Ah, the prom. Young adults all dressed up and feeling very much an adult. From the all-important ask, to the selection of the perfect dress or tux; the prom is clearly an American rite of passage. Nails are done, parents proudly take photos at a picturesque spot, shed a few tears, and then off they go.
In the days or maybe just hours leading up to the big prom moment, many parents will engage in discussion regarding teens topics that I know I covered with my own son – no drinking and driving, no drugs or alcohol, respecting the rights and wishes of a date, being aware of the choices being made by others around him, etc.
But we owe our kids so much more; we need to have the broader conversation. We need to talk about rape and dating violence. We must talk about consent.
For too many years our society has avoided in-depth conversations with our youth about anything that is even remotely related to sex. As a parent, I know that these conversations can be uncomfortable and even embarrassing. My parents never even remotely had a conversation with me about sex as I was growing up, other than to never get pregnant until I’m “much older”. But today, the conversation can’t be just about sex, virginity and pregnancy. And the conversation can’t wait till the afternoon of prom.
So today, before your children are even old enough to attend a prom, have that conversation – talk about consent. Here’s an excerpt from a blog post, written by Kristopher Kole Wyckhuys, Prevention Education Specialist at HAVEN that defines consent.
“CONSENT means to have permission. In the negotiation of sexual consent the standard must now be embraced that consent is mutual and explicitly verbal. It is enthusiastic and free of intoxicants, while understanding that this consent is based on free choice, it is a process and is active and not passive.”
We need to talk to our sons and daughters about respecting their partner at all times. We need to break through the myths about self-control (yes, males can stop themselves), that “maybe” is not yes, that “making out” doesn’t mean sex is a given, that buying the ticket or dinner doesn’t mean sex is expected, and that fear has no place in a relationship.
Tough, uncomfortable and embarrassing conversations – absolutely. And if you wait till the waning hours before prom, they will be even tougher to give and to hear. So don’t wait till prom, or homecoming , or graduation, or the first date. Don’t inadvertently teach your child that consent doesn’t matter. Start talking and modeling consent and healthy relationships now, it is never too early.