What is consent?
Consent is free, informed, voluntary and continuous acceptance. It is often associated with sexuality, but is a principle used daily and in all our relationships. Above all else consent is about understanding that each person is in control of their body and mind.
The rules of consent
- The best way to find out if you have someone’s consent is to ask them directly.
- Consent is not valid if one feels pressured or threatened.
- Insisting that the other person gives in is not consent.
- Saying nothing does not mean you are consenting.
- Consent can be revoked at any time.
It is essential to discuss this with your children, but it can be difficult to get the right messages across at the right time. Here are some tips to help you address the subject:
Tip #1: Don’t Wait Until Adolescence
Consent is often discussed during adolescence when the first love arrives, but you can talk to them about it long before then. For example, with the help of storybooks or cartoons. Review certain scenes/scenarios with them and develop certain reflections by asking them their opinion on the actions of certain characters, ask them what their reaction would have been to such and such an attitude. Do not hesitate to develop their critical thinking through activities or hobbies that they particularly like. The question of consent can be explained in a playful way. Indeed, there are books and video clips suitable for all ages that also allow parents to support their discussions.
In addition, the period of adolescence is often synonymous with conflict and opposition, so it is not always easy to tackle certain subjects. Anticipating this notion will allow you to explore consent more easily during puberty because your children will have built a solid foundation around the topic.
Tip #2: Lead by Example
Children will often learn by watching those around them. Raising your children’s awareness of certain concepts therefore involves applying them. You can start by listening and respecting some of their choices, such as accepting the fact that they may not like gestures of tenderness, being modest or even respecting their opinions if they change during the day. Show them that they too have the right to say no at certain times and that their word will be respected just as much as the adults they meet. For example, if one of your children doesn’t like kisses at Christmas, forcing them to kiss the whole family because it’s rude doesn’t send the right message about consent. Try to consider their feelings by explaining to them that it is respectful to say hello but that there are other ways they can do it: a hug, blowing a kiss, a wave of the hand, etc. and that they can find a way that suits them. You can also teach them the right to speak their minds loud and clear (with diplomacy of course) by also being honest in certain situations.
Tip #3: Adapt the Vocabulary to the Age of the Child
Talking about consent when children are older is often easier, but younger children see things differently. For example, talking about the legal aspect of consent to a 4-year-old child will not allow them to define it correctly; it is therefore encouraged to favour formulations and examples adapted to their level of understanding. You can use examples from everyday life: “If your aunt or uncle asks you for a kiss, you have the right to say no if you don’t feel comfortable.” You can also use puppets or dolls to tell stories and convey certain information to them. This can also be an opportunity to address respect for each other’s personal limits. You can ask them: “How do we know that the person agrees? If you want to play with her but she doesn’t want to, what should you do? ” Etc. Remind them to check each time to see if the person agrees, because it’s normal for people to change their minds sometimes. Indeed, giving your consent at a given time does not mean yes for life. For example, we can ask: “Do you agree? », « Can I… », « I would like to… do you feel like it? “.
Tip #4: Seize Everyday Opportunities to Talk About Consent
To raise children’s awareness, it is best to talk to them often about the desired subject. You can use different occasions to talk about consent, such as on the way to hockey practice, at dinner or even bath time. Teach them boundaries around their own body, it belongs to them, and everyone should ask permission before touching it. Be sure to show them your consideration by asking them “Can I wash this part now?”
Tip #5: Show Kindness
Remember that you are doing your best and that you must deal with the stresses and obligations of everyday life. Raising a child requires a lot of patience and investment. There will always be some subjects that you will be more comfortable addressing than others and that is completely normal. Be kind to yourself and your role as a parent. Become aware of your own limits and do not hesitate to ask for help or use external resources (books, videos, etc.).