Author: Dr Steve Buys – Marriage and Family Therapist
1. Teach children to ask permission before touching or embracing a playmate. Use language such as, “Sarah, let’s ask Joel if he would like to hug bye-bye.”
If Joel says “no” to this request, cheerfully tell your child, “That’s okay, Sarah! Let’s wave bye-bye to Joe and blow him a kiss.”
One of the biggest issues I hear from my fellow parenting friends is how to handle a situation where Granny wants a hug but their child doesn’t want to give one.
The South African Police Service Sexual Assault Programs recently published an article on the topic of explaining autonomy and consent to young children where they advised, “resisting the natural urge to insist your kid hug or kiss someone can be a challenge given cultural or societal norms of respect and politeness, yet is an important building block of affirmative consent.”
2. Teach children to help others who may be in trouble
Talk to your child about helping other children, and alerting trusted grown-ups when others need help.
Ask your child to watch when others play and notice what is happening. Get them used to observing behaviour and checking in on what they see.
Praise your child for assisting others who need help, but remind them that if a grown-up needs help with anything, that it is a grown-up’s job to help. Praise your child for alerting you to people who are in distress, so that the appropriate help can be provided.
3. Teach your child that “no” and “stop” are important words
One way to explain this may be, “Sarah said ‘no’, and when we hear ‘no’ we always stop what we’re doing immediately. No matter what.”
Also teach your child that his or her “no’s” are to be listened to by others as well.
Explain that just like we always stop doing something when someone says “no”, that our friends need to always stop when we say “no”, too. If a friend doesn’t stop when we say “no,” then we need to think about whether or not we feel good, and safe, playing with them? If not, it’s okay to choose other friends.