Preventing sexual abuse: Giving consent starts at home

When is the right time to talk to your child about giving and receiving sexual consent? This question subliminally pervades the subconscious of parents, many opting to put off the awkward conversation as long as possible. However, the sooner kids know about consent, the better they will fair.  Debra Herbenick, a sexual health educator at the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University, explains how to start a conversation about this topic in her article “Talking about consent to your children.”

Herbenick explains that beginning as early as ages two or three children begin to learn that they have control over their own body. They learn this from other kids in school as well as from adults. She explains that when an adult is tickling a child, and the child is laughing, and the child asks him to stop, the adult must stop. In this way, the child will not only learn that he is in control over his own body but also that words like “stop” or “no” are important and should be honored.

According to Herbenick, conversations about giving and receiving consent should start by middle school. Parents should explain to the child that any level of violence in sexual relationships is never O.K. They should also encourage children to read their partner’s facial expressions and body language. This way, the child can be attune to whether the sexual activity is mutually desired.  In addition, parents should explain to kids that they must not have sex with somebody they do not know well, especially if one or both of them is drunk. Similarly, parents must encourage children to watch out for each other at parties.

Research supports Herbenick’s emphasis on the role of the family in sex education. In a recent article published in The Journal of School Health, Jennifer Grossman and colleagues (2013) surveyed 706 6th and 7th graders about their sexual behaviors as well as family and school sex education. They found that adolescents who completed more sex education homework with their families were less likely to have had intercourse in 7th grade. The authors conclude that supplementing school sex education programs with family based discussions of sexual values can enhance the effectiveness of sex education and obviate issues associated with early sexual activity.

If you want to read more about the topic visit:

Grossman, J.M., Frye, A., Charmaraman, L. & Erkut, S. (2013). Family homework and school-based sex education: Delaying early adolescents’ sexual behavior. Journal of School Health, 83, 810-817.


Questions? Comments? Want more information? Email the author at:

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: