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Talking Consent With Your Teen and Tween: How To Have These Must Have Conversations With Christy Keating

When it comes to talking to our tweens and teens about sex or consent, it’s intimidating and scary. What do you say? How to know where to start? How do you say it in a way that will sink in?

Talking about relationships, sex, and consent can be intimidating, particularly when it comes to our kids.

But we must have them. The statistics are staggering by the time a girl has graduated from college the statistics are one in four that have been sexually assaulted.

Today I’m interviewing Christy Keating with the Heartful Parent who is an expert on consent. Christy worked as a licensed attorney, specializing in the prosecution of sexually violent predators. Christy has a unique perspective on the importance of teaching our kids about consent.

Scroll down to read the full episode transcribed, if you don’t have time.

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Where To Find Christy Keating: 

What You Will Learn: 

  • What your tween or teen needs to know about consent.
  • What is consent and building confidence with saying no.
  • Recommendations and resources to get started with these conversations.
  • Empowering your tweens and teens around consent.
  • The acronym of consent.
  • What to say and how to have these important conversations.

Find more encouragement, wisdom, and resources:

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And here is the episode typed out!

Welcome to the Moms of Tweens and Teens Podcast. If some days you doubt yourself and you don’t know what you’re doing. If you’ve ugly cried alone in your bedroom because you felt like you’re failing. Well, I just want to let you know you are not alone and you have come to the right place.

Raising tweens and teens in today’s world is not easy. And I’m on a mission to equip you to love well, and to raise emotionally healthy, happy tweens and teens that thrive.

I believe that moms are heroes, and we have the power to transform our family and to impact future generations. If you are looking for answers, encouragement, and to become more of the mom and the woman that you want to be welcome. I am Sheryl Gould. And I am so glad that you’re here.

SHERYL: Hi, Christy, welcome to the show. I am so happy you’re here, and I’m really excited about what we’re talking about today.

 

CHRISTY: Hi, Sheryl. Thank you so much for having me. I am excited to be here. I love your podcast and am excited to talk about this important topic.

 

SHERYL: Yes, and I love what you’re doing. I’ve just been taking it in. I’ve wanted to have somebody on the show like you because you are such an expert with consent. So tell our listeners a little bit about you, your background, and what led you to what you’re doing today.

 

CHRISTY: Yeah, happy to do that. Initially, I am trained as an attorney. I’m a licensed attorney in the state of Washington.

I practiced law actively for almost 20 years. For those 20 years, I worked for the King County Prosecutor’s Office, located in Seattle, Washington. It’s one of the largest prosecutor’s offices in the country, and 

I handled everything there, from simple assaults and petty theft to homicides.

I formulated the biggest expertise while prosecuting sex offenders and ultimately spent about four years in the sexually violent predator unit, which is sort of the most dangerous. I loved my work as a prosecutor, but as many of us find, our priorities shift a bit when we become parents.

Our views of ourselves in the professional world change. And that happened to me.

I sort of found myself not being the kind of mom that I wanted to be and not being the kind of lawyer I wanted to be because it’s an all-consuming job.

While I was still working, I went back to school and got certified as a parent coach through the Parent Coach Institute and Seattle Pacific University. I also got certified as a positive discipline educator and certified through the Gottman Institute.

In 2018, I decided to leave my work as an attorney. I started the Heartful Parent Collective, in which I now work with parents in three main ways. I do one on one coaching with parents around a whole wide variety of issues. I also run an online membership academy for parents who don’t need one-on-one coaching or can’t afford that, but they want some support on this parenting journey because it’s hard.

My tagline is we were never meant to parent alone.

So I provide lots of support and different ways to parent. I also run Savvy Parents Safe Kids as part of the collective, and that is where I give parents and professionals presentations about how we can protect our young children from child sexual abuse.

How do we talk to kids about sex?

How do we adjust and talk about safety and the new safety concerns they have online and in the real world?

How do we talk to them about things like consent, relationships, and sexuality.

 

SHERYL: Oh, yeah, for sure. I was like reading all your stuff. And I’m like, oh, I didn’t have that conversation with my kid. You didn’t even think to have it around the consent, and that’s become such a big issue. Many of us don’t know how to bring up the sex conversation, and the consent one is tough.

 

CHRISTY: Yeah, they’re difficult conversations for many reasons. One, because tweens and teens often don’t want to talk to us about this kind of stuff. I know in my case, I didn’t have a role model. I had fabulous parents, but they never talked to me about this kind of stuff.

What you’re describing and what we’re sort of talking about born by the research. There is a great study done by Harvard called “The Making Caring Common Project.” In that, they had 2,000 college students that were interviewed and filled out a survey. Less or right around, only a quarter of them said they ever discussed sexual violence with their parents. About half of them said they discussed sex one time or less.

 

SHERYL: That’s sobering.

 

CHRISTY: We’re just not talking to our kids about this. And we need to be.

I would think that we would be doing better than our parents talked about because we’re a little more seasoned and open. Yeah, perhaps that doesn’t mean that we’re still having the conversation.

It doesn’t. And I think there’s an increasing number of parents that know on the surface level that this is a meaningful conversation that they should have, but we also tend to think, well, not my kid, right? We get into that mindset, and we just don’t know how to do it.

This isn’t something that they teach you when you become a parent. It tends to creep up on us. And so we just think, well, I think they need to talk about it.

 

SHERYL: Yeah, exactly. And they don’t know. The research is showing us — they don’t know.

I’m sitting here thinking, gosh, I wonder if I talked to them about it. 

When they did hit the tween and teen years, I think that I was talking to them, but I wasn’t talking to them in a way that they could hear it.

I think I was just giving the scare tactics like “don’t do that” and “don’t do this.” And then they’re tuning me out. 

If they had taken that survey, they might have said they weren’t talking to us that much. Maybe they didn’t even hear it because we didn’t even know how to talk about it. I know now it’s about asking some good questions. Tweens and teens are going to be able to hear so much better.

 

CHRISTY: You’re certainly not alone in that. 

When we are nervous about a conversation and worried about our kids, we have that element of fear for them. We have a tendency, as you said, to talk at rather than talk with. 

We tend to use those fear-based tactics, which I’ll tell you they don’t work. Teens don’t have fully developed brains yet.

They process risk and risky behavior and judgment differently than we do as mature grown adults. Fear either they overlook it, or it can be paralyzing to them. 

Parents who have younger children tend to use those fear-based tactics, and they’re not effective when they’re four and when they’re 14 or 24.

So we have to find better ways to talk with our kids to hear us and get this critical information they need.

 

SHERYL: Yes, that’s why I’m so excited to be talking to you. So you can tell us how, so let’s talk about consent. 

I know there are two different definitions of consent. So why don’t you kind of break that down for us?

 

CHRISTY: When we’re talking about consent, the way I break it down is there’s the legal definition of consent. Then, there’s the definition that we want our children to have. They need to know both. 

They need to know what the law is in the state where they live or where they’re going to college, or where they’re moving after they leave home.

So they need to know what the law is. But, often, the law is written where there are limitations on it because of what the state or the prosecutor has to prove in a criminal case. 

It’s written in a way that takes that into account and puts the burden on the state. Consent from a legal standpoint is, “did the victim say no?” The exact definition is going to vary a bit from state to state.

I’m licensed in the state of Washington. I’ve reviewed the law in a number of other states, but people should look it up in their states to make sure they’re clear on what it is and visit rainn.org, which is the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. It has a summary of the laws from every state.

So that’s a really valuable resource for people. In most states, the bottom line is that consent means did the victim say no when you boil it down. Was there no overpowered by someone? I understand from a legal standpoint why that has to be the standard. 

Legally, it’s insufficient for the actual behavior that we want our children engaging in and how we want them to understand consent.

What we want and what I want for our kids is to have a more proactive idea of this means. We want them to have a well-rounded vision of what we all as humans are entitled to when it comes to touching our bodies and what we have to do when we want to touch someone else’s body.

We want our children to have a much more empathetic look at it from another person’s rights viewpoint, which the legal standard doesn’t begin to touch.

 

SHERYL: Yeah. It speaks to the character of our kids and what’s a healthy relationship. What are good boundaries? What’s going to make me feel good? Like, who am I, and what do I want? That’s empowering our kids.

 

CHRISTY: Yeah, I’m a big fan. Whenever I present to audiences, I talk about the importance of empowering our kids from the ages of 4, 14, or 24. I give them information, tools, and ways to deal with all of these subjects.

That’s no different when they’re tweens and teens. Maybe even more important because now they are no longer constantly under our watchful eye. 

When I started, I worked as a prosecutor, when I started my business and started looking at how we can talk to our kids about this.

 

Our kids are not getting the messages, information, and empowerment from the adults in their world that they need to be.

They’re certainly not getting it in schools. Many parents think they’ll let the schools deal with that, which is a terrible idea.

Too many of them are not getting it from us. So what happens is we have kids that are seeking out information about everything from sex, sexuality, and these issues around consent, which are all intertwined. They’re getting the information on the Internet, which is not really where most of us as parents want our kids getting their education regarding sex.

 

SHERYL: Oh, yeah, most definitely not. I overheard you speaking on another podcast, and you talked about TV and what it’s teaching our kids about consent. So what should consent look like?

 

CHRISTY: That’s a great question, and I will answer it in a few pieces. To start, we have to think about what does consent means beyond the legal standard?

The legal standard is no means no. Some people have said that’s not sufficient. So let’s turn it into yes means yes. And it’s better, but it’s still not great because it puts the primary burden on the person being touched, rather than the person doing the touching when I’m talking about touching and everything from holding hands to kissing to sex. 

Yes means yes continues to put the primary burden on the one being touched.

So I developed a way of thinking about this. It’s called the omegas of consent or consents gold standard.

Omegas is an acronym, and each letter stands for something.

Here’s how I define consent. One is the O. Our tweens and teens need to understand that consent needs to be ongoing. In other words, if you ask permission to hold someone’s hand, that’s great. That doesn’t mean that that person has consented to have sex.

At every step along the way, they need to obtain consent. It also reminds our children that consent can be withdrawn at any point. It doesn’t matter how far along they are in that activity. If one person decides they no longer want to be a part of that, their partner needs to respect that. So consent needs to be ongoing from start to finish.

The M in omegas stands for mutually desired, which continues the idea that it’s not enough for one partner to want physical contact. Both partners must desire the connection and the nature of the contact. This is a place where we can drive home for our kids that body language is not a reliable indicator of whether or not somebody wants something to happen. They need to be asking.

The E in omegas is enthusiastic and informed partners. So we want to be teaching our tweens and teens that all physical contact, whether that’s holding hands, kissing, or having sex is a fabulous part of life. If and only if both partners or all partners are enthusiastic and informed about any risks. 

Here’s where I think we can start to change the narrative, and let our kids know they’re entitled. Our boys and our girls are entitled to have someone who wants to engage in that activity. Why would they settle for anything less than that?

It’s so much more fun when both parties want to do it; when you hold someone’s hand and they also want to hold your hand. There’s electricity that goes through that. Why would you force that on somebody? That doesn’t serve either party. Sex can be a fabulous and wonderful part of our older teens’ and adults’ lives when it’s entirely consensual. Why would they settle for less than that? That’s the E; we want enthusiastic and informed partners.

The G is given freely. Anytime one partner is trying to coerce another partner into contact. It’s not given freely. For example, saying things like, “Well, if you really loved me, you would…” or “Everybody’s doing it, we should be doing it too.” Or, “You’re such a prude.”

Anytime there’s that element of coercion going on, it’s not given freely, and also, someone who is impaired cannot freely give that consent so that’s part of the G as well.

The A is acceptable age, and by that I mean legal age. This will vary from state to state. In many states, it really depends more about the relative age of the two parties. If you’ve got a 15-year-old and a 25-year-old, that’s a problem. Some states would call that statutory rape or rape of a child. 

But if you’ve got a 15-year-old and another 15-year-old, that’s a different scenario. So understanding what that legal age of consent is and if there are prohibitions around the relative age of the two of the two parties.

 

SHERYL: What if it’s like a 15-year-old, 16-year-old and a 19-year-old?

 

CHRISTY: Again, that’s going to depend and vary by state. It will depend on what that spread is. If it’s four years or more in the state of Washington, it’s too much. So 15 to 19 would be problematic, depending on when those birthdays fall. 

Now, I think a good rule of thumb for parents, and it’s certainly one that we use in our household, is that you don’t want to be going more than one grade up or one grade down in friendships and relationships. 

That’s kind of a safe spread, two grades up at the most.

 

SHERYL: I hear that a lot in my community where they’re asking this question.

 

CHRISTY: So one to two years or one to two grades at the most up or down is where my comfort level is. As a mom, each family needs to figure that out for themselves and be aware of what individual laws in their state might be.

The final piece of the Omega is a sober body and sound mind. This gets into the idea that we need to help our tweens, teens, and young adults understand that alcohol, drugs, prescription medication, mental health challenges, all of those can impair a person’s ability to give that consent freely and knowingly. 

They shouldn’t be seeking to engage in physical touch, certainly not sexual interactions with somebody who is impaired in any one of those ways. Because that will negate consent.

 

SHERYL: These all make sense, but the trickiest for me is the enthusiastic part. I think about how kids can misconstrue so easily because of their brain development and impulsivity. If somebody is “enthusiastic” and into it, what would you say to that?

 

CHRISTY: That really comes down to where we need to be teaching our kids to have conversations around this. 

Body language is notoriously unpredictable and unreliable in understanding what’s going on in another person’s mind. 

You can play games with your tween or teen where you put on a particular face or show some body language. You can sort of explore it in that way and help them see that many of the facial expressions we use can mean a variety of different things.

Even someone who is engaging appears to be engaging physically in a way that they’re into it, as you say, and I’m putting that in quotation marks because I know people can’t see us. 

That’s a really risky place to be because a number of things can really misconstrue that. 

First, somebody who’s feeling pressured into doing something or someone who may not be of sober body and sound mind.

All those things can interfere with that, so short of asking and talking about it, our tweens and teens shouldn’t be doing it. My rule of thumb is, if you’re not ready to talk about it with your partner, you’re not prepared to do it. That’s a hard thing for them to grasp, particularly in the world where they communicate digitally so often and not face to face.

I think in many ways, that has sort of stunted our tweens and teens’ ability to have some of those difficult conversations face to face. If you have a tween or teen that says, “Oh God, I could never ask, that’d be so embarrassing because what if they said no.” 

My response to that is that’s exactly why you need to be asking. If their response is no, and you move forward without knowing that would be their response, then you’ve just violated that person and potentially committed a crime. 

You’ve just taken away somebody’s ability to say what happens to their body.

 

SHERYL: What I was sitting here thinking, I started to think it’s almost like when our kids are little, and they go to a play date, and they take somebody’s toy without asking. 

We teach them to ask if they can play with their toy, or even my kids asked when they were younger if it’s okay to eat their french fries or their dessert. But here we’re talking about consent, when it comes to showing physical affection, or more, and they’re not being taught to ask. 

I mean, it’s kinda crazy when you think of it that way.

 

CHRISTY: It’s totally crazy when you think about it like that. We teach them to ask, can I pet your dog, but we’re not teaching them to ask to hold someone’s hand or to kiss them. Or asking, “Can I have sex with you?

One of the things that we sort of inadvertently do in many cases is override their ability to consent. We say things like, go give grandpa hug or go sit on grandma’s lap. We do all of these things and we’re not asking, would you like to give grandpa hug? Would you like to sit on grandma’s lap?

We are inadvertently teaching our kids that consent doesn’t always matter, and we need to start shifting that at home.

We’re embarrassed because they’re becoming standoffish that we will say, come on, go hug your grandmother, she’s leaving or whatever it is. 

We need to shift that narrative and start to let them know that they can control what happens to their bodies. They need to give other people the ability to control what happens to their bodies.

 

SHERYL: That’s so empowering. So it’s boundaries.

It’s teaching our kids to respect themselves and their own boundaries and respect other people’s and not be afraid to speak up.

Because that’s right, think about how that can play out. I’m thinking more about girls, they want boys to like them so they’re not saying no. 

So how do you start having this conversation? Let’s just start with the girls, and then we can move on to the boys. 

How do you start having that conversation with your daughter?

 

CHRISTY: I think whether we’re talking about girls or boys, there’s a foundation that really has to be laid, and that is that we are willing to talk to our kids about sex.

I know that freaks parents out, so that’s one of the things that I do is help parents figure out how to have those conversations especially if they didn’t start to do it when their kids are little. 

When I was growing up, and I’m sure this is true for many people, that there was “the talk” right?

It was a one-time conversation when we were little or when we got a little bit older. Maybe mom or dad showed us a book. I get this very distinct memory of this book that my parents showed me when I was a kid that was supposed to tell me what sex was, and that was kind of the end of the conversation. 

We never discussed it again. I tell parents now is one time isn’t good enough. It’s not right because when we are not the resource for our children, we’re not showing that we are open and willing and able to have these conversations even when everybody’s uncomfortable doing it.

Then we’re sending our kids to Dr. Google to figure out what’s really going on. That leads them to pretty bad places quickly. 

Pornography is incredibly accessible on the Internet. We can argue about whether or not that’s appropriate for adults, but it is damaging to kids. It’s giving them a backward idea of what those relationships look like. So whether we’ve got boys or girls, we need to start by talking about sex, sexuality, and relationships. 

We need to talk about what healthy relationships look like and what unhealthy relationships look like.

We can do that in a variety of ways. TV, movies, media are a great way into those conversations, where you’re watching the TV show together and then talk about the relationships we’re observing. We can answer the question, are they healthy? How does that feel to you? 

We can use characters in shows and movies to ask questions related to consent, sex, and relationships. We can get them to think. Because we can’t probably sit down with a book that’s meant for six and seven-year-olds and say, “Okay, here’s what sex is.” We’re not going to do that once they’re 11, 12, 14, and 15.

 

SHERYL: I love that with the movies because you’re making it where it’s easy to sprinkle those thoughts in.

It’s something that our kids can relate to immediately.

 

CHRISTY: If we do have these conversations, right, we can ask, “What do you think about that? What would you have done? Or what do you think they should have done?” 

Questions are much more engaging to our tweens and teens than us talking at them and saying, “Oh, my gosh, did you see that? I can’t believe that person did that.” Then, we get all judgy, and our kids shut down. 

Lisa D’Amour is an author, and she talks about how teen girls have a veil of obedience that they put on, which happens when we start lecturing at them. They smile and nod, but they are not internalizing anything that we say. They’re not listening to us.

They’re not engaging with us.

They are smiling and nodding and waiting until they can get done with that conversation. I think our teen boys do that as well. So we have to find different ways to engage them. We’ve got to remove the judgment, which is hard sometimes for us.

 

SHERYL: Especially when we’re scared.

I want to just pause on the asking questions because I tell parents also that you’re connecting the left and right part of their brain when you ask questions to like you’re teaching them to think about it, problem solve, and put themselves more in that in that situation. 

It’s so much more impactful for them.

 

CHRISTY: So much more. They arrive at whether or not we’re talking about sex, or whether or not we’re talking about plagiarism.

When we lead with curiosity and allow them to explore and arrive at values independently, it can stick with them.

When we say these are our values, and you should have these values too. It is just different. I’m not saying we shouldn’t provide input and guidance and share what we think about things, but when we lead with that constantly and then get judgmental, our kids might have different views. 

Then we’re missing a valuable opportunity to dive into real meaningful conversation with them and help them explore why their ideas are different than ours. 

Curiosity is probably one of the most important tools in parenting.

 

SHERYL: So watching movies. Now tell us, what’s another way we can talk to them?

 

CHRISTY: Yes. I think by staying involved and engaged in their lives. 

Often, our kids won’t be as willing to open up to us about their own behavior. They will sometimes talk about things that they’ve seen their friends doing or talking about.

That can be a good way into some of those conversations. If a tween says you know, my friend, Sarah, she was at this party, and things sort of went bad. We can talk to our children. How do you think that felt for Sarah? 

How do you think that happened? What could you do? 

If you were with her next time, we could get them thinking about it through some of the stories they tell us about their friends.

Music is also powerful, and any form of media. Some of the lyrics and music, if we stop and listen, has really concerning themes in it. 

We can use lyrics and say, “What do you think about that? I know it’s June and Christmas season seems a long ways away, but at the holidays, there’s a well known holiday song called “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”

It’s a really catchy tune, but if you stop and read the lyrics, they’re really disturbing. He’s telling the girl to not go home and encouraging her to drink.

 

SHERYL: Oh, my gosh, I’m gonna have to look that up. I never knew that.

 

CHRISTY: I know. It’s fun to sing along to, but when you stop and listen, you’re like, oh, wow, that is not what we want our kids hearing. Now, here’s the awesome thing. John Legend and Kelly Clarkson recorded a remake and updated version of the song. 

Instead, they talk about, “Oh, you want to go home? Let me call you an Uber.” John Legend, at one point, says, “Your body is your choice.”

 

SHERYL: I got shivers just now.

 

CHRISTY: I actually issued a challenge to my mailing list last holiday season, talking to your tweens and teens and looking at the lyrics of these two versions of the same song and talking to them about the differences.

I had a parent email me back and say they had the most productive and impactful conversation with her daughter around this issue. 

It was a conversation about consent from a bigger perspective and looking at what it meant in these two different scenarios. She said she never got her daughter to open up like that before. So when we can find ways into those conversations, it is gold.

It’s also not us judging their music. We’re looking at our own music histories and saying, “Wow, there’s some problematic stuff here.”

Then, we compare it to a modern song by John Legend and Kelly Clarkson. People are saying, “Look at what they’ve done, they’ve made this so much better by being aware of these of these issues and respond to the #MeTooMovement. They recognize that we are dealing with an epidemic of sexual assault in our country.

 

SHERYL: Yes, most definitely. I’m thinking about the hookup culture. We are in an epidemic where a lot of moms are mentioning rapes on college campuses.

 

CHRISTY: They are far too common. The statistics show it’s one in four college women that will be assaulted by the time they graduate. It’s one of the most under-reported crimes. I think our numbers are far higher than that.

Here’s where I want to be careful because I want to recognize that not all relationships are boy and girl. Not all perpetrators are boys and men. 

Sexual assault can be perpetrated by women. It can be perpetrated in the context of a non-heterosexual relationship. 

Based on all of the research, the reality is boys and men perpetrate about 96% of all sexual assaults.

So we have to sort of hold these opposing things. When we’re talking to our girls, one is recognizing that they can violate consent and need to get consent for things that they want to do. 

And recognizing that, it’s more likely that our sons will do something that they shouldn’t make a significant safety mistake.

The conversations about consent should be largely the same. All of our kids need to hear that people are entitled to their bodies and safety.

They should be able to walk buck naked down the streets and be 100% safe. 

That’s the message that we want our children having it doesn’t matter what they’re wearing, it doesn’t matter. You know, how much alcohol they’ve had. So they should be able to walk down the street naked, completely drunk, and be totally safe.

So that’s the big overarching picture. Tthen we dive into the details of consent. I want to note that there are safety conversations that we need to have with our kids as well. 

Probably slightly more with our girls than our boys, but I am a very strong believer in the idea that we need to separate our conversations about safety from our conversations about consent. 

When we’re talking about consent, we’re sticking to those omegas. We’re talking about the idea that, again, they could walk down the street naked and totally drunk and be safe. That’s the groundwork for consent. 

In a separate conversation, we need to have conversations with our kids around safety. The idea that if you’re in a bar, you don’t put your drink down, or you don’t leave a friend behind at a fraternity party by herself. 

You need to watch how much alcohol you consume for both genders because we make safety mistakes when we’ve had too much to drink. We need our kids to understand that. 

You should be able to wear anything that you want. Your body is not shameful. 

People will make judgments about you and what you’re interested in, based on your clothing. It’s a weird sort of dichotomy that we have to hold up, but we need to do that for our kids. 

So it’s separating safety from consent because it’s really two separate messages. Our kids are savvy enough to know that and to be able to understand that. Teens can process that those dueling things. They get to stay safe, and they deserve to be safe.

 

SHERYL: Yes, I love that. You shared that it’s so clear the way that you put that you can walk down the street, naked, drunk, and that does not give anybody permission to take advantage of you.

 

CHRISTY: That’s right. We want all of our kids to walk away from these conversations because it doesn’t matter what someone else is doing with their bodies. We have to respect their autonomy and their ability to decide what they want and when they want it.

 

SHERYL: Yeah. What are a few things that you would say to your boys? Is there anything that we haven’t covered that you would say maybe a little differently to boys?

 

CHRISTY: Well, I think one of the things that I would do with boys in particular, although, I don’t differentiate a whole lot. I would give them some scripts that they can use because it’s one thing to say to our boys, ask for consent. You need to get permission before you do whatever it is you want to do.

We need to give them some specific ideas of what that looks like, how they ask, and what to say if they are rejected because that’s the thing that they are fundamentally the most afraid of. Tthe reason that most of them say they won’t ask, so we have to teach them, to say, may I kiss you? 

May I hug you, you know, would you like to go further, you know, sort of what are you comfortable with?

If someone says, I’m not into that, or I’d rather that you not, we need to teach them to say, Wow, thanks for telling me, I would never want to do anything you weren’t comfortable with. 

I would never want to push past your right to say no. So that’s empowering. 

It gives them a way to come out the hero. If I had a boy say to me, they would never want to push past my comfort level. I would think that guy was awesome. I’d be interested in him, but I sure would respect him as a human.

So we need to give them some scripts so that they feel prepared for how to do this. With our boys, we need to help them recognize that this isn’t just an issue of she might not want to do everything like we’re talking about serious legal repercussions here.

And while we don’t want to use fear tactics, we do also need to make sure our children understand what could happen if they violate this.

And we need them to know good kids make serious mistakes. And we want to help them avoid those mistakes because the penalties for this kind of mistake are real and significant and will affect the rest of their lives.

We need to sprinkle that information in there to not just scaring the pants off of them, but they need to understand that you know that this is real for all of our kids.

I guess this would be my final sort of thing is the antidote to all of us. The thing that fixes it all is making sure that our children know, understand, and practice empathy. You’re not going to rape somebody that you feel empathetic towards.

 

SHERYL: Yeah, so the more we teach our boys to be empathetic, the more we teach them to listen to and ask for consent. 

How do you think that felt to them? Or not even separate? I’m not talking about holding somebody’s hand or sex, but just in general, getting them to think about how they impact other people and how other people feel. 

What are a couple of things that moms can do to increase their empathy, peace, and voice?

CHRISTY: Yeah, so a few things. One is modeling. I mean, the way that our children learn empathy is by having empathy model to them. That doesn’t mean us being empathetic with the person on the corner who’s experiencing homelessness. It includes that, but it also means showing empathy for our kids and for him engaging with them with empathy.

If they’re having a bad day, instead of yelling or sending them to their rooms, we can say, “My goodness, what’s going on?” 

We are showing them empathy. Modeling is the first one. The second one is to talk about emotions and feelings. You can do that with them directly. 

You can do it when talking about using media and saying, what do you think that felt like, for that person? What do you think that would be like, if somebody did that. 

We can model, talk about it, and get them to engage in those emotional conversations. The third thing is setting expectations for them, and being really clear like we expect them to ask for consent.

Our kids know that we want them to do that, but I think we need to be abundantly clear. It is our expert’s expectation that you will always ask before you do X, Y or Z. 

We expect you to think about how other people are feeling, and you will be an upstander instead of a bystander. You will be the one who steps in and helps the drunk kid who can’t get off the floor and throws up on themselves.

You will be the one that steps in to help. That is our expectation. We will teach you to do that, and we’re going to expect you to do that. That’s just kind of a family value. So modeling, talking about it, and setting expectations. Those are the three primary ways to help our kids start to learn and understand the importance of empathy.

 

SHERYL: Oh my gosh, that’s so good, Christy. Wow, really good. How to begin talking about these things can be so difficult.

So tell our listeners where to find you.

 

CHRISTY: Yes, so the best place to find me. 

I have a six-page handout that has more information on how to have these conversations, what the specific conversations are, and some great books and other resources that parents can dive into individually and with their tweens and teens. Parents can download that on my website.

There will be a way for them to download that handout right there and get some more tips and tricks for diving into these conversations with their kids.

 

SHERYL: Okay, wonderful. Well, thank you so much. Thank you for being on the show.

I look forward to have you back and talk more about dating.

 

CHRISTY: That would be my pleasure. Sheryl, thank you so much for this conversation and being willing to dive into a little bit of an uncomfortable subject but just an important one.

 

SHERYL: So important. Thank you Christy!

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