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PARENTING / MAR ‘2019

How to raise our children in the wake of #MeToo

The #MeToo movement has exploded into the global conversation in recent years, supporting victims of sexual harassment and empowering them to speak up. As parents, there is now an obligation to educate our kids and empower them to be strong, respectful and educated young boys and girls.

Words Matilda Jesiolowski

The #MeToo movement started in 2017, when accusations against Hollywood mogul producer Harvey Weinstein created a ripple effect within the entertainment industry regarding sexual harassment and assault. Since then, the movement has trickled down into all layers of society. In the age of #MeToo, how do we help our children to navigate this social landscape and raise them to fearlessly tackle the world in the hope of a fairer future?

The movement has sent shockwaves through the workplace, encouraging women to speak up in the wake of sexual harassment and has also ignited movements such as #TimesUp. The initiative lays its intent bare in the first sentence on its website, which reads, “The clock has run out on sexual assault, harassment, and inequality in the workplace.”

“The clock has run out on sexual assault, harassment, and inequality in the workplace.”

Since the explosion of both #MeToo and #TimesUp into the public conversation, women who had been sexually harassed or assaulted shared their stories all over the world. The movements, which are driven by social media, have changed the conversation by allowing women who once felt like victims to feel empowered to stand up for themselves.

#MeToo has changed the conversation by allowing women who once felt like victims to feel empowered to stand up for themselves.

#MeToo isn’t only about women, and it isn’t only about adults. In the midst of this changing cultural landscape, there comes no better time to teach our children about empathy, relationships, consent and communication. The focus should not only be on raising strong, empowered girls; but also on raising respectful, caring young boys.

The focus should not only be on raising strong, empowered girls; but also on raising respectful, caring young boys.

Tips for raising empowered boys and girls: 

  1. Talk to your children about consent.

Teach your girls to set boundaries and teach your boys to respect them. Have open conversations that foster values of empathy, communication and respect. As a child, consent begins with ‘no means no’. It means teaching them to set boundaries, but also to respect boundaries set by others. It is not only the job for the girl to make a boy or man respect her. It’s these lessons that also need to be taught early to boys.

  1. Encourage both your sons and daughters to be upstanding for gender justice.

The time of #MeToo has been remarkable in the march towards gender equality. A recent study found that engaging with traditional ‘girl’ toys and entertainment (most notably Disney Princesses) can lead to reinforced gender stereotypes and increased vulnerability. Have open conversations with your children about these gender roles and encourage them to engage in all sorts of activities. Girls who play sports, wrestle and build Lego, as well as play with dolls, have a diversified notion of what ‘girls’ do and are therefore more likely to perceive themselves as strong, confident and assertive.

On the other hand, boys are taught to be tough, never cry and always be strong. As parents, we should strive not to reinforce stereotypes that indicate boys are ‘weak’ if they cry or feel emotions. Teach boys, as well as girls, that humans experience millions of emotions and its okay to feel the full range of them.

  1. Educate yourself

It is most important that our children have strong role models to look up to and guide the way in which they perceive themselves, gender stereotypes and social cues.

Of course, these simple tips won’t solve the problem or completely eradicate any notion of sexual harassment in the world that our children will grow up in – but it’s a start. If the next generation of children are instilled with these lessons from the beginning, then perhaps attitudes will change and the problem will be lessened in the future.