When are kids too young to talk about consent?

Most parents believe that consent can't be taught without having the "sex talk" with their kids, thus linking consent with sexuality. But children are at risk of being victim of sexual abuse long before they are choosing to be sexually active. 

Consent Education for preschool age children begins with discussing how to set boundaries and respecting the boundaries of others. Normalizing these topics at a young age can lead to a better understanding of consent as the scenarios become more complicated with puberty.

Where do I start?

I believe consent education is only complete when addressing three distinct areas of discussion.

  • How to Set Boundaries

  • Respecting the Boundaries of others

  • How to say "No" to an adult when uncomfortable

When parents address the topic of consent, the conversation usually addresses what to do if someone is touching you in an inappropriate way but usually fails to acknowledge how to help children recognize the boundaries of others. This is the equivalent of coaching only defense on a football team. As parents, we need to go on the offense and teach children to respect boundaries. 

How can I set the example of healthy boundaries?

Setting a healthy examples of respecting boundaries is the best way to demonstrate to your children how they should be treated and how they should treat others. Allow your child to determine his or her own boundaries and respect those boundaries.

  • Don't force a child to give someone a hug.

  • Knock before entering the room of an older child

  • Once child is old enough to change his/her clothes or use the bathroom alone, encourage privacy and independence 

  • When playing a game or tickling a child, stop when he or she says "stop"

Want to learn more?

For talking points and examples to discuss with your child or teen, you can learn more with Raising Kids to Understand Consent: A Parent's Guide to Incorporating Consent into Everyday Living with Children of All Ages by Lauren K Carlson available on Amazon.