On Wednesday, we had a “Kidpower” (www.kidpower.org) workshop at INTL*. It was for parents and faculty, and the idea behind it was to give parents and faculty some common approaches to working with the students about personal safety. Personal safety in a school environment is mostly related to interacting with other students, so as to avoid unsafe situations or bullying. Often times, those who are seen as “bullies”, especially in the younger grades, are not aware that their behavior or movements are hurtful, so helping students learn how to send clear messages and use appropriate body language is key for helping them to be strong and define their comfort zone and personal space.
I took away a few key points from the workshop that I think are valuable to share. The idea is that these points are what we can all teach and reinforce these skills, or even use them ourselves!
1.Be “calm, aware, and confident”: Having this attitude will reduce the chances of being bothered to begin with.
2.If you are in a situation that may not be safe, move out of reach and go check with a trusted adult: Be it a strange dog, a person we don’t know, or other children are playing in what might be an unsafe way, keep one’s self safe and check first.
3.Use “mouth closed power”: We don’t have to respond if people are talking to us in a way that feels uncomfortable, or if we’re upset and might say something that could be hurtful to someone else.
4.If someone is touching you in a way you don’t like, firmly move their hand back to them and say, “please stop”. If that doesn’t work, move out of reach and say, “I said stop”: This sends a clear message and puts one in a place to easily go and check if need be. It can be used in any situation with physical contact.
5.If someone tells you not to tell, it’s okay to say you won’t and then tell: This is for more coercive situations, but a time when it is okay to tell a little lie if one feels one is not safe.
6.If an adult won’t listen to you asking for help, put a hand firmly on his/her arm and say, “I have a safety problem,” then tell the whole story: Sometimes adults can be busy or think it isn’t really an issue, and need a clear message in order to really listen to the whole story.
Overall, the message from Kidpower is that children (and adults) need to actually practice these skills, like any other skill, so that they can apply them in real life. If these ideas strike a chord with you, please practice them – or any other safety and anti-bully skills.
*In 2020, the International School of the Peninsula (ISTP) formally changed its name to Silicon Valley International School (INTL) to better reflect its bilingual programs, location, and international values.