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How to Talk to Children and Teens About Consent: Expert Advice from Dr. Karen Farst

July 28, 2019

Posted in Parenting,Injury Prevention

This article originally appeared in the June 2019 edition of Little Rock Family

Beyond the standard “birds and the bees” talk, parents need to recognize the dangers of sexual assault and teach kids to respond appropriately in uncomfortable situations.

With the rise of the #metoo movement, consent has also come to the forefront of conversations around sex. Making sure your teenagers understand what consent means and how it’s conveyed is extremely important.

Dr. Karen Farst, child abuse pediatrician at Arkansas Children’s Hospital and an associate professor of Pediatrics in the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences College of Medicine, offers insight on how to address these critical topics.

Ages 5-10 

  • It can be normal for kids to touch their private parts to stimulate or self-soothe, but it should be done in private and should not involve force or coercion with others.
  • Teach children that parts of the body that are covered by a bathing suit are “private.”
  • It’s not enough to teach “stranger danger.”  Sexual abuse offenders are known to the child/family in more than 80% of cases.
  • Have plain, open conversations about body safety and teach children it’s never okay for someone to ask them to keep a secret that is hurting them or someone else.

Ages 11-14

  • Point out examples of kindness and respect in relationships from media, as well as examples of unkind and bullying behavior.
  • Roleplay with your child so they will know how to say “no” when someone is asking them to do something that feels wrong.
  • Know what your child is doing online and with their phone apps. Emphasize they should never agree to meet someone in person they have met online and do not already know personally.
  • Pay attention to whether an adult in your child’s life is singling them out for attention or meeting with them alone.

Ages 15-18

  • Two out of five teenagers are diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection during the teen years.
  • Encourage teens to “expect respect” in relationships and emphasize that someone who tries to coerce or bully them into having sex does not truly “love” them.
  • Teach that consent means both people agree to what is happening. Simply not hearing “no” does not imply consent. People who are intoxicated/passed out cannot consent.
  • Teens will often delay disclosure of sexual assault due to shame, fear of not being believed and fear of being blamed for the assault.

Here are two of Dr. Farst’s favorite video resources for kids and teens:

Consent for Kids

Consent for Teens



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