5 out of 5 stars
Explaining how consent works to younger children can be a tricky business. Letting them know that they can say no to hugs or touch that they don’t want to receive while teaching them to respect other people’s boundaries can be a hard lesson for the youngest members of our society and it is always a good reminder for the older members of our society too. I sometimes think we have children to remind of us important lessons that we once learn and may have forgotten. Right now I am re-learning faction for instance, and I can tell you they are no less painful as a parent than when we were kids! Seriously! Lessons about consent are so important to ensure everyone feels safe in their space and so it vital we teach our children well in this regard.
My son has always been very tactile and when he was very young he wanted skin-to-skin contact much of the day. He liked to hold on to my arm or stroke my hand. This helped him soothe himself and he felt more grounded. This never bothered me and I never said no. When he started preschool this became a bit of an issue because he would always be touching his friends. He would stroke their arms gently and they didn’t like being touched all of the time. We explained that we need to respect people’s words and boundaries and if they don’t want to be touched we need to listen and not touch. He eventually worked it out, but it took a little bit.
Throughout my son’s life we have been big fans of getting books that can help explain things in language that best relates to his age and level of comprehension that can be most difficult. It is tough to find books that talk about “consent” for young children but this is a lesson that should be taught early and often there after. Christine Babinec has written a book called Yes Means Yes: An Intro to Consent and Boundaries that helps explain this in the easiest possible way for kids. Chris is a Licensed Professional Counselor and National Certified Counselor with work rooted in social justice and has devoted her career to working with survivors of trauma and abuse. The illustrations are done by artist Meredith Hamm and are colorful and fun. I really like that there are children of different ages and heritages represented throughout the book. The bright splashy pages keep kids engaged and there is so much to look at including different scenarios they may be able to easily relate to like situations with siblings.
This book takes consent to a level kids as young as 3 and 4 will be able to understand. It talks about touching or hugs not being wanted and we can say no to them. The book also explains if we want to touch we should ask “can I give you a hug?” It recognizes that some times kids get so excited and it is hard to hold back and if that happens and we do hug or touch and someone says no, we need to let go. The books gives kids tools to use if they are touched and they didn’t want to be as well. I think this is incredibly valuable since we can not be with our kids every minute of every day.
The suggested ages are 4-8, but kids on the older end of that will be able to reinforce what they think they already know and it can be a great stepping stone for conversations that might be a little harder and more in depth as the kids get older. My guy is 9.5 years old now, but this has opened up further conversation about consent on different levels. We are teaching that if you see someone say no and another person doesn’t stop that we need to help the person who said no. We need to help protect those around us if they have not given consent.
If you are looking for a book to talk about consent for your children this should be your go to. It helps with a message that parents can find difficult. The message is simple and understandable for our young humans and hopefully this can help us create a world where people’s boundaries are respected. How amazing would that be?!
Sidenote for older kids:
Right after we got this book, I saw a YouTube clip about parents trying to explain consent to older kids as well. It can be hard. I feel like when we start earlier it makes it easier as we go along. Here is the video. There is language about sex, so heads up!