It’s never an easy thing to talk to your children about sex. But in 2017, our culture is consistently submerged in sexuality – whether that’s through social media, television, movies or advertising. Sexual education has become a more open subject between parents and their children for things such as safe sex, masturbation and losing virginity. But the very important conversation around consent and what it means often seems to be overlooked.

Sexual violence is prevalent in our society. You can see the stories of sexual assault on the news or on your social media feed regularly. And while the coverage of these stories and its victims are very important, there seems to be a missed focus on prevention. Unfortunately, when some people hear the word ‘prevention’, one of the first things that come to mind is what the victim could have done to avoid the assault. There’s an emphasis placed on girls and women to ‘dress appropriately’, ‘control the amount of alcohol they consume’, or ‘never walk alone at night’. When instead, we should be looking at why these offenders think it’s acceptable to commit these heinous crimes. In most cases, rape culture and sexual violence can be traced back to misinformation and a lack of proper education on consent.

1. While your children are young, teach them to ask permission before showing someone physical affection. At the same time, let them know that they don’t have to receive affection from anyone if they don’t want it.

2. Make sure your child knows to respect the word ‘no’. They should know to listen to someone who says ‘no’ and immediately stop what they’re doing. Ensure they also know they can say ‘no’ to people when they aren’t comfortable with a situation. If the person doesn’t listen to them, they should remove themselves from the situation and report the incident if necessary.

3. Tell your child to trust their gut. They should know to listen to their inner voice when they feel uncomfortable with a person or situation. Tell them to respect those instincts in order to protect themselves from danger.

4. Reinforce the idea of consent as your children get older. This involves getting into deeper conversations about sexuality and permission. Explain that consent means asking and waiting for a ‘yes’, it does not mean continuing what they’re doing until they hear the person say ‘no’. These conversations with your child may be uncomfortable but are crucial for when they are placed in these situations.

5. Use media to help reinforce positive and negative examples of consent. Watch movies or television shows together, and then going over how the situation played out and whether consent was given. This is a great way to discuss what was right and wrong in the show and what they think should have happened.

6. Show them these videos. They are great and simple examples of how consent works!

For children:

For teens: