Consent is for Everyone

Let’s Talk About Consent…

So, I suppose we were always going to get to this post eventually, because consent is a major part of being part of a home, classroom, or community. It’s something really basic to being a person who interacts with other people.

This post is happening today, though, because the topic has become so utterly and painfully immediate that it clearly needs to be addressed; from the #MeToo movement, to accusations against numerous respected figures, to the Kavanaugh hearings… our own President has even mocked assaults against women. Our children and students hear these things on the radio and online, see them on TV, and know we’re talking about the issue. If we are, so are they, and that makes this an incredibly important time to have this conversation with them.

[RESOURCES FOR DISCUSSING CONSENT ARE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE!]

So, What Can I Do?

This is obviously a really serious and delicate issue, and we understand that it can be nerve wracking to think about bringing this stuff up, but evidence shows that beginning discussions about consent at a young age keeps kids safer, and eases the more mature conversations later on. Besides, there are lots of great tools that can help – the conversation is important, but it doesn’t have to be intimidating!

Before I start, let me explain that we at Collage Colorado are not therapists, and that these suggestions come from our combined years of experience teaching and parenting. You are welcome to disagree about anything we say here, and we welcome discussion! That only helps everybody keep everyone safer, and more respected.

REMEMBER! If you feel you or someone you know is being bullied or their consent is not being respected, tell a trusted adult.

First off, remember to talk to your kids at their level. This might seem obvious, but it’s worth remembering, because many educators’ and parents’ first fear in talking about consent is the belief that they’ll have to talk about “mature subjects”. You don’t! Not unless your students are ready, and if they are they’ll let you know (by asking questions, and because you likely already have a gauge on their maturity level to begin with). Start small… You can always add more detail later, as they need it.

Next, let your kids lead the conversation. Kids get consent at a basic level already. We all do; we all know when something doesn’t make us feel right, or makes us feel like our trust, our space, or our bodies, haven’t been respected. Once you’ve given kids a few prompts (ex. “How does it feel when somebody touches your hair when you don’t want it?”, “How do you feel when you don’t want a hug, and someone gives you one anyway?”), they will likely take off with it, which leads us to…

Now, on to making some agreements! Whether at school or at home, one very good way to reinforce the ideas that you and your kids or students have discussed is to write them down. Get a piece of paper or a board, and record 3-5 agreements about bodies, boundaries, and consent. Make sure your kids or students guide this step, too. Then have everyone (including you) sign the agreement.

After that, let kids ask questions. Really, this is true always, but for tough conversations like this, it’s especially important to check in one last time before the conversation is over. This makes sure there aren’t any hanging problems, misunderstandings, or uncertainties (at least as much as we can manage).

Finally, check in again later. Explicitly talking about consent should be a regular practice… when appropriate. It’s important to check in periodically to make sure that our kids still get it. It can take many times repeating a concept for kids to fully integrate it, and that goes for this concept, too. Making consent a regular check in also makes the conversation infinitely easier than having to have it as a reaction to something later. How often you check in is up to you, but whether parent, educator -whoever – make this conversation a habit.

Talking About The News

Talking about consent is a fantastic time to talk about what’s going on in the news, too, and vice versa, and all the same “rules” apply here, too. Talk about the Supreme Court hearings or #MeToo at your children’s level. And don’t worry about the details; ultimately, they matter far less that the overall concept, that all people have a right to determine what happens with their own bodies, and furthermore a right to stop others from violating or impeding that in any way.

Final Thoughts

Of course there’s so much more to consent than all of this, and the discussions each of us has will look different every time, depending on our kids, depending on what’s going on in the world, and so on. It’s important to know that for children of color, immigrants, and refugees here in the US, consent is an even more tenuous and potentially triggering topic; people’s race and religion can further change the impact of both the consequences and conversations around consent, and it’s our responsibility to be aware of this.

At the end of the day the most important thing is to keep talking. Destigmatizing conversations about consent make the world a safer and happier place for everybody.


Resources:

Although no resource is perfect, there are a few good tools that can help you to discuss consent with your kids or students (or colleagues!), including some fantastic videos.

  • “Consent for Kids” – This video talks about consent at the most basic level, and we believe it is appropriate for children starting around 6 years old.
  • “Consent: It’s as Simple as Tea” – This is consent for adults (and possibly teens). This video contains “bad” language, however it remains one of the best – and most concise – explanations of the importance of consent that you’re going to find. Our own Maníge Giles uses this video and the video above for her OWL classes; both are fantastic introductions to the idea.
  • “The Day You Begin”, by Jacqueline Woodson – This book is not actually about consent, but it is about racism and feeling othered, which is a major issue in addition to consent.

There are lots more resources out there, and you can be sure that as we find them, we’ll share them here on the blog, but in the meantime, if there are other good resources that you’ve found helpful, let us know in the comments!

Collage Colorado Stands Against Bullying

National Bullying Prevention Month is October, 2018!

Happy October Collage Fam!

National Bullying Prevention Month begins today (October 1st), and as you might expect, Collage Colorado will be participating all month! Over the course of the month, look out for special articles, tools, and resources focused on putting an end to bullying, and keep a special eye out for our Spirit Day happenings later in the month.

Cheers Fam!

P.S. We have a big announcement coming sometime this week – stay tuned!


Bullying is an issue that we here at Collage take very seriously; we believe that in schools, it can form the foundation of lifelong bigotry for the bully, and sometimes life-inhibiting trauma for the person being bullied. Besides, bullying ends the conversation about inclusion and collaboration before it can even start, and that can make building community nearly impossible. In all spaces, Collage Colorado, LLC strives to build, enable, and empower safe spaces for all identities. This is especially true as we deal with such a delicate issue.

We thank you for your participation in maintaining that safe space across all of Collage Colorado’s spaces, both in the classroom and online.

For Students: Becoming a Little-A Activist

The Issue…

Lately, for lots of folks, the world has seemed like a pretty crazy and volatile place. New events hit the news or social media every day – police brutality, immigrant children being imprisoned, school shootings, and more – that make us feel anxious and disempowered. It’s a hard feeling to feel, and especially for kids, who often don’t feel especially powerful anyway.

That feeling sometimes makes folks want to act – to do something to make a change or let your voice be heard; you might, for example, have heard about Colin Kaepernick and others kneeling during the national anthem. Adults and older kids frequently do this in the form of protesting, political action, or voting, all of which are important ways to make change. All of that seems pretty impressive, and it’s definitely important work! But kids can’t vote, and although in our family we all protest no matter our age, some families may not feel their kids are ready to go out and protest (let’s be real, big groups can be scary when you’re very little after all). Still, kids want to be heard.

So, what can you do?

Well, one thing to do is to become a Little-A Activist (an [a]ctivist). An [a]ctivist, or Little-A, is someone – kid or adult – who does small things to speak out or make a change. While Big-A Activists do big things like organize and attend protests, Little-A Activists do smaller things like organize fundraisers for a cause, plant gardens, write letters, and more. They’re not the big, flashy things that Big-A’s are doing, but they’re also much safer.

Little-A’s may not be doing big, risky things, but all those smaller things are just as important as the big stuff – sometimes more so. Each and every one of those Little-A things is important, too, and also part of the bigger picture. Little-A’s support the work of the Big-A’s, too; by gently shifting the paradigm – the way people think about the world – where they live, [a]ctivists can change the story, community by community, and help [A]ctivists to focus their work on areas that need BIG action.

Being an [a]ctivist…

There are lots of different ways that you can be a Little-A Activist, an [a]ctivist. Take a moment to brainstorm a few ideas of how you think you could. You can take a look at the list below for some inspiration.

Grow a garden

Grow a garden…

One way that you can be an [a]ctivist is by growing a garden. Planting your own food can save a little money, but it has so many more benefits than that. It can help feed you and your family. It makes your space a little greener, which is good for you and for the planet. And at the same time, it teaches you a little bit about how plants grow, where food comes from, and even how we connect to the world around us. Depending on how much you grow, you might even be able to share a bit with your community.

Volunteer

Volunteer!

Another way that you can be an [a]ctivist is to volunteer. Volunteering looks a lot of different ways, and comes in a lot of forms, but ultimately it means giving your time and energy to others who need it. Sometimes that means spending time preparing food for or serving it to people in need. Other times that can be helping to build something for someone. It can be big, organized volunteering, working as part of a big group, but it can also just be you, offering to do something for someone who can’t. You can (and should) always ask a parent for ideas, or for help finding places that need volunteers. You’ll find there are always lots of opportunities.

Send a message

Send a message…

Another possibility is to send a message (or even lots of messages). Is there something that you’re passionate about? Tell people! You can do this in a lot of ways, too: you could write letters to family or friends (or even politicians, with some help from your parents), explaining why an issue is so important to you; you could make posters for your school or community, illustrating a problem or solution; with help from adults, you could even make your own website or social media page.

Donate

Donate…

Donating is another fantastic way to participate in Little-A Activism, and donating can take a lot of different forms, too. Volunteering is donating time, but you can donate your old clothes, you can donate food, you could even combine your [a]ctivism and sell the food you grow in your garden to donate money to a cause. What donating looks like is up to you (and of course your parents), but it can be a really wonderful way to get involved in your community.

The Possibilities are Endless!

No matter what you decide to do, the possibilities are endless. The most important thing to remember if something is really important to you is to keep working, keep acting. [A]ctivist or [a]ctivist, you’re making a difference.

If you have ideas, suggestions, or questions about Little-A Activism, let us know in the comments below!

When Kids are the Target: Tips for Navigating Scary Times

The world can be a scary place; this is something that as adults – and more intensely as parents – we know all too well. Too often, an awful event happens and floods our TV’s, radios, and news feeds with images and words of something terrible that people have done to others. In the past year, it feels as though we have been reminded of this more than usual… between the school shooting in Parkland, school protests and teacher walk-outs across the country, and immigrant children being separated from their parents and held in cages, a lot has happened that hits close to home for parents and families.

Try as we might to keep our children innocent of the dangers of the world, the reality is that our children are seeing and hearing many of the same things as we are, though frequently without the context we have as adults. Giving that context to our children can be nerve-wracking in its own right (which is why we frequently avoid it), but there are some simple tips to remember that can make it easier to talk about it, and take some of the fear out of it for our kids.

1. “YOU ARE SAFE!”: The very first thing to do when something scary happens in the world is to remind our children that they are safe, and that there are lots of people who are only focused on keeping them that way. Just like adults, the first thing kids look for in a crisis is stability – in the form of people, places, or even things. Reassuring children that in the moment they are safe and secure goes a long way to diminishing stress.

2. BE HONEST: After safety, foremost in talking about a scary event is acknowledging that it is real. This might seem counterintuitive, but the fact is that as caregivers and educators, credibility is key, and pretending that a terrible event didn’t happen, even though it’s likely being mentioned all over the place, only damages that credibility. It’s better to be honest, but perhaps limit the details. Which leads us to our next tip…

3. KEEP IT SIMPLE: The key to talking about any difficult topic with kids is to keep the details simple. Kids want honesty, especially when things are scary or they don’t understand them, but at the same time, kids don’t need all the details, and some of course are going to be too much for even the most mature child to understand (and again, uncertainty is often the scariest part). So, keep your explanations brief and pointed. If your kids ask follow-up questions, answer them (remember #2, about being honest), but again, remember to focus on the details that they can handle.

4. CHECK IN FREQUENTLY: Just because an event has ended, or even that media coverage has stopped, does not mean that it’s been forgotten, and this can be especially true for kids (think of the last time your child saw a scary movie… how many days or weeks did it take for them to stop talking about it?) More than that, kids often are anxious about bringing up tough topics, and they may avoid it, even when they desperately want (or need) to talk about it. That said, make sure to gently check in with your kids regularly for a few weeks after a major event, to be sure that there aren’t lingering fears or concerns.

5. PLAN AN ACTION: Ultimately, when it comes to problems (of any size) kids are just like adults – words are great, but actions make them feel best. Actions help us to push back against the things that scare us. The main thing is figuring out the right sort of action; something that feels significant, but of course not triggering. One really great way to get kids involved is a community action – neighborhood projects or discussions are a good low-key way for families to get involved. Volunteering for a local nonprofit that is working on the issue at hand is another great way. Some parents may choose to get involved in protests (our family is all about this), but if that is how your family decides to be active, make sure that the demonstration you’re attending will be friendly and safe for the kids (otherwise, the demonstration can be as triggering as the initial event!)

Navigating scary events will forever be a challenge, and no checklist can ever totally prepare us for when bad things happen, but hopefully this list helps. If you or your family have other suggestions for cutting the stress and fear when big events happen, please share them in the comments below!