The word "consent" is very often correlated with sexuality, in fact, it is a broader notion. Consent is about privacy in general, for example reading a teenager's diary or tickling a child... This way, teaching consent to our children can help them to know how to be respected and protect them from sexual assaults as well as from bullying.
When it is about their well-being, physical and mental, children agreement is necessary. They need to be able to say "No" to a game they don't want to play or not letting a peer bully them and feel confident about that. Also, teaching consent is a way to teach our children how to listen to others and receive their "no".
How to teach consent ?
From a very young age, you can show them by your behavior that they can say "No".
Let your child refuse a kiss and tell them that it is okay, they don't have to kiss if they don't want to, even if it's their parents. You can explain to them that you're not kissing your partner if you don't want to, you're doing that because you want it : "I'm kissing Daddy/ Mummy because I want it, and because he/she wants it as well".
Allow them to raise their voices when they are facing a bully, it will show that they are able to defend themselves, build their confidence and stop the "aggressor".
Use the bath time or siblings games to teach them that their body belongs to them and that nobody can touch them if they don't want to.
Use books or stories to talk about consent... What about Sleeping Beauty ? How does the Prince know she agrees to be kissed? Is it okay to kiss her when she sleeps ?
Let them express their opinion and have a respectful speech in daily life. Help them to listen to their inner voice to develop their self-awareness so they know what they want or not. Congratulating them when they express their needs or their limits will help them to learn their right to integrity.
With teenagers, you can use the current events to talk about consent (street harassment, revenge porn...) and give them some tips to find an appropriate way to end the disrespectful situation and turn the tables.
It can help you to come to a conversation about sexuality. Indeed, according to a UK's study (https://journals.sagepub.com/
doi/10.1177/0272431609338179), it is very common for young teenagers (from 12 years old) to kiss and touch each other under their clothes, so it is very important to talk about consent with them before it goes to a non-consensual intercourse...
Encourage them to give their verbal and affirmative consent, and on the other side, to verbally ask or tell their partners what they want to do : "Can I ... ?"; "Is it ok to.. ?"; "Do you want...?'. It is also important to read the body language to identify a possible discomfort.
Teenagers are scared to be rejected if they ask for consent... Remind them that it's better to ask and get a refusal than looking disrespectful, or worse, aggressive... On the other side, they are scared to hurt their partner if they refuse a sexual activity, in this case, give them some advice to talk to their partner : "I love you but I am not ready yet...". But remind them that they deserve someone who respects them and that they don't have to feel guilty about other's feelings.
Finally you have to fight some stereotypes :
The myth of clothes that say "yes". Even if some clothing are "sexy" it doesn't mean that the person wants sex.
Girls have to learn how to say "No".
These ideas bring a sense of guilt when women are assaulted... "I should have known how to defend myself", "I should have worn trousers"... The guilt shouldn't be for victims but for aggressors !
Talking about consent is obviously not just a girl's business it is also a way to teach empathy to everybody. To make sure they will listen, understand and respect the other's refusal.
Written by Pauline Prudence