As parents, grandparents, carers, teachers and other people who support children, one of our priorities is to keep kids safe.
Of course, this isn’t always in our control. Unless we wrap our kids in cotton wool and never let them explore the world, they are going to take risks and challenge themselves. And inevitably, no matter how much adults may try to protect them, they will experience difficult emotions and be exposed to potential dangers from time to time. Experiencing the rich and varied territory of feelings, emotions, relationships and changing circumstances is part of how they learn and grow.
So how do we support them to navigate the strange and wonderful world around them with awareness and confidence?
Recognising body signals
One of most valuable skills children can have is the ability to recognise when they feel unsafe. They can do this by learning to recognise and interpret body signals. Sometimes called their ‘early warning signs’, body signals tell them when they feel unsafe or under pressure. For example, they might notice that they have a tight tummy or they feel tense in the shoulders. Their legs might go weak or they might not be able to speak. As anger is mounting, fists can form, the jaw tightens, the face hardens.
Equally, it is important that children know how it feels in their body when they are safe and at ease. They may feel relaxed, energetic, confident or free to speak up. They may have an open body posture or may express their comfort by smiling or connecting with others.
Knowing what to do next
Once a child knows how to recognise when they are feeling unsafe, they then need to know what to do next. Who should they tell? Who can they trust?
It is important to have conversations with children about what they would do if they found themselves in a challenging or confronting situation. Talking through options and developing a plan can help reduce fear and build confidence.
It can also be reassuring for parents and carers to know that, should their child find themselves in a difficult situation, they have strategies for managing that situation in proactive and positive ways.
Tell a Trusted Adult card set
Due for release later this year, Tell a Trusted Adult is a set of 35 cards to support conversations with children around safety. These beautifully-designed cards come in pairs, one depicting a child feeling safe and one depicting a child feeling unsafe or under pressure.
The cards are designed to help children build their social and emotional literacy, especially how their body communicates distress or concern. Working with the cards will support children through transitions, help them identify their circle of trusted adults, and build their confidence and ability to act.
Developed by teacher, Sharon Hynes, and designer/teacher’s aid, Katerina Meda, this card set also includes simple, fun activity cards and ten lesson plans with adaptations for a range of pre-school and primary school ages. Sharon and Katerina have created a term’s worth of lesson plans aligned with the Australian State and Federal curriculum. However, these activities and lesson plans work equally well with groups in any setting (such as children’s services or foster care) and can be readily used one-on-one with children anywhere.
35 laminated, full-colour cards, 130mm x 190mm
polypropylene box, 60-page booklet
Booklet authors: Sharon Hynes with Sue King-Smith & Karen Bedford
Illustrator/designer: Katerina Meda
Cat no: 4980 AU $59.50 (includes GST)
Card set (as above), PLUS:
10 lesson plans (A4 PDFs with activities tailored to ages 3-10+) and 6 full-colour posters (A3 PDFs)
Cat no: 4981 AU $99.00 (includes GST)