Teens holding hands to show consent


Consent is permission for something to happen or an agreement to do something. For consent to occur, the people involved must be able to talk about what they want with respect for themselves and the other(s). Consent is important for kids to learn about from an early age. It can lead to better relationships with family, friends, peers and, eventually, romantic partners.

Consent involves your child or teen knowing and respecting their own boundaries and those of others. Boundaries are the limits that a person sets that define when a behaviour (theirs or someone else’s) is not okay and makes them uneasy. Understanding consent has two sides. The first is knowing they can joyfully say yes if they want. It’s also embracing the fact that a partner has the right to choose to say yes or no.


Consent is also vital when your child or teen interacts with others online. Like many other things, sexting (verbal) requires approval.  Your teen cannot share sexted pictures or videos without the written permission of the person(s) in the photos or videos. They also need to know that sharing sexual images or video of someone online and the person is, or appears to be, under 18 is child pornography. This may be the case even if the picture is of them.

For more information on sexting, go to Technology & Media.


Talking about Consent with Young Children

Talking to your child about consent is important when they’re young. Here are some tips that will help your child begin to understand consent:

  • Help your child understand that their bodies are their own. They have the right to make decisions about their body. This includes letting your child decide if they want a hug or kiss from family or friends.
  • Encourage your child to pay attention to other people’s body language. It will help them see other people’s cues about personal boundaries. For example, a person may take a few steps back to protect their personal space. Or they may move over slightly when someone sits too close to them.
  • Practice with your child what they can say and do if they’re in a situation where they don’t feel comfortable.
  • Encourage your child to speak up if something doesn’t feel right.
  • Encourage your child to ask for consent (e.g., ask first if you can hug someone).
  • Teach your child to respect ‘no’ messages. An example is when your child is playing with another child and the other child says “Stop”. They must respect that message and stop right away. On the other hand, give family members and friends the same message. For instance, if they are tickling your child, and your child says “Stop”, they must also respect that.
  • Teach your child about online safety and why they need to protect their privacy. Explain why they must get consent before sharing something online that is about someone else, like a photo or video.

For more information, go to Technology & Media.

‘Okay’ vs. ‘Not Okay’ Touch

One way people form connections and attachments to each other is through touch. Touch, like hugs, kisses, cuddles, pats on the back, or high fives, are important because they can make us feel loved and cared about. However, your child must understand the difference between an ‘okay’ touch and a ‘not okay’ touch.

There are five main messages behind this idea:

  1. Teach your child that their body is their own and no one can touch it or look at it without their permission. Improper touches are wrong and are against the law. Talking about this idea at an early age, using the correct name for body parts, and teaching your child which parts of their body are “private” will help them understand what is okay and not okay.
  2. Help your child recognize how they feel when they are in safe, uncomfortable and unsafe situations. Emphasize that your child should pay attention to how a touch makes them feel and to those ‘uh-oh’ feelings. Even if a touch feels good or is from someone they know, if they get an ‘uh-oh’ feeling, the touch is not okay.
  3. Be a trusted adult–one your child can say anything to. Talk to them about who the other trusted adults in their lives are. They could be anyone from another family member or close family friend to their neighbour, teacher or coach.
  4. There are no secrets around touch, and all kinds of touch can be talked about. Secrets that make them anxious, uncomfortable, scared or depressed are not good. Encourage them to share them with you or another trusted adult.  However, it’s important that your child also knows that if the touch of a trusted adult gives them an ‘uh-oh’ feeling, they need to tell you.
  5. Always believe what you’ve been told. When your child tells you they have been touched, treated, or spoken to in a way that feels wrong, believe them. Try to get more information without stressing your child. Keeping them safe and helping them feel safe will be vital.

Sexual Consent

Sexual activity includes kissing, sexual touching and sexual intercourse. Sexual intercourse can include oral, anal, vaginal and hand sex. Consent means everyone agrees to the sexual activity and is clear on what they’re agreeing to. Consent must be given for each sexual activity, each time. Sexual consent confirms the right that each person has to make their own choice about sexual activity.

Tips for Talking about Sexual Consent with Older Children and Teens

It’s important to talk to your child or teen about consent. Here are some tips for talking about sexual consent:

  • Talk about your family values and sexuality.
  • Talk about personal boundaries.
  • Have your child think about situations where they might have to be clear about personal boundaries.
  • Talk about sexual consent, coercion, harassment, manipulation and sexual assault. Tell your child they have a voice, and you’ll always listen to them.
  • There are social and emotional harms from sexual assault. Talk about these impacts with your teen or child so they understand why they must be careful about consent.
  • Talk about guarding their own privacy and the privacy of others. This includes talking with them about being safe online, sexting and sharing images that were not meant to be shared.

For more information, see Technology & Media.

Important Points about Sexual Consent

When it comes to sexual consent, there are some important ideas to understand and talk about with your child.

  • Consent is freely given. Agreeing to do something is consent only if the person wants it.
    • If a person feels forced, or there’s something to lose by saying ‘no’, it’s not consent.
    • If a partner pressures, pesters, or guilt trips someone into having sex, they don’t have consent.
    • If a person fears for their safety or fears the loss of a relationship if they disagree, it isn’t consent.
    • ‘No’ always means ‘no’ whether given verbally or non-verbally. A lack of a positive, freely given ‘yes’ is also a ‘no’.
  • Silence, not answering, or not resisting physically is not consent.
  • People who are drunk, high, sleeping or unconscious can’t consent in the legal or practical sense. To clearly talk about consent, both people need to be sober and alert.
    • For consent to happen, a person must have the chance to communicate ‘no’.
  • Flirting, clothing, sexual texts, or social media messages are not consent. Consent can’t be implied based on these things.
  • Everyone agrees and clearly knows what they’re agreeing to. A healthy consent talk includes asking for consent and giving a clear answer.
    • If there isn’t agreement at first, then they work out a solution both can agree to.
    • When someone consents, they are confident in their decision.
    • Body language and what is said should both give the same message.
    • If there is any doubt, they need to ask again to ensure they have true consent.
  • Consent can’t be assumed.
    • Your child or teen needs to know that they can’t assume they have consent because they’re in a relationship.
    • They also can’t assume they have consent because they got it for the same activity before.
    • They must ask and be given consent each time an activity begins, changes, or continues.
  • All those involved need to feel safe and comfortable.
    • It is important to feel safe and comfortable with themselves, their body, their partner(s) and the situation.
    • It creates a setting where each person can freely participate in conversations about consent.
    • It also makes it much more likely that when they do have sex, it will be positive for everyone.
  • Teach your child or teen that consent can be taken away at any time. For this reason, they must keep checking that they have consent during sexual activity.
  • Consent is necessary for sexting.
    • If your teen decides to send a sext, it should always be their choice.
    • Sending a sext one time doesn’t mean they have to do it again.
    • Sending a private sext to someone doesn’t give that person permission to share it with other people.

For more information, see our information on Sexting.

Consent and the Law

In Canada, the age of consent is the age when a person can legally agree to sexual activity. The age of consent law applies to all forms of sexual activity. It includes everything from kissing and fondling to sexual intercourse.

The law states that a 16-year-old can consent to sexual activity, except if the:

  • other person is in a position of authority (e.g., teacher, coach, or employer)
  • sexual activity will take advantage of the person (e.g., pornography, prostitution, or trading sex for safety)

There are ‘close in age’ exceptions to this law:

  • 14- and 15-year-olds can consent to sexual activity if the partner is less than five years older.
  • 12- and 13-year-olds can consent to sexual activity if the partner is less than two years older.
  • Kids younger than 12 cannot consent to any type of sexual activity. Having sex with a child younger than 12 is against the law and is sexual abuse.

What to Know about Sexual Assault

  • Sex without consent is sexual assault.
  • Sexual assault can happen to anyone of any age and gender. Anyone of any age and gender can commit sexual assault.
  • Messages about how to prevent being sexually assaulted (e.g., don’t wear revealing clothes) don’t prevent assaults. Instead, they make people who were assaulted feel shame and as if they brought it on themselves. Of course, they didn’t–but their shame may keep them from getting needed support services. These messages also excuse the perpetrator, which is wrong.

What to do if Your Child Is Sexually Assaulted

If your child or teen has been assaulted, they may come to you for help. You will likely go through all types of feelings and reactions (e.g., shock, anger, fear, guilt, or anxiety)–these are all normal. The way that you respond to your child or teen is very important. Positive and supportive responses are more likely to help your child as they recover from the assault.

If your child or teen tells you that they’ve been sexually assaulted, here are some supportive things you can do or say:

  • Listen. Give them your full attention. Let them know you hear what they told you.
  • Stay calm. Keep your focus on their well-being. Staying calm will help them feel supported and safe.
  • Believe. Believe what they tell you. Say, “I believe you.” Let them know that talking about the assault takes courage and strength.
  • Be compassionate. You can say, “You do not deserve this.
  • Stress that it’s not their fault. Survivors usually blame themselves. Remind them that only the perpetrator is responsible for what happened.
  • Know where to get help. Ask them if they’ve reached out to anyone besides you for help. Let them know you can help them call a distress helpline or sexual assault support agency, if they’d like. It’s important to listen and respect their choices about what they want for support.

For more information, visit our Additional Resources page.


Helpful Tools


Understanding Consent video

For ages 12 and up.

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