How Do I Talk To My Kids About Consent?

Cathy: So how do you talk to your child about consent?
I’m here with J.D aka Jen Devine from and I’m Cathy Vartuli from and J.D talks to children all the time about these kinds of topics and I love that you go out there and in especially in the Bay Area you’re able to talk about these things and it’s so important because I remember when we were kids there was nothing about boundaries. My mom pretty much wanted us to not fight. So like I’m not touching you as perfectly legitimate and there was no like no this is actually

Jen: This is my bubble space

Cathy: this is my…..yeah. There is no like actual this is my body you should not touch it or annoy it and so I love that you talk about consent.

Jen: Oh gosh. Okay, so many things.

Cathy: Yeah.

Cathy: So for younger kids, I often working with like fourth and fifth graders is where I spend a lot of my time doing puberty classes but I also teach I do classes for kindergarten, first grade, middle school, high school and grown-ups too. So consent, often that word might be not in the vocabulary of children so having an alternate word talking about permission

Cathy: Yeah.

Jen: or being able to ask and being able to say no. So putting it into really simple concrete words

Cathy: Yeah.

Jen: for children and hoping that helping them understand that at a certain point and that point changes with different children, your body is your own body and you get to decide who touches you. Now, I also want to put the caveat in there that people with disabilities who also have assistance or may need support people often are challenged by body autonomy when they have that need of support with their bodies. So I want to not leave those folks out because some of the times those boundaries can also be challenging to navigate when you’ve got another person who’s also responsible

Cathy: Yeah.

Jen: for your body.

Cathy: Well, I could say….I mean I….I can just imagine

Jen: That’s a side

Cathy: it’s the whole thing

Jen: but it’s not a side. It’s important

Cathy: Yeah

Jen: not to live people with disabilities out.

Cathy: But even like any child, like has to go get shots or whatever there’s like times when they don’t have autonomy and then

Jen: Exactly.

Cathy: if someone needs more care they’re certainly less

Jen: Yes

Cathy: sometimes less ability there.

Jen: And when person is little person very little person of course your body is taking care of by the grown-ups in your life hopefully in a

Cathy: Respectful

Jen: loving and respectful

Cathy: Yeah

Jen: boundary ways as well but at a certain point the body becomes your responsibility and you get to decide who touches you and even in the simplest of ways like you know leaning against you while I’m at the lunch table. For person might have been putting it up with it for three years and not

Cathy: and not…no

Jen: really liked it or your auntie who comes over and always wants to grab your face

Cathy: Yeah.

Jen: and give a big hug

Cathy: Aw, aw.

Jen: and you’re just expected to endure it and children need

Cathy: Like kiss Uncle Bob. You’ll hurt his feelings if you don’t.

Jen: it hurts…his creepy Uncle Bob

Cathy: Yeah.

Jen: or whatever and like

Cathy: I have amazing Uncle Bob so if you ever watch this

Jen: Oh yeah and I

Cathy: I love you.

Jen: My dad’s name’s Bob and he’s awesome. So but even those things where children are expected to give up their bodily autonomy I think it’s a place where I hope parents can start saying “actually you get to decide

Cathy: Yeah.

Jen: if you want auntie to touch you in that way and you can say thanks auntie but it’s really nice to see you”

Cathy: Yeah

Jen: and to give them alternate ways to interact or ways to say they don’t want their body touched and that’s especially important as people become in puberty time when hormones are moving and bodies urges for touch I mean remember puberty is about reproduction. They want to touch genital stuff that’s like kind of natural, that’s what nature goes. You know bodies at that time also have urges for intimacy and touch too and how to have those things honored and that respect kids and their bodily autonomy without making it negative or shameful that they enjoy things like pleasure and skin hunger which is a real thing that people

Cathy: People need to be touched and hugged.

Jen: wanting to be touched. So for the little kids it’s always like finding the vocabulary that they can then understand and learn how to verbalize or use their body language to say no to things and say yes to things because a yes to something is what we want more of

Cathy: Yes

Jen: in the world but it’s not genuine if you have no…no, if you have no ability to say no thanks.

Cathy: Yeah and I think one of the things I run cuddle parties which are

Jen: I went to my first cuddle party last week.

Cathy: Oh, did you enjoy it?

Jen: Yes!

Cathy: I love that….I love that the….the ability to practice and I grew up I really

Jen: Yeah.

Cathy: didn’t have a lot of boundaries. At 30 something I was going on dates so I’m leaning away hoping that the person would get that I didn’t want to be pawed.

Jen: Yeah

Cathy: Just because most of us are not raised with consent and I think one of the best ways a parent could show that is

Jen: Yeah

Cathy: by role modeling it knowing boundaries themselves. It’s one thing say oh, you get to say no but if you never say no to yourself or you never allow the child to say no to you

Jen: Yeah

Cathy: they’re not going to have the muscles built up to say it to a friend.

Jen: Right and even when they have the muscles built up adults are socialized to not say no. It’s hard for people to say no and that also runs often along gender lines. Sometimes it’s harder for people of certain socialized genders i.e. female person in my case it’s just gendered person who raised generally female although I rejected that for a period of time or you know it’s hard to say no to things

Cathy: Yeah.

Jen: but it’s really awesome to say no to things. It feels really good and it has when somebody says no, you say thank you for taking care of yourself.

Cathy: Yeah

Jen: It’s so cool.

Cathy: That you’re willing to trust me with the truth and

Jen: It’s not anything

Cathy: share

Jen: is wrong with me.

Cathy: Yeah, yeah.

Jen: It’s just that you….”oh wow. I can totally relate to you

Cathy: You don’t….you don’t want

Jen: needing to take care of yourself.”

Cathy: a hug right now? Oh, okay. Yeah.”

Jen: Super cool.

Cathy: Yeah, so yeah. I think role modeling it for them as they grow up and then and it’s really you know people always say do as I say not as I do but that doesn’t work.

Jen: Yeah and for kids also being offering them that choice a genuine choice.

Cathy: Yeah.

Jen: “Would you like to hug today because this morning I didn’t need a hug. So I’m asking if you would like one or not?” And like giving them the real like sense that you actually are expect a genuine answer with yes or no or maybe like

Cathy: Yeah.

Jen: I’d like a two-second hug or I just want to whatever.

Cathy: I want to hug, oh I

Jen: I want to high five instead.

Cathy: change my mind or

Jen: Exactly.

Cathy: Yeah, yeah. I work with clients all the time that just don’t know what they want because they’ve never been given the option it’s they’ve always had to do what other people said and so like they like

Jen: Yeah

Cathy: I don’t even know what I want. So if you give someone genuine options like “do you…would you like a hug?” And let them learn to check in with themselves.

Jen: Yeah.

Cathy: That’s really powerful, you’re giving them an inner guidance so they can go

Jen: Yeah.

Cathy: forward with

Jen: Yeah.

Cathy: later not just going at the whim of whenever anybody pushes them.

Jen: And I think also people….children also especially are taught to try to please because they want to be liked and loved. So people’s ability to actually give a genuine yes or no to things can also be usurped when the desire to please is….is too is too present

Cathy: Yeah

Jen: in the forefront rather than actually checking in with their own body.

Cathy: Yeah.

Jen: So with older kids you can do a little bit more like okay what does it feel like inside you when you say yes or no to things? What….what are you checking in with

Cathy: Yeah

Jen: with yourself?

Cathy: How does it feel in your body?

Jen: So are you are you just trying to eagerly please and get some feedback or are you like wait do I have an awesome feeling in my gut that’s butterfly and wonderful or do I have a clinchy type thing going on that feels like my gut says back off. So helping people learn to somatically like tune into their own senses

Cathy: Yeah

Jen: to tell them information.

Cathy: one of the things we’d….we recommend in our it’s a business sale stuff, we talked about imagine something you really hate eating. Imagine eating it and notice how your body feels.

Jen: Ah, that’s foul

Cathy: And then imagine something you love eating and notice how your body feels. Imagine hugging someone you hate hugging notice what your body feels like

Jen: Yeah

Cathy: imagine hugging someone you adore and then imagine that you know notice your body and then also imagine hugging someone you’re not sure of that maybe kind of feeling just you calibrate your body that way and it’s really powerful.

Jen: That sounds like a cool exercise that can maybe translate into a classroom activity

Cathy: Yeah.

Jen: in some way. Thanks for that cool idea.

Cathy: Sure. Sure.

Jen: I like that.

Cathy: Yeah, so we’d love to know what questions or concerns or thoughts you have ideas on teaching kids consent. I think it’s such a gift to give them if they can go forward and if they have brakes in their car as they leave the house….the nest that’s an incredibly powerful thing to give them. So please leave comments below.

Jen: Okay, awesome.