Consent and Respecting Boundaries

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H.O.P.E Works’ mission is to end sexual violence, promote healthy relationships and prevent all people from harm. This week our focus will be on how to teach our children about consent and respecting boundaries. Two very important concepts that help nurture healthy relationships amongst middle school students and adolescent children.

Late childhood and early adolescents is a time when children get messages about relationships and consent from tv shows, movies, social media, and friends. This makes an ideal time for parents to have conversations about consent with their tweens and teens. Talking with your child now will encourage open and honest communication as they mature and enter relationships.

What is Consent? 

  • Consent means asking someone for their permission to do something and accepting their answer
  • Consent shows up in kids’ lives when: they ask peers if and what they want to play, if they want to sit together at lunch or on the bus, if they’d like to share school supplies, toys, food etc.
  • Helping kids to ask for consent and accept rejections in everyday life builds a foundation for practicing consent in intimate relationships as they get older

Talk Openly

  • Ask yourself: What message is my child getting relationships and consent? What messages do I want them to get?
  • Let your child know they can come to you with questions about consent and relationships
  • Answer their questions honestly and encourage honest conversation about respect and safety

For example, you could tell your child “Everyone’s body deserves respect” or “if someone hurts us, it’s okay to talk about it.”

Teach Respect for Boundaries

  • Teach your child that consent means always choosing to respect others boundaries
  • Boundaries are a person’s right to choose what is comfortable for them

For example, “It sounds like your friend didn’t want to sit beside you on the bus today. Sometimes you don’t want to sit beside me and that’s okay. Everybody gets to make choices about what’s comfortable for them.”

Teach How to Ask for Consent

  • Help your child to think about how their actions may make another person feel and to ask questions if they don’t know
  • Everyone has different boundaries, and no one should ever feel pressured to do something that they aren’t comfortable with

Model Asking for Consent

  • Show your child ways to ask for consent by modeling the words and actions yourself
  • Model respect for boundaries by asking your child for consent and accepting their answers, like when asking for a hug or sharing information about them with others or on social media
  • Use teachable moments to talk about consent and respect

For example, “I could tell your guidance counselor that grandma died if that’s okay with you”, or  “It’s okay if you don’t want a good night hug.”

By teaching consent and respecting boundaries at an early age, it helps your child be safer and understand how to be respectful to others and their boundaries in person and on social media. Promoting honest and open communication is key to healthy relationships.

*National Sexual Violence Resource