In this week’s UM Club episode, Child Sex Abuse Prevention and Consent Parenting with Rosalia Rivera, we dug deep into how to teach consent to a child. I don’t want you to miss out on the goodness so we’re bringing you a few of the big tips so you know what you can do to prevent child sex abuse. Want to learn more? Check out UM Club for the full episode.

Why is it important to teach children consent?

Child sex abuse can come in many forms. “Essentially it’s one person, it can be an adult, peer, child, or teenager, assaulting or abusing a child with the intent of sexual gratification.” It encompasses many things, can be in person, or online, and doesn’t always include physical touch.

The reality is that one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused before the age of 18. As child sex abuse is underreported, these statistics are likely much higher. It’s also important to note that 90% of abuse happens at the hands of people that the child and family know and trust. As scary as all of these statistics may be, they also show us that it’s very preventable, and by equipping ourselves and our children with the necessary tools we can prevent CSA from happening and decrease the number of kids and families dealing with this.

How do you explain consent to a child?

Consent parenting has several different facets. Here we’re going to break things down into body knowledge, body safety, and consent/body boundaries.

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How to teach your kids about their body

Teaching consent to kids starts from the very beginning. The standard used to be to wait until puberty, then give your kids “the talk”. The reality is that waiting until puberty is waiting too long. We need to start right away and weave these conversations into the fabric of our parenting.

Kids should know about their vulvas and vaginas/penis and balls, the same way they know about their arms, tummy, and feet. In knowing how to label their body parts and how they function they become less desirable to predators.

You can do this in age appropriate ways by keeping things very basic for toddlers, and then expanding on their knowledge as they begin to ask more questions and can grasp a greater understanding.

How to teach kids about body safety

In this context body safety is all about knowing what private parts are and that they should be kept private. You can explain by relating private parts to anything that is covered by a bathing suit. If a bathing suit covers an area of your body, then it’s a private area.

Not only should private areas not be touched by other people, they should also be taught that they shouldn’t be asked to show their privates, or that anyone else should not show or touch their privates in front of your child. It’s so much more than a basic touch, and when we can lay this out for our children they’re better equipped to trust their gut and know that something is wrong in a bad situation. Having these ongoing conversations also helps build the trust between you and your child so they feel more comfortable coming to you should something happen.

How to teach consent to little kids

Teaching consent to preschoolers and kids of all ages is about teaching them to listen to their gut, and be able to enforce and respect boundaries around bodies. This comes in many forms and can include but is not limited to:

  • Letting your child know what you’re going to do before doing it to them. For example, I’m going to pick you up so you can see out the window better, etc.
  • Asking them before you end their body space. For example, can I give you a hug, can I help you zip up your coat, etc
  • Teaching them different ways of greeting. For example, hugs, high fives, and smiles, etc.
  • Not pressuring them to do things with their body that they don’t want to do. For example, not pressuring to give family hugs and kisses, etc.
  • Teaching them to respect other people’s body boundaries. For example, I don’t want you jumping on me right now, your friend doesn’t look like they’re in the mood to hug can we say hi instead, etc.

What is a prevention strategy for abuse?

Prevention strategies for abuse have many different layers. The foundation starts with teaching kids about their bodies, about body safety, and about consent, but there’s more you can do as a parent.

We also need to be having these conversations with our children’s other care providers such as schools, daycares, sports teams, clubs, etc., as well as knowing the signs of grooming.

For more information you can view our UM Club episode, Child Sex Abuse Prevention and Consent Parenting with Rosalia Rivera, and check out her website CONSENTparenting™.

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