5 Tips for Discussing Consent with Your Young Child

5 Tips for Discussing Consent with Your Young Child

Talking about consent with young children can feel overwhelming while looking into the eyes of our little ones.

In the world we live in now, being bombarded with messages and information about our bodies and sexuality (read more about this here in a recent post), it can feel almost impossible to stay on top of doing enough to protect our children from insecurities, pressures and dangers. My goal came from wanting to create a wealth of knowledge, vast and varied about consent and sexuality as well as a space to allow conversations to occur through trust and safety. This need not be the heavy and uncomfortable conversations you think about when remembering “birds and bees” talks you may have had with a parent or in sex. ed. class – you know the one paired with red cheeks and emotionally pitched voices. My daughter is two years old so I keep this conversation light and easy. It’s my belief and hope that laying the ground work for this communication will make the discussion familiar and less intimidating (for both of us) as she gets older.

*This post contains affiliate links which if used cost you nothing extra, but a small percentage comes back to me to support more learning! You’re welcome to check out my privacy policy or reach out to me directly with questions anytime!*

The importance of this became clear to me yesterday, during a trip to the grocery store – a regular and favourite activity for my daughter. She engaged in her typical friendly behaviour of saying hello to everyone who caught her eye. I do really enjoy watching the joy she gets out of making people smile as well as the lasting effect of the smile upon the fellow shopper as we continue to see them throughout the store. Having such an outgoing child has been a blessing in so many ways and is so fun to watch, but comes with the worry of how this may change when she isn’t so little and has less concern about holding my hand – how could it not, when I grew up with the “stranger danger” mentality.

So, I started the lessons early

I started talking about bodies, teaching her the names for body parts and letting her speak with comfort about them as well as empowering her with the knowledge that her body is her own. It is one that holds her heart which beams with love, her stomach that feels full or empty around mealtimes, her brain which stores memories, ideas, thoughts and all the funny stories she loves to share. We talk about arms for hugging, legs for dancing and walking, male and female genital areas and their jobs, about people who have different shapes and sizes and how all bodies are good bodies. Through all of this we also talk about how it is her choice if she wants to be hugged or kissed, even by those people she knows well, such as her father and I. Although I will admit it is heartbreaking when she isn’t interested in a hug from her Momma.

She will easily use consent phrases in moments where she decides she doesn’t want to be hugged or kissed by extended family, during physical play with a friend that she has not invited, or in the tub when she practices this language the most. All of this has been wonderful practice for the moment she had to use it and didn’t question her ability to do so.

“No thank you! My body!”

While we were at this grocery store, I was paying for my purchase with her sitting in the cart at the end of the aisle within reach. As a woman approached, F said hello as she often does which I suppose allowed this person to feel welcomed to first comment on my daughter’s appearance and then proceed to tickle her. We did not know this woman and although I would have been taught to be polite and laugh this off, my stomach flipped with discomfort and before time allowed response, my daughter spoke for herself with ease. “No thank you! My body!” The woman quickly shot me a glance, perhaps shocked and surely embarrassed and maybe looking for me to make an apology on my young daughter’s behalf as kid’s do indeed say the darndest things. I smiled at her (proud of myself for not feeling the need to apologize, and more proud of my daughter for using her own language to share her thoughts on the matter) and said nothing. Upon reflection, I could have expressed that my child had been taught to speak up about her own consent, and I have gone back and forth on this. My little lady wasn’t rude. She was direct, yes. But she certainly wasn’t rude about it. Her words were clear and easily understood (as I was able to see by the facial response of this stranger) but I sit here now, happy that my daughter spoke up for herself and that I reiterated the message to her by telling her I was proud. I didn’t want her to feel that I had any other feelings about it, because I didn’t. I’m glad I didn’t feel obligated to have the woman understand what happened from my perspective, because the goal was to have my daughter know she spoke clearly enough for herself.

Teaching her consent and ownership of her own body is of course my first priority. Her body is her own and her choice. My daughter is incredibly loving and although it’s so cute to see her want to hug new friends she meets, I have also begun to teach her about other people’s consent.

Where we have started:

  1. With a two year old I hear “NO” a lot in the run of a day. It can be incredibly frustrating, especially when I know it’s more of a test of her freedom rather than how she really feels. But I have come to see this as an expression rather than a behaviour and have encouraged my daughter to hear NO from others as well. This means that whatever is going on should STOP; to understand and respect the power of NO and how to use and hear it.
  2. I really believe strongly that children should not be forced to accept a hug from someone if they don’t feel comfortable to do so. In the age of “NO” I hear this about most things but I’m not going to question it when it comes to contact with another body. That being said, I am also encouraging my daughter to ask permission before rushing to share a hug or kiss with someone else as they may feel the same way and would rather not. Within this, we have experienced moments where a friend may want a hug (“yes”) and then change their mind (“no!”) and that is their choice and their right, as it is for her too.
  3. Lady F is incredibly empathic and shows concern for someone crying, coughing, sneezing, or anything she deems out of the ordinary for the situation. She will ask if they are okay or what is happening. This has been helpful in having her understand when she has done something that may have hurt someone else, either physically, “this is MY toy” (paired with a shove) or emotionally,“you not play this right now with me”. Always done in language she can understand, we have talked about how it feels to be hurt and that we don’t want to hurt others if we can help it. This easily moves to how we could help someone that is feeling sad, scared or hurt.
  4. Although my daughter tends to be outgoing, she also has moments of shying away. Forcing her to come out from behind my leg has never been something I’ve been comfortable doing. Rather, we are learning to name our feelings: frustrated, angry, nervous, afraid, shy and when to use them. Recently, while shopping for a couch, we encountered a friendly salesman who knelt down to F and said hello. She responded with, “I feel shy from you. We all have those moments where something feels out of sorts and I want her to feel welcome to voice that. In this instance I talked to her about who the gentleman was and why we were there but she preferred to stay close and not talk to the man. And that’s okay. We also use the knowledge of these words to help identify when someone else may feel this way. Characters in stories or through dramatic play has been a great way to reinforce this and feel safe expressing these feelings.
  5. As I noted above, we have taught Lady F the names of body parts and generally what they do. She is free to express this anytime, anywhere. She recently told my Grandfather, Grandmother and Uncle what parts they had which I’m certain embarrassed them, but they are just body parts and she shouldn’t be intimidated by the language. Bath time is always a great opportunity for learning words when her whole body is in sight to her. Asking her permission to wash these parts of the body teaches her that I value her body being her own and sets the stage that everyone should be asking first before touching her and that she can indeed say NO. In the moments when she doesn’t want to have a part washed, like when yogurt is caked on her face but she’s not interested in my wiping it off, I will invite her to do it herself and luckily for me she is at an age when independence and responsibly is desirable and seems to be working to get the yogurt off.

These conversations will change and my approach will differ as my daughter grows but for now I feel like we are off to a great start. I would love to hear how you talk to and model consent with your young children or if you have more to add to the list or resources above!

Resources

As you’ve probably come to know, I use books to encourage conversation, take quiet time to talk, connect with my daughter and work our way through whatever topic is on the table. This comes naturally to us as books are such a large part of our home culture. Throughout this post you will see two images of books I’ve come to find helpful to start these conversations, which when clicked will lead you to more information on the book and the affiliate link. There are so many books out there that talk about these issues, some heavier than others. Some set for older ages, while others are perfect for the very young. No matter the books you use, I would encourage you to get comfortable with it first so you can be open to whatever questions may (or may not) come from it. Leave it around to be chosen as frequently as any other book. Make it a part of your library.

 

Music for Movement – Free Music Playlist

Music for Movement – Free Music Playlist

Here on Prince Edward Island today the snow is coming down and blowing around enough to keep us in the house. Normally we love playing in the snow, marching through the woods, walking to the beautiful ocean’s edge, but brrrrrr…. not this afternoon.

Not everyone gets the memo that days indoors mean a lower-key tempo, so to burn off that energy, we love to move, dance and shake our sillies out! This is fun for everyone as we laugh and act silly, get Nanny and Grampie to join in, and I get a few extra steps accounted for. Not too shabby.

Here is our current favourite playlist. If you use Spotify, you should be able to access it for free by clicking here!

Music List for Indoor Days

Music List for Indoor Days

Let me know what you think or if you have any great music for movement recommendations for us! ♥

Using music and song as part of the core foundations of development allows kids to move and shake out their sillies while learning about their bodies and how they move, grow their muscles and learn about rhythm and beat (early stage math) #learning #tips #life #toddlers #preschooler #kindergartener #break #transition
Talking about International Women’s Day with your Child

Talking about International Women’s Day with your Child

Looking for something inspiring to watch on Netflix tonight?

What better day than International Women’s Day, to shine light on the work done by writer and director Jennifer Siebel Newsom on her journey to unmask the reality and pressure our children are currently facing, most specifically, our young women and girls.

I recently became aware of this educational and thought-provoking documentary Miss Representation, which you can find on Netflix if you subscribe, or on the documentary’s page. Here, Jennifer’s team uncovers why we fail to see an equal representation of women in positions of leadership and how the burden faced by our daughters in feeling underrepresented, insufficient and disempowered remains profitable to Big Business.

*This post contains affiliate links which if used cost you nothing extra, but a small percentage comes back to me to support more learning! You’re welcome to check out my privacy policy or reach out to me directly with questions anytime!*

There is some strong language and imagery in this documentary – I would suggest watching it first and using your own judgement on if you could watch with your child, or perhaps take the messages away to share with them in your own words and ways. 

Here we are in 2018, hearing words of celebration in support of those raising their voices and shouting #metoo. We see the movement take centre stage which is a great step but the conversation cannot end there. As a mother to a young daughter, and business owner who works with small children, I feel an immense pressure to provide reminders of women’s achievement throughout history and the world over to ensure these children see it can be done. That women over time, of various age, race, ethnicity, belief, exceptionality, sexual orientation, location, language, socioecomic status, and for such different reasons, have taken a stand in their moment in time and made a difference big or small.

Where to Start

Take a moment to point out and read about the famous females your child may know, or not yet have encountered such as:

Anne Frank, Michelle Obama, Florence Nightingale, Amelia Earhart, Emmeline Pankhurst, Viola Desmond, Marie Curie, Emily Carr, Malala Yousafzai, and so many more.

Better yet find out about the local women and girls making a difference in your community and point them out to your child. A special one to us is a little lady I have watched from her very first days grow into an inspirational and uplifting young woman, supported by the most outstanding community of women – her mother most of all. Abigail is an entrepreneur, dancer, actor, singer, musician, and I could go on. You can find out more about her here on instagram. Abi is a great example that we need not look far to find vision and influence in female voice. Introduce your child to creative inspiration makers like Abigail and allow them to know it is within their grasp to make a difference.

Amazing women are all around us. Let’s talk about them, hear from them, and invite our children to know and be them. ♥

 

International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day

March 8th is International Women’s Day and never has it been more important to me, to stop and take notice of the incredible women around me as I introduce the world to my daughter.

I was lucky to grow up in a home where my parents worked hard to ensure my sister and I believed and understood that we could be anything we wanted to be, and that we had the skills to get us there.

Learning to drive a car also meant learning to change it’s tires, and knowing what the manual said in regard to when a sound signalled something wrong.

I recall with picture perfect memory, going to buy my first car with my father. Of course having researched it meticulously ahead of time, I was armed with the knowledge to allow me to lead the conversation with the salesperson. On the first lot of cars, my father encouraged the young and introverted girl I was deep down, to control the conversation with the salesman walking toward me, as I was the one making the decision.  Here, with every question I asked, the answer was directed to my father who time and again reiterated that he was just keeping me company and that the sale was entirely up to me. He was indeed there to serve another purpose, which I didn’t fully understand until later. He wanted to make sure I wasn’t taken advantage of, being naive and unsure of what I wanted in a car, knowing that at the time women, especially young women were viewed as separate clients than their male counterparts and were dealt with differently. Feeling unheard and overwhelmed we left the lot without making the purchase of what I felt was my perfect first car. Since we were already out and about, and what I now believe was a decision by my father to boost my confidence, we took another shot at another dealership. I had no information on these cars and had no intention of buying one, my heart being set of the first car at which we looked. Walking on the lot we were met by a gentleman named Terry. Terry understood in an instant that I was buying the car, it was for me, and I was making the decision. He also understood sales. He was kind, spoke directly to me with information that was not “dumbed down to my female status” as I had previously experienced. I felt heard and understood and my father was able to walk steps behind with a sense of pride for watching his daughter take on this leap of adulthood. I ended up buying a car from Terry. Two actually. Years later when it came time to upgrade my first set of wheels there was no doubt who I was going to support and where I would purchase my car.

A lot came out of this lesson for me, and the many my parents would teach me over the years.

Growing up in the Canadian Maritimes in the early 1980’s and 90’s was a definite plus. People were friendly, caring and neighbours felt like family. I was safe to run in the street, play in the park just out of sight of my house and to enjoy all the rights and freedoms others had worked so hard for me to have. But I did grow up with an awareness of being a girl, of learning that being pretty, dainty, and feminine was more valuable in society than smarts. These lessons were those I understood by being told I was “cute in that dress” rather than clever in how I spoke. Although I know my father adored my sister and I and took opportunity to dote upon us in his way, he worked hard to teach us lessons about independence, about having to be smart in more ways than test scores, about taking care of ourselves financially.

I can’t say it enough that I grew up lucky. I had the world opened up for me in so many ways. But an awareness was always there that I was a girl and that it was not the same as the image of success I had in my mind. Success was a salt-and-pepper haired gentleman in a three piece suit – no matter the job, this is what I thought the boss would look like. Jokes were told in subtle ways but the message was there. My time was meant to be spent investing in my aesthetic presence rather than my mind. I fell into this lure, like most girls growing up my age and it continues to be a battle as I struggle with the psychology of my worth.

I have a lot to teach my daughter.

I feel the pressure of being a mother who inspires, and ignites a flame of knowing her value among her peers and is driven for greatness. The history of women and their journey to equality is a long one far from over, but we learn of great company to share the badge of honour with (more about this here). I now know that boss looks like just about anything and I hope to come to a place where my daughter’s picture perfect memory is of my explaining this to her.

I am my own boss. I run a company with pride and passion. I am a mother. A daughter. A sister. A significant soul to someone I love. I determine my own worth.

 

learning through play every day books bees and abcs toddler preschooler learning activities

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