Teach your Children Protective Behaviors Help Us, Help You, Help Them

Themes:

Concept of Safe/Unsafe.

We all have the right to feel safe all the time. Discuss what feeling "safe" feels like. How does your body help warn you that you may be in a scary or unsafe situation? (Your stomach feels "funny," your knees shake, your heart beats hard or fast.) Teach children to trust instincts and say or do whatever they must to take care of themselves. Stress that adventurousness and risk-taking is okay, within the concept of safety. Teach children that we all have a responsibility for other people to feel safe with us also.

Networking.

Nothing is so awful we can't talk with someone about it. Who are your "safe" people? (Trusted others?) Who could you ask for help with any problem? We all need to know at least four people, besides the people we live with, we could ask for help if we have a problem we can't solve ourselves.

Persistence Expectation.

If the first person you ask for help doesn't believe you or can't help you - keep asking until someone helps you solve the problem and you feel safe again.

Strategies:

To maintain control and protect privacy, no one should be allowed to blurt out personal experiences in a group. Learn the "protective interrupting" skill if you are working with a group. Stay in the one step removed problem-solving mode (ex. "Today we're talking about what could someone do if ..." or "what would you say if someone told you ..." or "a friend of mine needs to know ...")

Brainstorming.

Discuss strategies and techniques for staying safe in various potentially unsafe or abusive situations. Use scenarios and ask, "Even if... (this) happened, what could you do to stay safe?" and "Suppose... (this) happened, what could you do to stay safe?" questions. This process develops the ability to see more than one solution to a problem and explore suggested alternatives for safety factors.

A wide variety of topics and issues can be covered using these themes, strategies and ideas, from enticement prevention to the safety issues for childcare "sitters" or runaways.

Ideas Reinforced:

Saying No.

It's important to reinforce empowered responses to help build problem-solving skills and self-esteem, and to develop assertive behavior. Encourage children to take what control they can; remind them to use their network; and let them know that it's always okay to say "NO" in any potentially unsafe situation. Acknowledge that saying no isn't always easy and the possibility exists that saying no might not work. Sometimes a person may feel that it's not safe to say no. Remind them to take the next step and ask themselves what else they could do even if they weren't able to say no.

Never the Child's Fault.

Reinforce that child abuse is never the child's fault. Remind the child that it will be up to the child to ask a trusted adult for help with any problem they can't solve. Reassure that it was good for them to tell about the problem.

Secrets.

Explore the concept of secrets. Secrets should be fun. (Like a birthday or Christmas present that everyone will feel good about.) Such comments as, "If you tell anyone 'our' secret, no one will love us anymore" and, "If you tell about this, they'll send me away" or "If you say anything, I'll tell them you're lying" are threats, not secrets, and it's okay to tell someone you trust about that.

Based on Madison Metropolitan School District's Student Anti-victimization Education (S.A.V.E.) Protective Behaviors Program.