How to Discuss Consent, Sex, and Healthy Relationships at Every Age

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Healthy relationships are important in all stages of life, and talking with your kid(s) about it should start earlier than you think. Knowing when to begin these conversations and what topics are age-appropriate is key. Talking often about appropriate touch, safer sex, developing bodies, their feelings and views is what young people need, even if their actions aren’t showing it. Start early and talk often.

Young Children

Young children are naturally curious and sometimes ask questions that might catch you off guard. It’s important to validate their curious questions and then channel it towards helpful information. Being nonjudgmental and direct is an important way to show your kids that you care. Being affirming and open to these conversations helps to position you as an approachable adult in their life. Here are some messages that you can give to them to teach them early about consent and healthy relationships and make it known that these questions are okay:

  • “If someone tells you no then you need to respect their wishes.”
  • “You don’t have to give anyone a hug or a kiss if you don’t want to.”
  • “Take turns in talking or listening when you are with your friends.”
  • “You can always ask me these types of things when you have questions.”

Tweens

If you have kids between 8 to 13 years-old, it’s time to discuss puberty, how their bodies may be starting to change and exploring their sexual identities. This is a time of re-negotiating the parent-child relationship; they may seem aloof, actively seeking independence and privacy. However, research shows that they do want to hear from you and are watching closely for how you model relationships and communication. Here are some ways to discuss puberty or identity with your child:

  • “Most photos or videos we see of models and celebrities are heavily edited, reflect a narrow vision of beauty, and not a very accurate representation of how most bodies look.”
  • “Everyone develops at a different pace, and everyone’s body is different. All bodies are good bodies.”
  • “Big changes are happening to your body. You may have all sorts of feelings about this new territory. I want you to know that I love you and I am here for you.”

During high school

During high school is when you are the biggest influence for your child when it comes to making decisions about sex. This also might be the time where you feel the least confident in providing information. Remember, you don’t have to be perfect! It’s okay to validate their question and ask for some time to think about a response. Just don’t forget to follow-up! Luckily for you, there are online resources! To get started, try these messages about consent:

  • “Consent is how you and your partner both know that physical contact is OK and wanted by both of you. It should be enthusiastic, active and on-going.”
  • “It’s never okay to pressure another person to do anything that they don’t want to do and vice versa.”
  • “It is always important to check in with a romantic partner about touch and boundaries. It’s about obtaining consent and being able to handle hearing no.”
  • “It’s never OK to harass or ridicule people online or in person. Following or tracking someone in person or online without their consent is stalking and it’s never OK to harass or ridicule people.”

Honest and open

In the end, the most important takeaway is to be open and honest with your child. You don’t have to have all the answers, but your child depends on you for safety, guidance, and support. Keep conversations open, honest and ongoing. For additional resources, visit www.GetCheckedOmaha.com/lets-talk to get access to age-appropriate and accurate information. We believe in you!