Medford, Mass – At age seven, the twins are becoming more and more independent at a rate I can barely manage. It did not seem like a super big deal last year when they started going to the park by themselves, because the park is only one block from our home. But these past few months, they have started pushing their boundaries even more.
The twins are friendly, trusting kids who like to explore places and interact with people. I encourage this attitude. I have not taught them “stranger danger” because I don’t want them to live in fear (and because there is a far greater danger of abduction or abuse by someone they know). But I recognize that they also need to know how to be safe as they set out into the world on their own; and they need to how to respond to a threatening situation.
Last month, two incidents occurred on the same day. First, S decided to set up a Mini Dollar Tree. He stood on the street corner and sold pencils (and other junk) to passers-by. He spent much of the morning talking to strangers. Later, when V was supposed to be playing at the park, he rode his bike to local pizzeria to treat himself to a Hawaiian Punch. Nothing bad happened (except that V threw out his Hawaiian Punch without drinking it when I came looking for him). But alarm bells went off in my head that day. I’m not always there to keep them safe; they have to be able to do it themselves.
A few days later, I signed them up for KidSafe, a self-defense class for kids at Impact Boston. KidSafe teaches “age appropriate” skills, such as:
- Using voices and body language for protection and to get help.
- Physical techniques that children can use to escape from a dangerous situation
- Accurate reporting of potentially harmful situations and people
- Recognizing and reporting inappropriate touch
The class was two full afternoons (eight hours in total), so it was a major commitment that took much of the weekend. At the end of the second afternoon, the kids did a demonstration of their skills with some role playing. They showed how to assert oneself if a friend is not playing fair; how to remove oneself from a bullying situation; and how to escape from a dangerous adult. (Kick ’em in the shins!)
Some of these skills seem fairly obvious–like using your voice to tell somebody to stop doing that. But kids (especially girls, by the way) get it hammered home that they must play nicely, be polite and tolerate others. I think it’s important to give them permission to speak out (and do more) when something is not right.
I don’t want to scare my kids, but I do want them to be aware of the potential dangers. And I want them to feel empowered to do something about it.