The other night when walking back from dinner with my grandparents, my toddler didn't want to give them a kiss goodbye. Neither my husband nor I stepped in to say that she didn’t have to. As I walked home, images of my own childhood and young adulthood flashed in front of my eyes — a little girl who never knew that she could have agency over her body. In a world where sexual assault happens at an astonishing rate, the first step we need to take to combat it is to do a better job teaching kids about consensual interactions. This applies to all children, not just young girls.
One of the reasons that I'm terrified to raise a daughter is because the world views girls' bodies as public property. The world does not respect when a girl says "no." The world does not teach girls that their body is their own. I see it as my job, as a parent, to do what I can to counteract that. Teaching kids consent has to start young, and in our house, we've had lots of discussions about how we can do it from birth.
When you teach your children, regardless of their gender, what consensual touch looks like, you can go a long way towards helping them avoid being taken advantage of — or of harming someone else. Here are seven ways you can start right away to teach your kids the value of consent, and how to practice it.