Teaching children bodily autonomy and consent is an important step in keeping them safe now and in the future. Teaching children that they are in charge of their bodies and who touches them can significantly help to lower chances of abuse. While this sounds good, it may be tricky to learn how to implement this during the holiday season when visiting with family members and friends. Here are some tips on teaching bodily autonomy, consent, and boundaries to children.
- Use anatomically correct terms: Using the correct terms for body parts can he essential in helping children to protect themselves. Sometimes parents shy away from words like “penis” or “vagina” and will use nicknames for body parts such as “peepee.” It’s important to remember that anatomically correct names for body parts are not inappropriate for children of any age.
- Teach children what “consent” means. This can start as young as toddler years. Telling children that it is okay to say “no” to adults and that their “no” should be respected is important. This can be done in conversation or through children’s books. Some good books for teaching consent are: C is for Consent and Lady Bug Hugs. Keep the conversation going and answer any questions your child has about consent.
- Respect boundaries your child sets. Make sure to empower your child by abiding by boundaries they set around their own body. For example, if your child says “no” or “stop” while being tickled, make sure to stop right away and use a confirmation statement such as, “I heard you say stop, so I will stop tickling you.”
- Model boundaries for your children. Letting your child know to respect your body is important as well. Try using phrases such as “Please respect my body” when they are hitting you or violating your personal space. It’s also okay to set a boundary with your child such as, “If you can’t respect my body, then I can’t play with you anymore.”
- Help children maintain boundaries with other family members or adults. Listen to your child at family gatherings. If others are not respecting boundaries that they set, make sure to step in and support their boundary, such as “Tommy said no to being tickled, please stop tickling him.”