When I talk to young people about their sexual health and consent, I feel inspired by their honesty and interest in learning, despite a few snickers here and there.

Recently I had the opportunity to speak with high school seniors about the issue of consent. For these students, this topic is timely because of their imminent departure from their home nest to the wilderness of college. As students navigate the wilds of unchartered territory, understanding the many facets of consent will enable them to make wise and safe decisions.

Parents must talk to their children about consent.

Parents have an opportunity to lecture, I mean offer advice, about potentially unsavory situations they may find themselves in and the importance of consent. Listed below are ten talking points that will stimulate conversation with your young person.

Mother with her arm around teen daughter while having an honest conversation about consent
Talking to your child about consent is an important conversation.


  1. Discuss consent. Explain that no means no, but more importantly, yes means yes. When given mixed signals, a romantic partner may experience confusion. For example, a person may say no, but bat their eyes seductively and grin from ear to ear. An enthusiastic yes is necessary before proceeding with romantic advances. No won’t cut it in this case.
  2. Coercion occurs when a person forces or threatens another person to do something they do not want to do. Lines like, “if you love me, you will” or “if you don’t, I’ll tell everyone this…” This is not consent.
  3. When a person is drugged, drunk, or asleep (passed out), they are unable to give consent. They are incapacitated. They cannot legally give their consent to engage in sex, therefore sexual advances are off the table.
  4. 1 in 5 women are raped.
  5. 1 in 10 sexual assault victims are men according to RAINN.
  6.  6.4% of men commit sexual assault. Of those, half are repeat offenders with an average of 6 rapes each. Heed the warning: If someone warns to stay away from a certain individual because of their reputation, listen.
  7.  It is paramount for women to attend social events in groups of two or more. If they attend a party together they must all leave the party together. If the really cute guy wants to spend more time with one of the women as they depart the event, have them exchange phone numbers and continue the conversation the next day.
  8.  Be an upstander, not merely a bystander. If your young person notices someone taking advantage of an inebriated person, they should intervene with distraction tactics to separate the individuals. See to it that the almost-victim gets safely home. Discuss with your child what these tactics might look like.
  9. Encourage your son or daughter to lead by example. Most people are good people: You’d be surprised how many guys will be more than happy to follow a chivalrous leader rather than the bully.
  10. Tell your child you love them and will always be there for them.
Explain the importance of sticking with friends at parties.

Going off to college or living independently is an exciting and necessary part of a young person’s growth and development. Teaching your children how to think through the hard stuff enables them to move along that path with confidence.