I know the topic of consent and body safety can be tricky, especially talking to your young kids about it. But they don’t have to be these deep and overwhelming conversations, they can be everyday talks that relate to what they’re going through now.
Here are a couple of things I talk to my kids about regularly and “rules” that I follow as a parent to start raising awareness around body safety and consent.
Never force affection
This applies to anyone, even you as the parent. It’s harmless right, when you tell your kid to give you a kiss or give grandma/grandpa a hug. But by asking them instead of telling them, they start to realize that they have control over their bodies and they have a say in who touches or doesn’t touch them.
This may hurt some family member’s feelings, but when it comes to the choice of grandma being offended and my child feeling confident and safe, sorry grandma but my child’s wellbeing is going to win every time.
Pre-arm your kids with potentially difficult situations
This goes along with never forcing affection, but there are some situations where they are seeing someone who gives affection by touching. For example, our pediatrician (who is great and we love so much) says hello with tickles. With my kids, we create a “game plan” before we go. I tell them we are going to see the doctor and ask if they want tickles today. If they do then great, if they don’t it’s still great! It can be awkward and difficult to tell people this (I hate conflict) but again, I need to overcome any discomfort for the good of my kids.
At home we ask for permission
We always ask “can mommy/daddy give you a kiss?” and if they say no, let that be ok. We usually make it into a game like, “Can mommy/daddy kiss your feet? What about your tummy?” And so on.
It’s fun for them, but again, we’re reinforcing that they can say no and have control of their bodies.
Using our words and paying attention to cues
Playtimes can be a little rough, but I try to teach my kids cues that show them how the other person is feeling. Like if our oldest grabs and carries our youngest (who can’t talk yet) and the youngest starts grunting in protest, I tell my oldest to stop and ask her how that’s making her sister feel when she is touching her body like that?
Teaching them how to recognize these cues is so important in laying down the foundation for respecting others’ bodies.
Utilizing bath time
You can also talk to them more explicitly about their bodies and consent during bath time. You can start introducing them to their privates, how no one is allowed to touch their privates, and teach them how to say no. I always tell them that they won’t get into trouble if someone does touch their privates and that mommy always loves them. These are heavy topics but coupling them with the fun of bath time shows them that these aren’t scary topics.
Recap of talking to children about consent & body safety
Overall what we want to do is make your kids aware that they have control over their bodies and to respect others’ bodies. These small and subtle introductions set a good foundation for many other conversations that you are going to have to have with your kids in the future.
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