Want a Hug?: Consent and Boundaries for Kids
A 2023 CBC Children's Favorite Winner
It’s never too early to teach children about the necessity of boundaries and the power of consent. Developed by therapist Christine Babinec after years of working with survivors of abuse, Want a Hug? is a book about communication, understanding, mutuality, listening, and love. Far from a didactic lecture, this joyful picture book affirms that developing consent skills is a natural, positive, fun, and affirming experience. With colorful, inviting illustrations, children will learn that it’s okay to say no and, perhaps more importantly, it’s okay to say yes. The power is in the choice.
Praise for Want a Hug?: Consent and Boundaries for Kids
"Want a Hug? is a great introduction for young children to learn about consent and respect of every person's boundaries - critically important lessons for all human beings." - Mike Domitrz, Author of Can I Kiss You? A thought-provoking look at relationships, intimacy, and sexual assault
"This book fills a gap that has concerned me for years. We are telling kids to “say no” all the time, which is very important, and now, here’s a book that suggests they can SAY YES, and ACCEPT YES. The book emphasizes that they have rights and can set boundaries, but that they can be affectionate as well. Allowing, even encouraging children to be physically affectionate with each other is a good thing. This is a good read, an important point, and a book that parents and children can discuss together. It will allow them to further help children distinguish between warm and friendly touches and those that are crossing a line.." - Eliana Gil, Ph.D., Founder and Senior Clinical Consultant, Gil Institute for Trauma Recovery and Education, Fairfax, VA
"As a psychologist, I work with folks who have been deeply injured by the lack of respect for boundaries. This book is a fabulous way to teach people, from a young age, the importance of permission before touch. I love how the book gives specific and clear language for what permission sounds like. This gem of a children’s book teaches both the freedom to assert preferences regarding touch as well as how to show respect for the desires of others. If every parent read and discussed this with their children my profession would have less repair work to do in the future." - Dr. Elsbeth Martindale, PsyD, Therapist, Trainer, Supervisor, and Author
"This sweet and helpful little book provides clear, accessible, child-friendly language around consent. Inclusive age-appropriate illustrations show how to ask for consent, how to take No for an answer, and how to say Yes or No. The balance of clarity and complexity make this book a must-have for teaching children about the crucial and nuanced matter of consent." - Ricky Greenwald, Psy.D, founder of Child Trauma Institute, and parent
"Christine has taken the concept of consent around touch to an important audience - children. Trailblazing this conversation is one of the most important endeavors in the prevention of future traumatization. She makes this conversation of permission to touch accessible to children and adults alike, provides clarity to an area that has been historically ambiguous and empowers children to set boundaries around their bodies while respecting those of others." - Athena Phillips, LCSW, Founder, Integrative Trauma Treatment Center
"Want a Hug? is a powerful tool for planting the seeds of consent culture with elementary school children. The welcoming message is strung together with poetic language that young children will engage with easily. Discussing consent with children can feel like a challenging undertaking for many parents and teachers but Want a Hug? offers a resource that they will undoubtedly love and use again and again." - Dr. Laura McGuire, Nationally recognized sexuality educator, trauma-informed specialist, and inclusion consultant at the National Center for Equity and Agency
"A powerful guide for little minds just learning how "yes" and "no" aren't one-way commands but recognitions of mutual respect." - Meghan Laslocky, Writer, Journalist, and Parent
"Want a Hug? should be in every parent’s and teacher’s library! It’s a crucial resource for teaching foundations of consent to young kids and – unlike many other books of its kind – shows kids exactly how to ask for and refuse consent in all kinds of situations. Plus, the diverse and dynamic illustrations make it appealing to kids and adults alike, and the rhyming text is easy for kids to follow and remember. As a sexuality educator who works with elementary school kids, I’ve been looking for a book like this for a long time. Finally, it’s arrived!." - Rebecca Koon, MA, Sexuality Educator and Founder and Director of Education at https://www.everybodytalks.co/
"A much-needed resource for generations to come. This book is a staple for cultivating a culture of empowerment and mutual respect. A mandatory read in any early-childhood curriculum." - Kristen Peterca, LPC, EMDR Certified Trauma Therapist
"Establishing, maintaining, and respecting healthy boundaries is something we can ALL get better at! This book reminds us that violations of physical boundaries also create deep emotional responses- that's something that we too often forget. Engaging for children, and full of practical wisdom for adults, this is a must-read for anyone in the "helping professions"." - Dr. Lydia Hughes- Evans, Ed.D., Founder CEO of Pure Momentum Consulting LLC
If you've paid any attention to the news at all for the last several decades you'll know that it is becoming increasingly important to have clear conversations with our children about consent and the importance of both setting and respecting personal boundaries.
Want a Hug? is written by Christine Babinec, a trauma specialist with years of experience counseling abuse survivors. She knows her stuff and introduces the concept of consent and boundaries in way that is both age-appropriate and approachable, using rhythmic prose, vivid illustrations, and examples that are easy to understand. The result is a quick and easy read, but it's definitely not a one-and-done kind of book. This is one you'll want to revisit and discuss. Though the rhymes don't always hit dead-center and the rhythm feels a bit wobbly, the message is rock solid and incredibly important.
Babinec first addresses the importance of obtaining consent by reminding children that not everyone feels the same way about physical touch. She encourages them to ask permission before touching someone else's body, joining in at playtime, or jumping in to help, so that everyone can feel safe and respected. Babinec highlights the importance of listening to the words that other people say and respecting their boundaries, even if they are different from our own. In this vein, she provides a few key phrases (e.g. Do you want to...?, May I...?, Is it okay if...?, etc.) that children can use to make sure they obtain consent at home, at school, and at play.
Want a Hug? also touches on the more familiar concept of giving consent to others by teaching children that they are in charge of their own bodies and can say 'Yes,' if they wish, to appropriate physical touch, and 'No' if someone tries to touch them in ways they don't like. It encourages them to talk to a trusted adult if someone tries to confuse, blame, or bribe them into giving their consent. Babinec also addresses some often-neglected but always-important nuances surrounding consent, such as:
- The withdrawal of consent -- Even if a child has said 'Yes' in the past, they can say 'No' at any time for any reason and others should respect their decision.
- The absence of 'No' does not mean 'Yes.' Silence or persuasion are not consent.
- If someone does not listen to 'No,' and touches a child in a way that makes them uncomfortable, it is not the child's fault, but the fault of the individual who did not listen.
Despite the mild structural issues I mentioned, Want a Hug? is an invaluable resource for parents who want to help their children understand consent and boundaries. I'd recommend parents flip to the back first and read the author's note to the reader, which gives parents the necessary background information to have these essential conversations. —Mindy Oja, Reading for Sanity