Educating children about avoiding sexual harassment and the issue of consent starts in the crib, not in adolescence. The following are 6 areas parents can use to teach these lessons
- Build solid relationships at home: When parents consistently meet their needs in healthy ways, kids grow up feeling loved, important, safe, accepted for who they are, and able to trust other people. Solid, confident kids believe they deserve to be treated well, and thus are willing to set boundaries to take care of themselves. Home connections become the template for all future relationships.
- Practice skills at home: Provide opportunities for kids to have a voice, be assertive, resolve their own conflicts, set boundaries, stand up for themselves, & get their needs met with parents and siblings. Rehearse finding the right words and tone and provide feedback. Girls often come across as wimpy or unclear with boundaries, and frequently not firm enough. Educate girls that being assertive is not the same as being aggressive, and give examples of both. Setting boundaries is NOT being mean, even if the other person gets mad or sad. Always respect her boundaries: if she says “Stop” when you are tickling or teasing her, it means stop. She will learn that no means no, even with dad.
- Strengthen self-love: Girls who are engaged in their own passions, able to voice their needs, don’t compare themselves to others, and are true to themselves do not become targets for boundary pushing.
- Use everyday events: Use commonplace happenings to teach lessons about consent. Incidents in movies, TV shows, books, world news, and friendship issues happening to their peers as grist for the mill. Ask her questions about such events and listen for her perspective without judgment. Give her different ways to look at issues and if asked, provide your wisdom. Girls who feel heard and respected will be more open to these invaluable discussions.
- Intuition: Teach girls to become aware of their internal alarms that go off when something doesn’t feel right, and to always, always, ALWAYS trust their gut no matter what. When they feel uncomfortable, teach them to ask themselves, “What is my gut telling me right now?” “What is right for me?” “What action should I take?”
- Friendship issues: Guide her to continually ask herselfthe following questions during any experience with friends: Is this something I actually want? Do I feel safe and respected? Am I feeling any kind of pressure from this other person to do something I’m not ready for? Do I feel comfortable? Pressured? Scared? Respected? Safe? What does my gut say? Teach her that it’s never OK to pressure anyone to do something they don’t want to do or pushed to go further or faster than they’re ready for.
Your daughter will take this awareness and these skills learned at home to all future relationships with friends and eventually dating partners and bosses. Don’t wait until middle or high school to equip her with these critical tools for taking care of herself.
For more information on parenting adolescent girls, read my book: