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Talking to your child about consent

Teaching consent is an important part of educating your child about sexual health. It's a fundamental concept that can be taught at any age. It lets your child know that their voice matters and they have choices. They'll also learn to respect the choices of others as they understand the concept of consent.


Teach your child about consent Joe Plumb

What is Consent?

Consent means giving someone a choice about touch or actions and respecting their answer. With children, we often use the language "asking for permission."


Ready to Talk About Consent?

You might not be... and that's okay! Here are some way to get the conversation flowing without making it too formal or scary.


Ask for consent in everyday interactions with your child.

For Example

  • “Do you want a hug goodbye today? We could also wave or high five.”

  • “Can I sit beside you while we read this book?”

  • "Can I tell your teacher that your grandma died?"

  • “It's OK if you don't want a goodnight hug."


Model that asking for consent is an ongoing process.

For Example

  • “Do you need a break from tickling, or are tickles still okay with you?”


Teach your child to ask for consent with other children.

For Example

  • “Do you want to play with the red or the blue car?” OR "Do you want to hold hands when we walk to lunch?"


Besides consent, kids need to learn that they can set boundaries and limits on when and how their bodies are touched and by whom. Some tips regarding boundaries follow.


Boundaries are a person's right to choose what is comfortable for them. Teach your child to set limits on when and how their bodies are touched and by whom.


Teach Your Child
  • Your body belongs to you

  • You get to decide about your own body

  • No one should touch you without permission

  • Consent means always choosing to respect others' boundaries


Frequently asked questions


  1. How young should you talk to your child about consent?

Consent can be part of the conversation at any age! Consent, or asking for permission, is a normal part of everyday life. You can practice making consent part of the conversation with an infant or toddler by verbalizing that you are going to pick them up or talk through the actions you do with them. As children become more verbal, you can model how to ask for permission and respond appropriately when you do or do not receive permission from another person. Conversations about consent can be related to sharing toys and games, and understanding and respecting the personal space of others.

2. How often should I talk to my child about consent?

It shouldn’t be a one time-conversation. Children are receiving messages from all sorts of places, and as an adult, you can help them make sense of these messages. There are always opportunities in everyday situations to discuss consent and boundaries. Check out this resource to learn more.

3. How do I make sure other adults in my child's life respect their boundaries?

It’s our responsibility as adults to keep kids safe. This means we need to be thoughtful about who they spend time with. We also need to educate our family, friends, neighbors, and coaches about our expectations around boundaries and consent. Explain to family members that you want to teach your kids about body autonomy; so if a child doesn’t want to sit on Grandma’s lap or give a hug or kiss, then it’s up to Grandma to respect these boundaries and she can offer an alternative, like a high five!

Teaching consent is an important part of educating your child about sexual health. It’s a fundamental concept that can be taught at any age. It lets your child know that their voice matters and they have choices. They’ll also learn to respect the choices of others as they understand the concept of consent. Below are five important aspect of consent you should teach your child, but, keep in mind, there is no greater teacher than your example. If you live the things you’re teaching, your child is that much more likely to utilize it in their own life.

PERMISSION IS IMPORTANT. Asking for and granting permission is important, especially when it comes to something like physical affection. This is the type of lesson that can be taught on a smaller scale (like being allowed to give permission to let someone borrow their toy) and expanded on as they grow older. ✅ THEY CAN CHANGE THEIR MIND. There are times when your child will say “yes,” but want to change it to a “no” due to the experience, emotions, fear, etc. they are having. Allow them to change their mind. Teach them to respect it if someone else changes their mind as well. Consent is not a blanket “yes” forever and your child should understand that. ✅ ALLOW THEM TO SAY “NO” TO HUGS. One of the things we like to say is “don’t force the hug” when teaching children about sexual health. Allowing them to give and receive physical affection on their own terms makes it possible for them to realize that they have a voice. Allow them to say no to a hug or kiss and teach the other adults in their life to respect your child’s decisions as well. ✅ ASK THEM FOR CONSENT. When you’re going to touch your child or move into their personal space, practice asking them if it’s okay. “May I hold your hand?” “Can I get a hug?” “Will you let me brush your hair?” This small act can teach them that they have a say in who touches them, how they are touched (a hug, a kiss, a high-five, etc.) and when. ✅ PRACTICE IN FRONT OF THEM. It’s important to model consent for them. Let them see that when someone says “no” you respect it. Every time you respect others, you are teaching them about respect, especially when it comes to the people in your circle of trust.


Too often children, simply because they are children, are made to feel that they have no say in what happens to them. There’s a balance, of course, between allowing your child to make their own choices and reinforcing the values that you find important.

 

If you need any help or support regarding your child and consent then please visit https://learning.nspcc.org.uk/child-protection-system/children-the-law


If a child or your child has made a disclosure to you, you can contact the NSPCC on the numbers below or please call 999 in an emergency.

 

Help for adults concerned about a child Call the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000


Help for children and young people Call Childline on 0800 1111