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Teach consent to children as young as four

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Educating children about what is OK and what isn’t and giving them the ability to say no to anything that doesn’t feel right with regards to their bodies should be started young.

Patricia Occelli, relationship experts Interrelate’s CEO says; “Parents should teach children the correct words for genital anatomy from as young as kindergarten so they can develop comfort in using these terms and build confidence in talking about their bodies.” 

“Interrelate delivers school programs that are pitched at an age appropriate level where children learn how to assert their right to feel safe. Our programs teach children about body safety and how to say no to unwanted touch. This includes teaching the children about privacy, private body parts and the importance that no one can touch them unless they say it is okay,” says Ms Occelli.

“The children practice saying “No, stop and don’t”. They are empowered to say no and they are taught that saying no should be honoured. The children are also taught how to report feeling unsafe to trusted adults and who a trusted adult can be.”

The NSW Government’s Sexual Assault Strategy will educate the wider community about what constitutes sexual assault and harassment, as well as raising awareness about consent, and Occelli believes its inclusion of children is to be praised.

“It is commendable that the strategy will also target young children. The most recent national figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare indicate that during 2015-16, there were 225,487 Australian children suspected of being harmed or at risk of harm from abuse and/or neglect. Protective behaviours education, which empowers children to assert their right to feel safe, should include education about consent from an early age.

Interrelate has been delivering relationship and sexuality education for more than 90 years, has learnt that many parents worry about giving their children information about sexuality and they are unsure of how to approach a topic such as consent.

The theme of respectful relationships runs through all of Interrelate’s education programs as children learn about what constitutes a healthy relationship, including setting healthy boundaries in relationships. Interrelate focusses on teaching holistic education addressing the physical, mental, emotional and social dimensions of sexuality.

National Child Protection Week runs from 2–8 September with a theme of ‘Play Your Part’, providing an opportunity to think about what can be done to protect the children in their community.

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