• Leah Jewett

Bringing up consent on Bringing Up Britain



Excitingly, last week Outspoken Sex Ed co-founder Yoan Reed was featured on the BBC Radio 4 series Bringing Up Britain, which addresses parents’ questions about sex, relationships and gender stereotypes.


In the 43-minute episode How should I prepare my son for adolescence? (BBC, 22/9/21) Yoan – with her trademark brilliant insight! – explains how young people want to learn about sex and relationships at home, how to start the consent conversation with a 6-year-old and how a game you can play during dinner lets your child act out “yes” and “no”…


  • This is no surprise, but most young people say in surveys that they don’t know enough about sex and relationships by the time they are ready to have a sexual experience. They want sex education from school and health professionals – but also from parents. Actually they do want to learn at home…


  • So how can you talk openly at home about sex and relationships? You wouldn’t expect to have your child pass a maths exam by giving them a chat the night before. Think about this as learning rather than as a piece of information you need to impart


  • Mothers tend to give their kids more education about sex and relationships than fathers. Boys often are left out or marginalised in this conversation, because mothers are also more likely to give that information to their daughters

  • Laying the foundations of consent starts really early, and it’s got nothing to do with sex. Talk about sharing toys and food, about what your child wants and how they can ask for it. Your toddler will be interested in their own body. Instead of using a pet name for private body parts, use the correct name. If you teach your child the correct terminology at a very young age – and they know that “your body belongs to you” and other people have bodies that belong to them – later on that creates a conversation about when it’s right to touch someone else or not…

  • It’s really important for parents to understand that their child has the right to say no to physical touch. We want children to understand this in order to keep themselves safe. That includes your child not having to hug or kiss their aunty if they don’t want to, because that is their right. If they are happy and comfortable in expressing their own boundaries, that should be celebrated and respected


  • Consent is not given only by a yes or no that you can hear – sometimes yes or no is implicit. Kids need to learn to read those cues in themselves and from other people. Practise this with a game at the dinner table. You can say: “Little Jonny, do you want some more salad?” And if Jonny really doesn’t want more salad you can say: “How would you say no to me without actually saying it out loud?” Then you can have this game where you can teach him that he can shake his head, he can turn his body away, he can make a facial expression that is a firm no and doesn’t look very happy. But you need to do this game together! You need to do the same thing he does, because your child needs to recognise what consent looks like from other people. So ask others at the table: “How would we all say yes without actually saying it?” Stand up with open arms to say yes; cross your arms and turn away to say no. It’s about using an everyday opportunity to practise saying yes or no without being verbally explicit

  • If you teach your child, at the age of 6, that it’s OK to say no to physical touch, then you are already teaching them about sexual consent for later on…





Yoan Reed is co-founder of Outspoken Sex Ed and director of Teaching Lifeskills Listen to Yoan from minute 26.30 to 32.40 on How should I prepare my son for adolescence? (BBC Radio 4, 22/9/21)

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