Talking About Consent
As librarians, we are frequently asked to offer advice about resources that help explain current events to young children. When a disturbing story appears in the news, parents and caregivers may struggle to find age-appropriate resources to help middle and high schoolers make responsible choices and decisions. It’s understandable if adults feel conflicted: When should we begin conversations about consent? Will this scare our kids? Is this upsetting for me to talk about? Won’t they just figure it out on their own?
Conversations can begin from a young age. Explain boundaries in ways children can understand: Hands are not for hitting; teeth are not for biting. Sometimes we accidentally hurt people, but we must learn to treat others as we would like to be treated.
Different approaches are appropriate for different ages. Keeping hands to oneself is great for young children. Treating others as they would like to be treated is great for middle schoolers. Yes means yes and no means no is great for teens (and adults).
Start small. Learning about consent is a journey. Break it down into small pieces. The lists, links, and resources contained in this Explore Topic can help start the conversation. If you are confused about how and where to start, check out the articles listed below that have simple and easy to follow tips. Most important - keep it positive! Consent isn't punishment. Consent means everyone is treated with respect.
Image: "Girl with Flower" by Mildred Elfman
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Collection, U.S. General Services Administration
New Deal Art Project
On deposit with Print and Picture Collection, Free Library of Philadelphia