for them to see or touch someone else there.
- Talk about the law with older children – tell them what the age of consent is (16) and that there are real consequences for activity below this age.
- Talk to your teen - Ask their opinions on consent. You might want to use a high-profile event as a starting point. You might ask “Did you hear about that in the news? What do you think about that?” By starting the discussion by asking their views, you avoid them feeling like this is a lecture.
- Talk about what is and is not consent - Make sure that they understand how important verbal, consistent and repeated consent is. Make sure both boys and girls know that flirting, clothing and “not being told no” do not necessarily mean consent is given.
- Encourage your children to make sure others are okay too – talk to them about what they might do if one of their friends seemed to be in an uncomfortable situation. Ask them what they might do if their friend was the one acting irresponsibly.
- Eliminate self-blame - Tell them that they always have a right to be respected, and that consent needs to be sought and given by both parties.
- Make sure they understand how to say no - and how to recognise when someone else might be saying no.
- Get rid of notions about gatekeepers and initiators. Make sure your teen knows that it is normal for both boys and girls to want to have sex, but that is also okay if they don’t want to.
- Ask for support! There are plenty of organisations that can help you.