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How can virtues protect teens from becoming perpetrators or victims of sexual misconduct?

By helping our kids understand the sacredness of their own bodies from a very young age we can inculcate the virtues necessary to prevent sexual misconduct.  Teaching and setting clear boundaries around how to be with others and setting clear boundaries around appropriate touching is paramount to relational health. But how does a parent do that?

We can start by having honest and candid discussions about gender roles and how they’ve evolved over the past century. There are great children’s books that reflect the realities of gender in today’s society.  Traditionally, females are more comfortable with touch than males. A ‘woman’s touch’ is generally considered to be maternal, caring and gentle, but men can often misconstrue touch from a female (especially when she's attractive) as a sexual advance. Males touch each other less, and the male touch is interpreted as paternal, dominant and powerful.  

Thankfully, gender stereotypes are growing and changing. Males are more attuned to and accepting of their ‘feminine’ side.  Women are tapping into the ‘masculine energy’.  This gender revolution is fueling humanity’s journey to achieving equality. That’s all great but, how do we  teach our kids about preventing sexual misconduct?

This discussion requires parental courage and ‘time in’ with our kids without distractions.  

Our bodies are our sacred trust; practice respect – they are for us to care for by getting ample sleep, exercise and good nutrition. We must learn to love and care for ourselves.

Other peoples’ bodies are sacred; practice consideration – ask before you hug, kiss or touch. Practice assertiveness when personal touch boundaries are violated.

Have candid conversations about the virtues of respect, consideration and assertiveness.  Talk about situations that constitute hugging, kissing, petting and intercourse based on your family’s values.

Describe sexual misconduct. Explain that it is a felony. Describe, based on your values, a healthy consensual sexual relationship. If this seems challenging, there are great books available to help. 

Respect, consideration and assertiveness are virtues we can all use to prevent sexual misconduct.  As parents, teachers, caregivers and coaches, we need to understand what these mean - the ‘what for’, the ‘why bother’ and the ‘how to practice’ -  so we can model what it looks, sounds and feels like to be respectful, considerate and assertive. By demonstrating these virtues in action, we help our kids to become respectful, considerate and assertive teens and young adults.

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