Talking with Teens About Consent

What Do Teens Know About Consent?

One effective strategy to talk to young adults about consent is to ask questions about things they already know. This demonstrates that you trust them and believe they are capable of having conversations on these topics.

Ask questions like:

  • Have you learned about consent?
  • Do you know what it means?
  • Where have you heard it used?
  • What does it mean to people your age?
  • What does it mean to you?

These last two questions are extremely important. Your teen can be an expert in their own experience. Allow them to own that expertise and teach you what they know. This is a good way to measure what they still need to learn about and where they stand mentally and emotionally with the subject.

Teaching Teens About Consent

After you gauge what they already know, remind them that their body belongs to them. They get to decide who has permission to touch, kiss, and eventually have sex with them. We may not be ready for our teens to start having sex or even date, but it’s important for these conversations to happen now. This gives teens time to form boundaries with peers and partners in the future.

Ask questions like:

  • How do you let people know when you feel uncomfortable?
  • Do you feel it’s easy to tell your friends/person you’re dating “no”?
  • What are some boundaries you have already established with people?
  • Do you feel like you are prepared to tell someone “no” if they want to have sex with you?
  • What would you do if you wanted to have sex with someone and they didn’t?
  • What are some ways that you have respected the boundaries that someone has set?

These questions can help you work with a young adult to learn how they can form boundaries when someone is making them uncomfortable. This can also lead to other conversations about how young adults can respect others’ feelings. Just as important as being able to set boundaries is acknowledging that their “no” is not the only “no” that matters. Other people also have boundaries that need to be respected.

Talking About Consent with Teens and Tweens

Conversations about consent are going to look and feel a lot different for tweens and teens. Things like puberty, the beginning of dating relationships and the normal challenges and struggles of growing up can cause stress or worry around having conversations with your kid. It is normal to experience this or to be unsure of where to begin.

One important recommendation is to avoid having the “The Talk”–a single conversation about topics like sex and consent. Instead, begin to normalize these conversations and ease the tension by having multiple and ongoing conversations with your child through their developmental stages. Encourage and empower youth to speak to the adults in their lives about the hardships or questions they have.