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How Do I Teach My Child About Consent/Body Autonomy?

Written by Victoria Delgadillo, LAC (Arizona Counselor)

At Symmetry Counseling, we understand that speaking with children about their bodies can seem daunting, especially with young children. It may be overwhelming to think about how to approach such a deep topic, but it is important to discuss these things so that children can know this information and be safe. It can also be helpful for the children’s caregivers to hold or be a part of this conversation to open the door for more opportunities to improve communication and let the child know they have a safe adult(s) they can reach out to. Here are some things to keep in mind and potentially helpful ideas and tips to help you talk to your child about the inner workings of consent and body autonomy. If you need additional guidance on how to approach this subject or struggle with it yourself, don’t hesitate to contact one of our specialists today!

What Is Consent and Body Autonomy?

Body autonomy is the ability and right to be in control of your own body. While consent is defined as giving permission. Consent also includes being freely given without coercion, informed of what is asked, certain and clear, specific, ongoing, and can be withdrawn at any time. 

Body autonomy and consent are often used in context together because a person’s body autonomy includes whether or not they are giving consent to another person to view or touch their body. Simply put, “I choose what happens to my body.” This is a fundamental human right that all people should have, including children. 

Why Should I Teach My Child About Consent and Body Autonomy?

Teaching your child about consent and body autonomy is not only empowering for them, but it can also increase independence and help to reduce the risk of child abuse. Teaching children about safe touch versus unsafe touch, who are trusted adults, what personal boundaries are, and that it is okay to say “no” are all important lessons. By teaching them about consent and body autonomy, children can learn to understand what feels appropriate to them, which gives them the power to choose what happens to their bodies – a message they will carry into their teenage years and later into adulthood.  

Is Your Child Ready to Learn About This?

Some may ask if children are ready to learn about consent or if they can even comprehend what these words mean. Children are naturally curious about their bodies and are often open to learning new things. Some children may start to ask about specific body parts or recognize that their bodies look different from others. Because of this natural curiosity, children may be more inclined to ask questions to adults. Rather than avoiding the questions or telling a child they are not old enough to understand, adults can and should explain some concepts in a way that children will understand. 

How Do I Explain It So They Will Understand?

There are a variety of ways that we can explain these topics to children, including using words they may connect with or understand and making the conversation playful and light. Here are some ideas and tips that may be helpful:

We can help to teach children how to be the ‘boss’ of their own body, meaning they are able to make choices about their body. This can include asking children ways that they may already be the ‘boss’ of their own body, such as picking out their own clothes/shoes, choosing where to sit, or telling caregivers how their body feels (“my tummy hurts,” “my feet are tired,” etc.). This can help children understand they have already been making choices for their bodies

It may also be helpful to teach children the biological terms for their genitalia – that way, they have a label and name for the parts of their body if they have something they need to tell a trusted adult. Caregivers can introduce other ways, such as teaching personal boundaries or how to give consent for touch from other people. This is a great opportunity to teach children about the safe, trusted adults they can go to if they need to talk. 

For personal boundaries, caregivers can teach children about personal space. This can look like explaining to children that everyone has their own ‘bubble’ of space that should be respected. It is important to ask permission before going into another person’s personal space or ‘bubble’. Children can also begin to understand the importance of getting consent and giving consent. Caregivers can be models for children and show them by example. They can ask the child if they have permission to give them a hug or a high-five and tell the child they give them permission to hug them or touch their arm

The caregiver is also able to explain to the child that they can say no even if the caregiver asks for permission, showing the child that this is another part of being the ‘boss’ of their own body. This can be an opportunity to teach children the difference between safe and unsafe touch from others. Children can bring the lesson of consent into this conversation and learn that it is okay to say NO. If the child feels uncomfortable with touch in general or in specific areas, they are given the choice to say yes or no. Some children do not like touch at all in any form, and helping both child and caregiver understand that it is okay and acceptable and that the child will not get in trouble because of this choice is. 

Can Counseling Help?

In short, yes. This can be a complex concept for children and their caregivers, and navigating this conversation in a way children can understand is difficult! Some counselors may be able to help facilitate this conversation or engage the child/family in activities that help the child understand. You can count on one of our counselors to be there to help guide you through this process and could even help your child understand this potentially complex concept. 

If you are interested in speaking with a counselor or starting counseling services for yourself, your child, or your family, Symmetry Counseling provides counseling services for individuals, couples, or families. For more information, contact our intake department today to be connected with a counselor. 

Gaines, L. & Miller, E. (2022, September 12). The case for starting sex ed in kindergarten 

(hula hoops recommended). NPR. Retrieved 2022, from


Horn, M. (n.d.). Teaching body autonomy: How you can help protect your child from abuse

Alliance For Children. Retrieved 2022, from 


Nienow, S. (n.d.). Seven steps to teaching children body autonomy. Rady Children’s Hospital-San 

Diego. Retrieved 2022, from 


Scott, E. (2020, January 2). How, and when, to teach little kids about consent and their bodies. 

WHYY. Retrieved 2022, from

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