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Consent Education for a Great Start

Congratulations to Ontario teens Lia Valente and Tessa Hill who pushed for information about consent to be included in Ontario’s updated sex education curriculum. Consent is an essential part of healthy sexual relationships, and I would hope we’ve moved well beyond seeing its necessity in the curriculum.  Election

The media coverage that consent education will start as early as grade one has started the comments rolling online- I’ve read lots of yays and nays, and of course the inevitable trails into another forest. My thought is that using the catch all term consent may be misleading, and that’s what some commenters say too. One example-

“Teaching kids to read facial expressions at grade 1 is a good idea. The article says nothing about teaching about sexual consent at grade 1. Sexual consent should be addressed in grade 3 or 4 at the latest. Kids need to know the facts.  – Parent of a grade 3 girl.”

Consent covers many elements of life and we teach it from the get go. In my experience in the parenting world (14 years so far, two kids), I’ve seen that most parents help their three year-olds understand why little Jimmy doesn’t like it when you steal his dump truck and then pop him on the head. “See? It hurts Jimmy.” We teach kids to interpret emotional signs and expressions so they can start to work through friendships on their own. We teach them to ask for things, rather than grab them. We teach them boundaries. We teach them impulse control. And we do all of this with age appropriate explanations and expectations.

Yes, I’ve seen parents out there who don’t teach this stuff. Yes, that does make me think about what that could mean for those kids years down the road. The toddlers of “dog eat dog” parents could end up nasty if their learning continues that way.

Parents also (I hope, I hope) are teaching little kids about their bodies when they ask, and using the accurate words to describe them. I (deeply) hope that parents are also teaching about who may or may not touch a child’s body. This is safety education, as well as sexuality education.

Teaching consent at six is different from teaching consent at sixteen, and surely people realize the course material will differ by age. You don’t teach a first grade kid algebra, for goodness’ sake. You teach age appropriate material. To those parents who are up in arms about teaching consent, what is the worry in kids learning about age appropriate consent?

I’ll leave the last word to one of the comments I agree with:

“The idea of consent is vital to our society. We teach this anyway in school, but this addition to the curriculum would make it mandatory. Teaching about being healthy means physical, mental and social health. How could a reasonable person possibly disagree that teaching kids better and healthier ways to understand each other is a bad thing?”

 

 

Janet 

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