The high school years for an adolescent are some of the most important years of their lives. These years are when a child begins to mature, to find themselves and become their own person. It also is a time where some may begin to experiment sexually and some may become sexually active. Most guardians may have had “the talk” with their teen already but for the others who have not, they may be thinking, How the Heck Do I Talk to My Teen About Consent?
You may think, “How do I go about this?” It may feel awkward and even embarrassing but you want to make sure that your child understands what you are telling them as well as why they need to know this information. Trust us, talking about and teaching your teen why it is important to understand consent can their lives. Here are a few tips on how to have a meaningful conversation with your teen.
First thing they should be taught is what Consent is. Consent is (n) permission for something to happen agreement to do something (v) give permission for something to happen. Sexual consent is a clear and unmistakable yes. Consent is verbal (yes) and non-verbal (reciprocating touches…). It is equally if not more important to teach them how to tell when they do not have someone’s consent. NO! Is the clearest but there are other ways you can tell. Tell them that not having someone’s consent is also verbal (No, Stop) and non-verbal (pushing one away or not moving at all). Leave room for questions and conversation. Help them to understand what it looks like and how someone must feel being in a situation where they are uncomfortable or scared. This conversation may also give your child the confidence to speak up when they feel uncomfortable if they are made to feel this way. A wonderful resource parents can use to get information is www.rainn.org and teachingsexualhealth.ca. There are also some very good video’s on YouTube like the consent/tea video. Watch first so you can be prepared for questions.
After speaking about consent, diving into safe sex and contraception would be a natural transition. Whether you are speaking to a male or female, the information on contraceptives may be different but the main idea should stay the same: USE PROTECTION!!! Also speaking in detail about why they should use protection and how it protects from the dangers of STI’s and unwanted pregnancy is very important. Not all STI’s have a cure. Remember, that there is a fine line between educating your child and scaring them so be sure to walk that line carefully.
The awkwardness that may occur is natural, so expect some uncomfortable body language and nervous laughs and even surprised facial expressions. Parents need to be supportive and understanding. If your child asks a question you do not have the answer to, its ok! Just tell them that you are not sure and don’t want to give them incorrect information but you will get back to them as quickly as possible. Don’t worry, you’ve got this! Your teen may thank you for you openness and bravery later.
By: Deven Alvarez and Dana Carter, YWCA Northern NJ healingSPACE’s Youth Prevention and Education Specialists
YWCA Northern New Jersey healingSPACE—the only Sexual Violence Resource Center of its kind in Bergen County—is a safe and welcoming place for survivors of sexual assault/abuse, their families, and friends. Our 24/7 crisis intervention hotline (201-487-2227) provides free and confidential assistance, and trained advocates provide counseling and accompany survivors through medical, legal, or other proceedings associated with sexual violence. Support is available to anyone who has experienced sexual violence, whether it happened hours or years ago. healingSPACE offers support groups, volunteer training, and educational programs for schools and businesses, and sponsors activities to raise community awareness about sexual violence.