A new school year is upon us! New grade, new classes, and maybe a new school! It can be an exciting time for students, teachers, and parents*, but not without its stressors. Sexual violence on college campuses has become a hot topic over the past years. While discussing the prevention of sexual violence on campus is important, we know that prevention can start any time.

Having important conversations early on can create positive shifts in our culture and make sure everyone is their best self.

So…what does this look like?

Remind them that boundaries are okay.

Early on, we can talk to a child about what boundaries can look like for them and for others. Encourage them to ask friends or family members if it’s okay to give them a hug and, in turn, allow them to determine how they greet or say goodbye to others. This reinforces autonomy over their body, awareness that they’re allowed to decide who comes into their personal space, and support that they should respect the same of others. Reinforcing this concept often and through all stages of development sets a solid foundation for consent in sexual situations…

Boundary conversations can lead to discussions about consent.

Have conversations about what consent looks like in romantic and non-romantic relationships. Establishing and modeling empowering personal boundaries in nonsexual situations reinforces the importance of checking in with the other person and paying attention to others’ responses to identify any discomfort during sex or physical intimacy. It can also remind them that their boundaries are important and should be respected.

Don’t be afraid to have conversations about sexuality.

“The Talk” doesn’t have to happen just once…and it doesn’t have to be about s-e-x. Sexuality is something we experience since birth and the more information we have about our bodies and selves, the better. With that knowledge, we can have age-appropriate conversations as a child grows. Having these conversations early and consistently throughout developmental stages can create an open line of communication between child and parent. Create a safe space for the young person to talk to you. This can help prevent them from finding misinformation elsewhere.

Talk with other adults.

In addition to having these conversations with a child, it’s equally important to check in with adults and professionals working with children. Are there policies and practices in place that support safety and wellness? What’s the school’s sexual harassment policy? It’s your right to ask detailed questions about one-on-one interactions, policies and procedures, and background checks for all staff and volunteers. This also sends a clear message to schools and youth-serving organizations that other adults are invested in keeping everyone safe from harm.

Continue learning with these resources:

* We use “parents” throughout this and future posts to describe caring adults who serve as a child’s primary caregiver. The relationship can be biological, legal, social, or emotional. NJCASA recognizes and celebrates the many ways people define “family” and their role within a family.