A routine pediatric visit could be the perfect opportunity to teach a child about consent.
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Mother Comforting Her Daughter
Credit: Getty

Parents and health care providers have been more actively discussing how to best teach children of all ages—even babies—about consent. Now, a Michigan-based nurse who goes by nonbinarynurseAJ on TikTok, has weighed in on the conversation by pointing out that pediatricians and pediatric nurses can be actively involved in this effort as well.

Why a TikTok Nurse Asks Pediatric Patients for Consent

In their TikTok, Autumn Jayce, or "AJ," shares, "I ask all of my pediatric patients if I can touch them before I do, no matter how old they are." They note that they might get pushback in the form of a gripe like, "That'll take longer getting vitals and let kids think they control their appointments" and "Kids will think they can say 'no' to adults or healthcare professionals."

AJ's reply: "No, I know." In the caption, they sum it up: "That's the whole point."

The clip was met with applause from TikTokkers. One wrote, "Our pede does the same, she always gives the 'your privates are private' speech when she has to look and makes sure she has permission." Another noted, "Yes, this is so important. My babies' doctors always ask, and it means so much to my girls."

What an Expert Says About Teaching Consent at Doctor Visits

According to Rosalia Rivera, a consent educator and the founder of CONSENTparenting, AJ's suggestion can help kids develop an understanding of their bodily autonomy or "their body belongs to them," their own boundaries, and the concept of consent. "If a pediatrician/pediatric nurse is asking before touch, this helps the child understand the practice of consent and its real world applications," notes Rivera.

Why It's Good News When Kids Say "No"

Kids also need to learn to say "no" to actions related to body safety, as that's key for abuse prevention, points out Rivera. "It helps a child understand that they have a right to use their voice, that they have a right to speak up when they feel unsafe, and that the safe adults in their life will listen and find a way to better explain the health and safety of a situation in an effort to get cooperation versus forcing them," she explains.

Plus, it'll help them learn how to use their voice as they grow up and start to attend medical appointments on their own, especially those related to their reproductive health.

How to Handle Non-Negotiable Procedures

In matters of life and death or if a procedure is absolutely necessary at that moment, a parent, guardian, caregiver, or medical professional can still explain to the child what will happen when they get to the doctor's office, explains Rivera.

She recommends using a script like, "We're going in for (add in reason why), and the doctor will need to (explain the procedure). Because it's necessary, you won't be able to choose not to do it this time. But you will be able to speak up and say how it feels and if you need anything to help you feel better about it. How about we bring your favorite stuffy to help you be brave? Let's pretend we're at the doctor's office and I'll be the doctor and Teddy can be you." And then you can role play out what the visit might be like.

"Depending on the child's age, this can be harder or easier," notes Rivera. "But if a parent has prepared the child ahead of time to explain the process of a medical appointment and has communicated with the medical professional about their body safety and consent practices, this can go a lot more smoothly."

Why It's OK If an Appointment Takes More Time

And as far as appointments taking longer? "Schedule the time for that," says Rivera.

She also recommends that parents bring a note or letter that they can provide the nurse or doctor at the receptionist desk, so they have a heads up about their expectations and body safety and consent practices that they'd like the nurse and doctor to consider. "At the end of the visit, it's a great time to process the visit with your child and if they used their voice—either to agree or say no—that they did a good thing by speaking up!" she says.

The bottom-line, according to Rivera: "It's important to use these opportunities as teachable moments."