For adults as well as children, this could be a sensitive subject. But it is important that we adults take the lead on this and introduce integrity and consent as concepts already at early ages.
Sexual harassment means that someone inappropriately touches your body. Other acts that could be considered to be sexual harassment may include comments, whistles, rumors, or stares that make you feel uncomfortable and exposed.
Here are some tips for you as a parent/guardian on how to approach this subject with your child:
Introduce conversations about consent and sexual harassments with your children already at early ages. What does consent mean? What rights do I have to my own body and integrity? It is important that also young children know what rights they have.
To ensure there is consent, the ability to be able to interpret other person’s signals is needed. This is something everyone needs to practice and work on. By practicing on asking and reading other person’s signals you are helping your child learn to respect other people.
By actively showing respect for your child’s integrity you are teaching your child how consent works. Ask if your child wants a hug, if your child wants to give friends a hug when saying “sorry” for something, etc. When not taking for granted or forcing this, you promote the importance of consent in all relations.
We live in a society where we constantly are exposed to sexualized and stereotype images. These images are everywhere and no one can be fully protected from this; digital signs, ads on busses, posters in stores and malls, movies, TV commercials, online ads, social media, games, etc. As a parent it is important that you are active where your child is active, and that you have the courage to challenge and question sexualized and stereotype images. Give your child alternative images and take the time to highlight the problem and ask questions, instead of accepting what is. Be the counterweight.
Our children don’t do as we say, they do as we do. Reflect on how you talk about other person’s bodies, your own body, what you joke about and how you act in your everyday life. Being a role model and constantly and actively taking a stand is a success factor for guiding your child. Continuously work to increase your knowledge and understanding, and broaden your own perspectives.
Work together with your child’s school. Ask you can collaborate around this important matter. What questions are discussed at school right now, and what can you do/talk about at home to help?
Many children and youth are worried and reluctant to tell adults when they have experienced sexual harassment. There are many reasons for this, but the most common are that they feel guilt for what happened, or fear that words about it will spread. As a parent it is therefore important to take your child’s experiences seriously and make sure to neither blame them, nor diminish their experience. To create trust it is also important to let your child be a part of the process forward. You can enable that by for example inform about how a police report is filed, discuss alternatives for how to tell, report, etc.