It's Never Too Early to Begin a Consent Conversation
So let's begin this blog by being clear, you can have conversations with children as young as three about consent!
What? Really? I can hear some of you say these words.
And the answer is YES because consent conversations with younger children do not involve talking about sexual consent at all.
Rather, focus on consent in friendships and in family relationships.
Talking to your child while they are young, will help them to develop a sense of agency and choice, and they will learn young that consent is something that we seek and that must be clear and enthusiastic.
For example, suggest to your child that they ask their Aunt, Uncle or Grandparent if they would like a cuddle, before rushing straight over to them.
Explain to the Aunt/Uncle/Grandparent that you are helping your child to understand the concepts of consent.
Practice Consent in the safety of caring family relationships.
And also when it comes to visits with Santa, ask your young child if they want to talk to Santa, or stand beside Santa for a photo - maybe they don't, maybe they do - but as parents we can practice and model consent by asking them specifically if they want to or not, and tell them that either answer is okay, and that they don't have to say YES to please you.
This process of negotiating consent and having open respectful two-way communication in the family, is where children can learn and build strong foundations to support them to be in happy, healthy and safe adolescent and young adult relationships.
Having communication channels open when the child is young, means that when they move towards adolescence, that you can shift the conversation to sexual consent.
The foundations from your earlier conversations will mean that the child is open and able to understand the messages of sexual consent more easily, than a child who has never heard of the term consent (beyond that of a school permission slip).
If you would like to purchase a book to read with your younger child I recommend
We hope that this article has provided you with some valuable information to use in teaching your child about consent. Consent, if handled appropriately, can be an important conversation that helps parents and children learn valuable lessons. What’s more, the process of having these conversations may even benefit you as a parent— helping you understand your own values and setting good examples for your children.
The next time you have the opportunity to discuss consent with your child, consider using one of the examples above to help guide you along the way.