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The Basics of Consent

By learning the basics of consent, kids and teens become empowered to know that they have the right to say “yes” and “no,” especially when they feel unsafe.

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What is consent?

Consent is permission or an agreement for something to happen. Consent needs to be clear. We usually talk about consent when we’re talking about sexual activity, but it is more than that. Remember, consent applies to many situations, and everyone has the right to own themselves and their body.

For younger children, a good time to start conversations about consent is when you’re talking about sharing. Teach children to respect when a friend doesn’t want to share something or participate in types of touching, like hugging. This is a great way to work the basics of consent into everyday conversations.

Think of consent like FRIES:

  • Freely Given

    A person does not feel forced or convinced to say yes.

    Example: “If you give Grandma a kiss, we can get ice cream.” 

    That is not a consenting yes, because in order to get the ice cream you had to be talked into doing something you may not have wanted to.

  • Reversible

    People have the right to change their minds at any point. 

    Example: You agreed to a playdate with friends, but later decided you would rather stay home. 

    You can change your mind at any point about the things you want and don’t want. 

  • Informed

    A person has to have all the information about a situation to decide whether or not they want to participate.

    Example: You agreed to go to the park with your friend, but when you get there you realize the park is a splash pad and you don’t like splash pads. You might not have agreed to play with your friend if you knew it involved playing in the water.

    Before you make a decision, you need to know all of the details, like where you are going, who will be there, and what you will do.

  • Enthusiastic

    A yes has to be a true, genuine yes. People may agree to do something, but are they happy to do it? Is there hesitation in their reply?

    Example: “Yes! I will try going down the slide by myself!,” and “Ugh, I am really scared to go down the slide by myself… but I guess I will do it.” The first example is enthusiastic, while the second is not. 

    The second example is also a good way to practice checking in with someone. In response, you could say, “Are you sure you want to go down the slide? Because if you do not want to, that’s okay too.”

  • Specific

    A person can agree to say “yes” to one thing and say “no” to another.

    Example: You can say yes to a hug, but that doesn’t mean that you want to be kissed as well.

Let’s Talk About

Healthy Relationships

The way we talk to children and teens about consent is obviously going to be different. Throughout different stages of life, it is important to remind children and teens that they are the masters of their bodies and experiences. Empower them to know that they have the right to say “yes” and “no” when feeling unsafe.

While we teach children and teens that they’re the masters of their own bodies, they should also learn to respect the boundaries that others set. If someone says “no” to something or shows that they are uncomfortable with something, it is not an invitation to try to convince them to say yes.

To read more about gender-specific conversations about consent, click on the link below.