An honest chat with children about healthy, consensual sex could not come any sooner. Time and again, society fails to educate young people — particularly young women — about sexual health. What’s more, in the United States, abstinence-only sex education is the rule, not the exception — and studies show it actually hurts kids as they grow into adolescence.
Plus, if we’ve learned anything from the Brock Turner sexual assault case, the Steubenville rape, and the countless sexual assault survivors who have shared their stories as part of the #MeToo movement, teaching children about consent isn’t elective — it’s required. Or at least, it should be.
But how young is too young teach kids about consent? According to Hakanson, an author and creator of Sex Ed Rescue, the consent conversation is ageless.
“Basically, you can start talking to them around the age of three or four, and even earlier,” said Hakanson via email. “[For example,] you can ask a 2 year old, ‘Can I give you a kiss?’ or ‘Do you want to wear your red or green shoes today?’ These are early lessons about consent.”
In fact, for Hakanson, the earlier kids learn about consent, the better. Even though conversations about consent are more relevant to prepubescent tweens and sexually maturing teens, Hakanson believes in laying down the foundations for consent when children are small.
“If you can talk about consent when kids are little, then it makes it much easier to talk about sexual consent [with them when they are older],” said Hakanson. “Plus, it is a skill that will empower your child in the playground. And it’s an everyday life skill.”
So, what are some ways we can teach kids about consent?
1. Teach them that they are the bosses of their own bodies, and they have a say in who touches them.
– Kitty Lindsay
Read more: 5 Ways Parents Can Teach Kids About Consent