For a while now, there’s been a lot of talk around here about changes in the sex education curriculum. And while I’m in favour of them, I can understand some of the initial hesitation and fears people are having….except for one topic in particular:
I cannot for the life of me understand why anyone would oppose it. I’ve heard of people shocked and upset at the idea of teaching kindergarten aged kids about consent. And I’m over here shocked at their shock and upset. haha
But actually. In fact, I’m surprised we aren’t all dancing in the streets to celebrate. We should WANT our children being taught about consent BY EVERYONE. We should want our kids respecting consent WITH EVERYONE, and understanding they can expect to receive that same respect in return FROM EVERYONE.
YOU GUYS!!!! WE WANT THIS!!!! THIS IS GOOD!!!!
Even if it was *just* about sex, it would be an important conversation but it’s especially important because it’s not. Consent is NOT just about sex. It’s also about not having to hug your sibling or grandparent or extended family member, family friend, or some creepy neighbour down the street, simply because maybe you don’t want to. It’s about wanting to hug someone one day and being allowed to not want to the next. It’s about being able to claim your personal space. It’s about having the freedom to not find fun in the same things your friends do and recognizing that something you’re doing/playing may not be fun for everyone else. Read the cues, know your audience, respect the boundaries. It’s also about understanding the value of our “no!” and meaning it when we say it. It’s about communicating our wants/needs/comforts and the opposite effectively, and trusting that those around us will also value them. Value us. Recently while at a Drunk Improv event, the audience was notified that one of the actors would not be participating in the drinking portion because she was feeling a little unwell and didn’t want to drink. Ultimately, she didn’t consent to it. It was such a good announcement and reminder that again, consent isn’t about just sex.
You know the saying that if you don’t listen when your kids talk to you about the little things, they won’t talk to you about the big things? Consent feels like that to me. That we can’t expect them to have healthy relationships and boundaries in sexual situations if we haven’t taught them how to have them in the non-sexual ones. This is starting at the beginning, the foundation. And we have to understand that their teen years are just too late. I mean yes, it’s better than never but for the love of all things, please start sooner. Please start as soon as they are born….communicate with your kids, basic conversation, etc. Does your 2 year old push you away when you try to hug or kiss her? Not necessarily the times it turns into a game and can be fun (we’ve all done that) but the times she CLEARLY communicates a lack of interest or complete adversion to it. It’s a great opportunity to be conversational about it being OKAY if she doesn’t want a hug or a kiss. And yes it starts then!
And please support the other adults in your child’s life also having the ability to openly discuss and respect consent. I promise you, it matters. I promise you that talking about things is the only way to truly prepare our children and teach them how to be responsible when faced with the things we fear.
So what do I tell my kids?
I tell my kids it’s okay to not want a hug/kiss/cuddle from anyone. That they don’t have to do something they don’t want to even if it feels like everyone else is, and on the flip side that they are able to want to do something that nobody else is. I tell them THEIR words matter, to be clear and direct and mean what they say. And I tell them to respect the words of others, their personal space and individual personalities. And because I’m open about sex and intimacy, I like to help connect the dots as well so they see the patterns. I’ve shared my personal hopes for their intimate choices as teens but I’ve also told them they are allowed to make choices about their bodies and choose what they are comfortable with. And possibly most importantly, that they are allowed to CHANGE THEIR MIND, and allowed to do so AT ANY TIME. There is no point of no return. I tell them there is no obligation, no matter what role or title they have in someone’s life and that they are allowed to like and not like certain things, and that there is no shame in either. I tell them to be kind and direct but dammit, if they need to be stern and maybe even rude, then they can and should do that. I am adamant about teaching them this because I have not been good about in my own life, and I do not want them struggling in the same way. And just as important to me as connecting the dots, I like to turn it back to the basics to complete the circle. Because again, all of these things encompass consent and are not just about sex.
Tales from an Unfiltered Parent is my attempt to inspire others to have open conversations with their children. I mean it when I say nothing is off limits, and my children and I have had very honest and raw discussions on almost every topic imaginable. You don’t have to agree with my stance or explanations, but what I hope is that it will at least give you a starting point with which to create the same open foundation within your own family. I am a strong believer that knowledge is power and that when we give our kids our trust and honesty, they are better equipped to navigate life and find more ways to flourish while doing so.
Have a topic you want discussed? Send me an email with subject ‘Unfiltered Parent’ to firstname.lastname@example.org