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The answer isn’t “boys will be boys.”
We know this. What we may not know is how or when to talk about boundaries and consent, without judgment, fear, perpetuating harmful and outdated stereotypes, and assumptions.
My husband was wondering how the consent and communication assembly at the Upper School would be able to address boys in Years 8 to 12. I responded that the topic is appropriate for any age. This conversation (and current events) prompted the topic for this week.
According to the results from my research for this week’s links, I was correct. In fact, the earlier we discuss consent with our children, the better. Research from the Child Mind Institute recommends: “One way to help kids get better at both setting and respecting boundaries is to give them lots of practice at doing both when they’re younger.” For younger children, this is a helpful guide.
The conversation will mature as your children mature. If you want a straightforward guide on how to talk to your tween or teen, I recommend this recent post from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.
The topic of boundaries is relevant for us adults, too. Here are two powerful articles published over the weekend that approach the topic with a lens of gratitude: The Women I’m Thankful For and Thanksgiving Gratitude for a Father’s lesson.
In this New York Times column, Toronto writer Stephen Marche tackles masculinity and suggests that “a healthy sexual existence requires a continuing education, and men have the opposite.” He points out that “there is sex education for boys, but once you leave school the traditional demands on masculinity return: show no vulnerability, solve your own problems. Men deal with their nature alone, and apart.”
This article by Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center debunks the myths about boys and emotions.
Young adult fiction can be a parent’s best friend when it comes to talking about consent. Author Christa Desir points out that “sexual agency and sexual identity is part of the coming-of-age thing.” Author Aaron Hartzler says: “I can guarantee you: You leave a book about sexual consent on the coffee table, you’ll have a reader … And maybe it’s a way of giving permission to talk about consent.”
A recurring theme in all of these links appears to be empathy. Keep empathy at the core of conversations and keep the dialogue open.
Thank you for reading. I welcome your feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Laurie Fraser, Character Program Director
Blue: Whole School
Yellow: Upper School
Red: Prep School
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