Future educators talk consent for kids

The Women’s Center hosted “Consent for Kids” Wednesday, an open discussion about how to have conversations about consent with children. The discussion included bodily autonomy, sharing, personal space and how to learn to teach consent in classrooms. 

BriShaun Kearns, graduate assistant of the Women’s Center, explained why it’s important for students who plan to become potential future educators to know how to teach consent in a classroom or a childcare institution. 

“I think consent is important for everybody. But it’s especially important to develop the skills at a very early age. I talked to a lot of people who are elementary ed. about consent and oftentimes, the conversation gets directed around sexual conversations,” Kearns said. “So we wait until people are like 15-16 years old, whereas this programming is really going to be focused on sharing personal space and that kind of consent, which I think can help kids develop the skills to be able to communicate in the future the things that they need and want.”

Kearns said teaching consent to children can help them understand the definitions of personal space and boundaries. It can also help the idea of consent extend to other communication lenses.

“I hope to be able to broaden the idea of consent from a sexual health lens into a community care lens so that people aren’t afraid to say the word consent in relation to children. I think a lot of times right now there’s kind of a lot of conversations going on around like what you can and cannot say in terms of sexual health development, LGBT community, race,” They said. “All of these things are very difficult and a lot of people are very scared of the repercussions they’re going to face. And if we are able to get students aware of the fact that it’s more than just talking about sex, it’s also about talking about personal space.”

First-year student Olivia Johnson and third-year student Deyton Drost, both Gender and Women’s Studies majors, shared what advice they took from the discussion and how they will apply it in classrooms and also explained why consent is important for everyone to know, not just as a potential educator. 

“I think that consent is definitely something you can implement on kids, or as a teacher anywhere. It’s a preventative measure that we should be using more, especially for anybody that’s going to be going in and working with children,” Johnson said. “ I think it’s really important especially with learning boundaries especially if you’re going to be an educator. Consent is something that you should have an idea of as a kid. We should be able to respect somebody’s wishes.”

“I think one of the big misconceptions or conversations around consent, and it’s always inherently like thought about as sexual, but I’m really glad that this event talked about how important it is to implement it into children and also some of the specific measures that you can take to do that and examples of how you can do that with kids,” Drost said. “It’s really important for all aspects of life. Even like “Can I give you a hug?’ Like, I guess you just never really know what’s okay and what’s not with people so always checking in.”

Consent is permission for something to happen or to do something. Permission is given by someone who is free to choose and able to choose for themselves. Kearns explains that consent overall is a great part of our everyday lives. 

“Consent is important for everyone to learn because it’s a part of our everyday lives. Anytime you ask someone a question, you’re trying to get consent from them, whether that’s asking people to share food, share space, asking to borrow something, asking to touch someone, like intimate partner interactions, family and friends. These are the skills we need as part of our communication,” Kearns said. “We navigate a lot of those conversations and we’ve realized people don’t really have this skill building for the kind of intense conversations that it takes to really talk about consent deeply. And I think personally, that stems from the lack of conversation of consent around the entirety of our lives rather than just sexual experiences.” 
The Women’s Center is located in CSU 218. For more information, visit www.mnsu.edu/diversityequityinclusion

Write to Anahi Zuniga at anahi.zuniga@mnsu.edu

Header Photo: The Women’s Center held the event, “Consent for Kids,” to discuss the topic of consent with potential future educators. (Nate Tilahun/The Reporter)

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