When cooties and “pretend weddings” turn into crushes, homecoming dances, and girlfriends/boyfriends, are you ready to have a conversation about consent and what it means?
This conversation is the perfect next step for the body boundary conversations you’ve been having with your kids since they were young. By having this important conversation, you are giving your pre-teens and teens the skills and tools to understand what consent is, how to ask for it, and how to give or decline to give it. It can help give them the confidence they need to ask for consent, or to say yes or no when they don’t want to grant it to someone else. It also opens up the lines of communication about consent and sex and encourages them to ask you any questions they may have.
What is consent?
- a clear “yes”
- a voluntary and verbal agreement
- a process and conversation
- can be withdrawn at anytime
What isn’t consent?
- revealing clothing
- tricking someone or pressuring someone into a yes
- a yes under the influence of drugs or alcohol
Having the consent convo with pre-teens and teens:
At any age it’s important to help your kids understand their personal boundaries and those of others. Once they hit their teen years, conversations around personal boundaries and consent can help them understand how to communicate in relationships. Using examples, you can help your teen work through possible scenarios and understand how to ask for, and give consent.
Talk about pressure: Let your teens know it’s never okay for someone to pressure them into any kind of sexual activity. Likewise, it’s never okay to pressure someone else to engage in any kind of sexual activity. Reinforce the idea that just because their friends may be experimenting, it doesn’t mean they have to if they aren’t ready.
Example: Your teen repeatedly says “no,” but the person ignores their verbal commands and continues to pressure them. Talk through some language to use and things to do in that situation. “You are making me uncomfortable. I don’t want to do this, please stop.”
Talk about verbal & non-verbal consent: There is not always a conversation before kissing, cuddling, or touching. People communicate non-verbally, through body language. However, non-verbal communication can lead to misunderstandings – let your teen know it’s better to ask upfront to make sure both parties are consenting. If the non-verbal cues are creating doubt, it’s not consent.
Example: Discuss with your teen some ways that they can check in with their partner. “Are we moving too fast?” “Are you okay with this?” Remind them to be aware of non-verbal signs: Is your partner pulling away? Do they seem relaxed?
Talk about being under the influence: As teens get older, they may attend parties where drugs or alcohol are being used. Make sure they know legal consent is sober consent. Someone who is intoxicated cannot give consent.
Example, “I know sometimes teens hook up when drinking and both parties seem okay with the situation. But actually, someone under the influence can’t give you legal consent. Being drunk is not an excuse that will get you off the hook – you are responsible for your actions even if you are under the influence. “
Talk about how they might change their mind…and that’s ok: Let your teen know they can always say no, even if they originally said yes. They have the right to change their mind, and so does their partner. Encourage your teen to check in with themselves or their partner: “Is this something I want to do?” “Do I feel safe?” “Do I feel pressure?”
Example: Talk about some ways that you can communicate with each other if your teen doesn’t feel safe. Is there a code word they can text or say on a call? Remind your teen you’re always there to support them and help them feel safe.
Get the conversation started!
Consent Wallet Card
As kids get older, we need to start talking to them about body boundaries in new ways. Consent can be one of these conversations. Cut out the wallet card and use it to guide a conversation with your teen. You can even add your own ideas and reminders together!
Want to talk to your teens about safe sex and healthy relationships? Check out the resources below.