Teaching Consent with Saprea
Kids’ safety is Gabb’s top priority, both by protecting them with safe technology and teaching them the skills necessary to protect themselves.
As a new school year begins, parents and caregivers no doubt have a list of things to do to prepare their children for returning to school and starting new extracurricular activities. There’s no better time than now to have conversations with your children about boundaries, consent, and open communication.
Teaching Kids Boundaries
As a child practices communicating assertively, parents can encourage them to think about boundaries. For example, one boundary parents may highlight is privacy. Some households may have privacy rules about changing clothes, bathing, or using the bathroom.
Privacy is a great way to help your child—no matter their age—understand boundaries, both by asking them to respect the privacy of you and other family members, as well as allowing them to express their own desires about their privacy.
Another aspect of assertive communication is secrets. This is a challenge because in kids’ minds, secrets can be a way of surprising someone, or the key to keeping themselves out of trouble or sparing them from embarrassment.
Part of your child trusting their ability to communicate important information to you (that they might otherwise keep secret) is in how you respond. These responses will either build or reduce your child’s confidence that they can come to you about anything.
At the core, communicating boundaries is really about helping children understand that they deserve to give and receive respect, and that they can ask for it.
As they make choices and define their own boundaries, they will build self-confidence that fosters a sense of self-respect and resilience. Another part of communicating boundaries is understanding that all choices come with consequences. Parents can help facilitate conversations about how their family culture, rules, and values factor into those consequences.
Physical boundaries, as well as the ability to express needs and wants, are critical pieces to a sense of autonomy. Kids feel more empowered when they understand that they have the right to make (or weigh in on) choices about their bodies, their property, what they wear, and anything else that is important to them.
Teach Your Child Consent
Because consent and boundaries go hand-in-hand, teaching consent can begin at a young age. And as children grow, mature, and find themselves in situations where they have power or influence over another individual, they will be able to respect the other person enough that they don’t act in a way that causes sexual (or other) harm.
- Giving (and receiving) respect.
- Ongoing mutual interest.
- The ability to understand and agree to any action before it happens.
- The option to withdraw from an activity at any point.
As children practice giving respect, reading body language to understand mutual interest, and honoring another person’s “no,” they will understand that consent happens in situations that are not even related to sex. This understanding will serve to prepare them for future situations which are more nuanced and have higher stakes.
Children can practice principles of consent in simple situations, like when they want to borrow clothing from a sibling and respect the “no.” Parents can provide the example of consent when they are tickling or wrestling with their child and stop when they ask you to. Children can practice consent when they express romantic interest in a peer and, when it isn’t reciprocated, understand that for a relationship to develop there has to be mutual interest.
As the school year begins and children start a whole new routine—one where they may not see you as often—fostering continual and open communication with them is key. Not only will parents help build their confidence in holding boundaries and respecting the boundaries of others, but are also reducing the risk of them being impacted by sexual abuse—inside and outside of the classroom.
The nonprofit Saprea provides prevention resources free of charge to parents, caregivers, and community members with research-based practices to reduce the risk of child sexual abuse.
These prevention resources, and healing services for survivors, are all available to the public.