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

Talking About Consent

Links

  • 1 in 6
    Resources and stories focused on male survivors of unwanted or abusive sexual experiences in childhood live healthier, happier lives.
  • 6 Ways to Talk to Your Kids About Consent
    This quick article from September 2015 includes 6 tips on how to talk to your kids about consent – its appropriate for parents of children and teens. Bonus points – funny gifs.
  • It's On Us
    This initiative from the White House aims to change the conversation and the culture around campus sexual assault.
  • Its Never Too Early To Teach Children About Consent and Boundaries
    Great article from a Canadian writer about how parents can model consent and keep the conversation open and positive.
  • Midwest Teen Sex Show
    Midwest Teen Sex Show was a comedic, semi-educational video podcast featured brief 3-5 minute monthly episodes on topics relating to teen sexuality like birth control, sexuality, hook-ups and more. Although the show is no longer producing new episodes, the 25 episodes created are still available on YouTube.
  • RAINN
    RAINN – Rape Abuse & Incest National Network – is an anti-sexual assault organization working with local rape crisis centers across the U.S. Also has a web-based crisis hotline providing live and anonymous support.
  • Scarleteen
    Advice, help, and information about teen sexuality. Special sections for teen gals and guys. This special section has a ton of information about what consent looks like.
  • Teaching Kids Consent from Ages 1-21
    Although this article was first published in 2013, the advice included is still great. This article has tips broken down by age group from preschool to teen years.
  • The Consensual Project
    The Consensual Project partners with schools and universities to bring students a fresh understanding of consent. The innovative curriculum, workshops, and website empower young people to incorporate consent into their daily lives.
  • We Can Teach Kids Consent Without Bringing Sex Into the Conversation
    How a sexuality educator about how she began broaching the topic of consent and boundaries with her 4-year old.
  • WOAR
    Women Organized Against Rape—Philadelphia's Only Rape Crisis Center. Women Organized Against Rape is a non-profit organization whose mission is to eliminate sexual violence.

Let's Talk About Consent: 7th - 12th Grade by FLPTeens

Books and resources to aid parents, caregivers, and educators discuss the topic of consent and personal boundaries with teens in grades 7th - 12th.

View the full list

Let's Talk About Consent: 3rd - 6th Grade (7 items)

Books and resources to aid parents, caregivers, and educators discuss the topic of consent and personal boundaries with children in grades 3rd - 6th.

Let's Talk About Consent: PreK - 2nd Grade (12 items)

Books and resources to aid parents, caregivers, and educators discuss the topic of consent and personal boundaries with children in grades PreK - 2nd.