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how to teach your son about the importance of consent
Gena Ellis, Healthy Relationship Facilitator
It’s hard to miss the headlines about people taking advantage of others, sex trafficking, and lives being changed forever because someone made a decision without asking for or giving consent. In today’s world, parents feel the need to understand and explain consent to their children, but how should you even start that conversation? Is it a different conversation for boys than it is for girls? Is it possible to take the need for consent too far, like when you’re changing your newborn’s diaper? SO. MANY. QUESTIONS. Here are a few answers to guide your way.
I’m the mother of 3 sons. I’ve had several conversations with them about what consent is and how to incorporate it into all parts of their lives. For our purposes, consent is “permission for something to happen or agreement to do something.” So, at its foundation, consent is about respecting the boundaries of the people you interact with. Especially when it comes to sex. It’s essential for parents to not have just one conversation about sex and consent. You’ve got to have ongoing discussions.
More. Than. One. Many conversations.
Your son’s future, his reputation, and his relationships could be at stake.
Those conversations change as your son continues to change, grow, and have different experiences. The consent conversation I have with my 14-year-old is totally different from the one I have with my 18-year-old. When you have these conversations with your son(s), the key is to affirm, not shame them.
You may have a few questions about consent. Questions like:
Why is consent such a big deal now?
Why does it matter that I talk to my sons about consent?
How do I even begin this conversation?
Having a healthy relationship with your son can set you up for great conversations, and it can help you teach him about the importance of consent.
how to teach your daughters the importance of consent
Chris Ownby, Healthy Relationship Facilitator
I’m a dad of daughters. And like other parents, I would do anything to protect my girls. Anything. From harm and from bullies. From being taken advantage of. And from pubescent boys with only one thing on their mind (and I’m not talking about video games…).
But I also know I can give my girls greater gifts: the skills and confidence to protect themselves. A big part of this is teaching them the importance of consent. I call it having consent conversations.
Now, I know the term consent is often a buzzword, especially when sexual harassment, date rape, molestation, and other horrible abuses are in the news. And, good heavens, we need to teach our daughters to guard themselves. I’d like to suggest that consent conversations are more than protection from these sorts of sexual abuses, although they certainly include them.
At its core, talking to your daughter about consent is helping her identify, establish, verbalize, and guard her boundaries. What will she allow to go on around her in a given situation? At what point does she take a stand? And how does she go about taking that stand? Even further, consent conversations help your daughter recognize and respect others’ boundaries. As a friend’s son said very well, “Consent isn’t just about dating; it’s about respecting people.”
Consent conversations help your daughter develop self-respect and assertiveness as well as respect for others. It keeps her safe emotionally, physically, and sexually. It gives her a vocabulary to use for upholding boundaries. And it lays the groundwork for having healthier relationships in the future.
So, consent conversations are kind of a big deal.