Have you had THE TALK with your kids yet? I don’t mean that talk, but rather the one about strangers and bullies and tricks and danger.
Perhaps you’ve told your children, “Don’t talk to strangers.” “Don’t open the door.” But have you told them why?
Did you let your daughter know that even kindergartners can be mean enough to make her feel ugly, weird and un-liked? Have you told your son that saying to someone, “You can’t play with us,” or, “You’re not my friend,” is a form of bullying?
My children just took their first Play It Safe self defense course. We mainly went for the anti-bully training now that it’s back-to-school season, but the class offered much more than that. I felt uneasy as I watched the kids learn techniques for fending off abductors and ways to battle bullies. While I was happy that the course was providing my kids with tools to handle a variety of situations, I sat there knowing that we would be having a serious talk at home about the dangerous world in which we live.
I had never really spoken to them about “stranger danger” before. I didn’t want to terrify them. I guess part of me was hoping that simply saying, “We don’t talk to strangers” would be enough. But, of course, I know it’s not. Did you catch this Dateline NBC hidden camera special? So eye-opening about how easily kids can be tricked.
During our Play It Safe course, the kids were shown pictures of “strangers” –an older couple, a woman, a man dressed as a physician — and asked to identify the “good” people and the “bad” people. The point of the exercise was to let children know that it is hard to tell who is good and who is bad simply by looking at them. I could feel my kids wondering, “In what way could those harmless looking people be bad?”
They were asked, “Do some people make your stomach feel funny when you meet them?” by instructor Tracie Arlington. She had a cute way of asking it, but I am certain my children did not really understand what she was talking about. So I made a mental note to talk about gut instincts and intuition with them.
The Play It Safe staff acted out a few scenarios of how a stranger might try to trick kids into getting into a car like asking them to help look for a lost dog, offering them candy, etc. I’m sure mine were wondering why anyone would want to take them away.
This is scary stuff to me, but when I got home and asked my kids about their experience, they were not as confused or upset as I had thought they’d be. In fact, they seemed empowered. The role playing really engaged them. From how to turn away from bullying to how to kick adults in the shins hard enough to escape their grasp, they learned a lot from the class.
In The Big Book of Parenting Solutions, author Michele Borba stresses the importance of role playing over and over again so that children feel comfortable with how to handle difficult situations. Watching the Play It Safe staff act out scenarios with my kids illustrated to me how receptive they really are to this kind of instruction.
The best part, to me, of the self defense course was how it opened the door to conversations with my kids that I had been avoiding. What is more important than teaching our children how to be safe in a not-so-safe world? I’m so glad we went.
Play It Safe offers age appropriate self defense for children between the ages of 5-11. For more information visit www.playitsafedefense.com.