In the midst of news and articles about sexual misconduct, I have been challenged again to think about how we can prepare our children to live in this very different atmosphere than we grew up in.
For many parents, the thought of having The Talk with their child is terrifying. But because sex is paraded on all media and because children are exposed to porn at earlier and earlier ages, The Talk needs to happen at younger ages all the time.
We really can’t wait for The Talk about sex. We need to be talking all along about physical touch and the body. We need to answer the little questions our children ask about sex. If we do, then it will be more natural and easy to talk about sex when they are ready.
Katelyn Ewen, in an article for The Gottman Institute, introduces the important concept of teaching our children about consent.
Katelyn explains how parents can teach their children to accept or reject touch. It is a way to empower our children to reject unwanted intimacies throughout their lives. It is also a way to teach our children how to react when someone rejects their approaches. There is great value in teaching our children how to accept and reject physical touch. We can begin this with our baby.
Talk about what you are doing, like, “Mommy’s massaging lotion on your tummy, back, bottom, etc.” If your baby pushes your hands away, stop. You can say, “OK, no lotion and massage right now. Maybe later?” With this kind of talk, we teach our child words to use for body parts, actions, and ways to accept or reject physical touch.
If we keep asking permission, even in play, we help our child learn they have control over what happens to their body. “Do you want a horsey ride on Daddy’s knee?” Then Dad needs to respond correctly to the child’s yes or no. Also, if your child seems frightened in play, stop and talk about it. “Daddy would never drop you. Can we snuggle till you feel calm again?”
All this may feel contrived and unnecessary now. But if we build a relationship where it is easy to talk about our body and the way we feel about touch, we empower our children to be able to avoid unwanted intimacies with others and later in life.
Click to read Katelyn Ewen’s article: Beyond The Talk for more on how to teach your children about consent.