Tips for Talking About Sexual Health and Consent
- Take a “3-beat pause” when asked questions that are hard to answer or that you’re not used to talking about. This means, take a few seconds to pause, take a deep breath or (or three), regroup from any initial panic you might have felt rising up, and reflect on what to say. Sometimes we get wrapped up wanting to move quickly through our discomfort that we give answers that aren’t what we would have said if we had given ourselves a moment to regroup. Remember: there is no rush on answering, and if a student asks why you paused, you can let them know the topic is important and you want to give a helpful answer.
- Teach students about the “3-beat pause.” Let students know that if someone asks them a question or invites them to do something (whether it’s a date or a kind of touch), it’s okay for them to ask for a pause to think about it before answering.
- Use clear and concise language. Sometimes our desire to move quickly past or gloss over sexual health issues or uncomfortable power dynamics can lead us to use “softened” or infantilizing language or tone or to minimize things we wish students didn’t know about.
- Remember that we don’t just want to tell students what to say yes or no to; we want to help them learn how to figure out what they want to say yes or no to, and how to manage their feelings if someone else’s desire doesn’t match their own.
- Remember that every family’s values and every individual’s comfort level around sexual expression may not match your own. As much as possible, offer objective information and avoid messages that could be perceived as shaming.