As a parent I have fears for my children. I fear the basics like breaking their arm or falling over and breaking a tooth however I also fear that sexual assault may happen to them in their lifetime. No parent wants their child becoming a victim or a perpetrator of sexual assault. For this reason, early lessons about consent are absolutely crucialStart to teach your child about consent from Age 4. When speaking with children, it is important to speak in an age appropriate manner, using terminology more suited to them as our goal is not be to frightening or panic-inducing. Experts agree that these discussion start with conversation around, consent and boundaries.
Consent is basically permission to do something now or an agreement to be able to do something later and when parents establish firm boundaries around access to things like snacks or tech time, they are reinforcing consent. If your children are obliged to respect the boundaries you set at home or face the natural consequences, they understand the basic concepts of consent.
How to Teach Young Kids About Consent
- Establish boundaries in the home and natural consequences when those boundaries are crossed.
- Explain physical boundaries as children are becoming curious about bodies, around 4 years old.
- Reinforce the idea that no means no and that children are not allowed to touch another person without permission.
- Model consent by not tickling, hugging, kissing, or wrestling children when they say NO. This will in turn teach your child to be respectful when they hear NO.
Children as young as four are already starting to learn and be curious about their bodies. Teach your child about their private parts and use the words “private parts” or use the correct anatomical wording. I suggest that you talk about and point out eyes, ears, nose, elbows, shoulders, vagina, penis, scrotum, all in the same neutral tone. Some parents prefer to use others words for these body parts however , I must stress. that using the correct terms makes it easier for their kindy or school teachers to understand them if they need to. You would hate something to happen at School and the teacher not understand your child clearly and not take the conversation seriously.
Teach your children that they are the boss of your own body.
Information for children and young people
If you are a child or young person who wants to learn more about sex, consent and respectful relationships, see the following websites:
- KIDS HELPLINE(LINK IS EXTERNAL) provides information for young people about what consent means when engaging in sexual activity.
- 1800RESPECT(LINK IS EXTERNAL) provides information about what age of consent means, what healthy relationships look like and what sexual violence looks like. It also provides a national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service.
- YOUTH LAW AUSTRALIA(LINK IS EXTERNAL) provides free, confidential legal information and help for young people under 25 years, including information about age of consent laws for your state or territory.