Creating boundaries and healthy consent should essentially be the first lesson taught to a child. Yes, even before the alphabet!
As simple as it might seem, parents often struggle with introducing this concept in the household. Often it is pushed back, until an unpleasant event forces the whole family to address the skeleton in the closet.
There is an incessant need to introduce the concept of consent among children early on. But how early, is too early?
The problem lies in the fact that we tend to club consent and boundaries along with sex education, thus delaying talking about the topic with children until they’re old enough to understand. But child psychologists worldwide advise against it.
Parents do find it difficult to explain consent to a child who doesn’t even have his/her vocabulary in the right place, let alone beginning with the complicated spectrum of consent. But here are few tips which can help you along the way.
They watch, they learn
All adults in the household need to ensure that they’re respectful of each other and their bodies. This goes without saying, but children observe and learn for adult interactions. When children see their parents screaming at each other or hitting, they understand this violence as a method of communication. Even in extreme situations of anger, parents need to ensure that they respect the other person’s thoughts, feelings and body, to set better examples.
Introduce the concept of consent
Trying to explain the concept of consent can be slightly easier for the parents, and for children to understand as well, when included in daily life. Give them options where consent becomes a key for a particular action. For example, within boundaries give them choices like would they like to listen to a story on horses before sleeping or would they prefer to learn about stars. Such questions allow children to practice their consent and for it to be respected well.
Body Safety is primary
Every child needs to be educated on what is body safety and how can a child maintain it. We don’t need to complicate the process. It can be as simple as instructing a child what to do when they smell smoke. Similarly, just tell your child that there are parts of their body which are special and private. These private parts are the ones covered by a swimming suit, hence no one is allowed to touch them for their own safety.
Naming private parts
Telling your child the correct names of their private parts is very important. This does away with any kind of shame or embarrassment that is associated with their body. Shying away from the correct names of their private parts lets the child know that it isn’t something to be spoken of, immediately giving the wrong lesson.
Talk, talk and talk some more
Dialogue and conversations between children and parents are the foundation that leads to a more healthy and evolved relationship between the two. As parents you should never shy away from any questions that your child might ask, because as children they’re capable of asking the most embarrassing questions. Let them know that the window for conversation is open by providing appropriate answers. Keep the conversation going, to keep them in a habit of asking questions and sharing information. Often turning away a child once leads them to never share openly with parents again.
Don’t forget the sugar
Yes, you read that right. Children at the end of the day are still young kids who are figuring out a lot of things at the same time. As much as you’d want to raise awareness about topics like consent and inappropriate touching, it can be a little intimidating or frightening for children many times. Make sure that all your conversations with your kids end on a positive note. This helps them stay optimistic about not only their bodies, but also their surroundings.
Awareness at a young age, goes a long way in ensuring the safety of your child. Start today!