One of the most important concepts you can teach your child is consent. They’ll learn to respect other people’s bodies, and they’ll learn to expect respect from others. This is a conversation that can start young and continue into teen years and young adulthood. We’ve already shared information about key concepts to teach about consent, the importance of saying no, and the benefits that come from this principle. But figuring out how to teach these things might seem challenging. How can you explain consent to kids in ways that they’ll understand? Here are three analogies that you can use to teach your child about consent.

Driving a Car: Kids’ Bodies Are Their Own

When you drive your car, you’re in control. Only the driver gets to use the gas pedal and the brake pedal. Only the driver gets to use the steering wheel to navigate. It would be dangerous if lots of different people tried to drive the car at the same time. Tell your child that a car is like their body: they’re in the driver’s seat, and they’re in control. They make the decisions, and no one else gets to make them do things.

Answering the Door: Consent Isn’t a One-Time Deal

When you ring the doorbell, you have to wait for someone to answer, and you have to wait every time. If you go to someone’s house, ring the doorbell, and they answer, that doesn’t mean that the next time you go over you can just walk right in. You can teach your kids that this is like consent. Maybe they asked one of their friends if it was okay to give them a hug. That doesn’t mean that they can give a hug whenever they want to from now on. They need to ask each time. Also, other people should be asking your child for consent every time.

Feeling Hungry: Showing Affection on Their Terms

If you’re hungry, no one can force you to not feel that way. People can’t say, “No you’re not,” and expect the feelings to go away. Those feelings are real, they’re valid, and others can’t negate them. They need to be acknowledged and respected. The same is true of showing affection. Tell your child that if someone asks them for something like a hug and they don’t feel like giving it, no one can just expect the child’s feelings to be different or force them to do it. They’re allowed to feel the way they do, and they can act according to their feelings. They should never be forced to do something or told that they feel differently than they do.

Teaching consent can be the foundation for lots of other conversations about healthy sexual development and preventing sexual abuse. Start these conversations when your kids are young, and then revisit the topics frequently. By respecting their bodies and the bodies of others, your kids will be empowered to not only help and protect themselves but also the other people in their lives.

Watch and Chat

Want to start the conversation with your kids about consent? Watch this Kid Chats video together and then have a chat about consent. If you are looking for downloadable learning material and infographic, click here to view.

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