It’s never too early to teach your children about consent and healthy boundaries. While it may seem like an easy thing to do, some parents have a hard time wrapping their head around how to start a discussion. The truth is that ‘the talk’ is an integral part of a child’s development. The sooner you tell them the difference between ‘good touch’ and ‘bad touch’ and navigate your way through the ‘awkward’ conversation, the sooner your children will learn important concepts like consent and boundaries. This will also create a foundation for deeper conversations later in life.
Often, people assume that the concepts of consent and bodily boundaries should be lumped with sex education. The truth is that by the time a child abuse reaches the age to receive proper sex education, it is already too late to teach them about the basic concepts. We need to realize that boundaries apply to so much more than just sex and hence should be taught to children from a young age. The only thing that you need to keep in mind while having these conversations is that they should be age-appropriate. This is where most parents struggle.
If you, too, are having a hard time figuring out how to start a conversation with your children about sensitive topics, without feeling uncomfortable, here are some easy ways to do it:
Model Consent for Them
It’s no surprise that actions speak louder than words. To teach your child consent, the most important thing that you could do is model it to them. You can do this by giving your little ones the opportunity to make choices and have opinions. For example, when it’s time to go to bed, ask them if they want to wear their blue pajama or green ones. Even though, it is very basic, it will make them feel that they have a choice.
Respect Other Adults
When kids see their parents hitting or screaming at each other, they get the message that violence is normal and it is how you get your way. As they grow up, they start replicating the same behavior. This is why, it is extremely important to respect each other and each other’s bodies, if you want to model good boundaries and consent to your children. Remember, your children are always watching and learning, so make sure you are at your best when you are around them.
Give Your Child Autonomy over Their Body
A child’s body is theirs only. They get to decide whether they want to give hugs and kisses or not. As a parent, do not make this decision for them and force them to physically engage with others, if they are not uncomfortable doing so. Teach them that they have a right to say ‘no’ even to adults and it is the other person’s responsibility to listen to them. This will not only teach them about bodily boundaries but also empower them.
Talk about Appropriate and Inappropriate Touch
You need to talk to your children about appropriate and inappropriate touch, which includes talking about their private parts. We understand that this could be a bit uncomfortable, but it is important. You can use the bathing suit rule to help you navigate the conversation. Tell them that it’s okay if their parents, teachers, babysitter or doctor touches them on these parts, only if they’re helping them go to the bathroom, take a shower, or during a checkup. Even then, this touch needs to be quick and should not feel uncomfortable. At any moment if they feel uncomfortable in these moments, they should tell the adult, right away. This is a significant part of teaching children about boundaries, that if a touch feels bad, they should inform immediately and not keep any secrets.
Summing It Up;
The sooner we understand the importance of having conversations about consent and boundaries, the safer will be our children’s future. Even though, this conversation is evolving with time, it is important that we start somewhere. The above tips will help you teach your children about consent and boundaries in an appropriate manner. If you are looking for professional help, get in touch with Sanaa’s Stars and talk to professionals who commit to creating a nurturing environment for children, so they can heal and flourish.