In session one of the “Staying Safe” powerpoint, we focus on Psalm 139:14 – we are fearfully and wonderfully made by a God who loves us, who made our bodies. The children learn body ownership – their bodies belong to them and they have a right to have input into what happens to their bodies. We focus on different types of touch:
- Good touch – hugs and high fives and pats on the backs and kisses from Mom and Dad. We learn that God made us to need good touch, and that good touch can help us feel happier, healthier and stronger. We learn that parts of our bodies are good for sharing touch, while other parts are private. We learn that there are appropriate times and places to share good touch.
- Hurtful touch – some hurtful touch is safe (like shots) because it helps us stay healthy. Some hurtful touch is not safe (like hitting and kicking). We do not have to share our bodies with hurtful touch that is not safe. We have the right to say “NO!”
- Confusing touch – this type of touch can start out feeling good but then start to feel uncomfortable (like tickling). Or it may feel safe with some people but not safe with others (like kissing). We have the right to talk about and say no to touch that is confusing.
- No Way touch – it is not okay for an adult to punch, kick or choke a child. It is not okay for anyone to touch or look at a child’s private parts, except sometimes doctors or parents when they are helping. We learn that children can always talk about and say no to No Way touch.
We also learn that anyone means ANYONE. While many programs focus on “stranger danger”, and rules for interacting with strangers are reviewed, most No Way touch happens with someone the child knows.
We learn that unsafe or No Way touch is NEVER the child’s fault, and the child can always talk about it with a trusted and safe adult.
In classroom counseling this month with Mrs. Hayes, the students are working on “Heart Language”- communicating to one another in love (1 Corinthians 13:1). Through the story Mumble Bear, the school is practicing the differences between communicating as a mouse, a monster or a (role) model. Ask your child to explain these categories to you. Assertive language that is honest and loving, such as I-messages, isn’t always easy, isn’t always a cure all, and takes practice but it’s worth the effort as it grows us toward the goal of “growing as Jesus did in wisdom, stature, and in favor with God and man.”
In Safe Touch, session two, we focus on feelings and secrets. We learn that God made our feelings, and that our feelings can gives us clues about what might be going on. We learn about the “uh oh” feelings, that uncomfortable feeling that something isn’t right. We also learn that feeligns can be tricky, so it’s always important to talk to a trusted adult about our feelings.
The “uh oh” feeling about a touch is one clue that the touch might be unsafe or a No Way touch. Another big danger clue is if someone tries to force a child or trick a child. We use puppets to show the meanings of force and trick.
Secrets can be tricky! We learn the differences between fun “surprise” secrets and unhealthy or dangerous secrets. And we reinforce the rules about secrets – a child can ALWAYS tell a trusted adult ANY secret, and trusted adults like Mom and Dad are ALWAYS except from secret keeping promises. We practice ways to tell a mom or a dad or a trusted adult secrets.
Talking to trusted adults is an important way to stay SAFE. Each child will name FIVE grownups they trust and who they will talk to about secrets, touch and feelings. We discuss the reason for having five (so a safe someone who knows how to help will be available.)
And we review that Unsafe Touch is never the child’s fault and that it is ALWAYS okay to talk.
Last month I spoke to all the students about ways to practice empathy. Empathy is a skill to be learned just like reading or math facts. And since research shows that empathetic classrooms reduce bullying significantly, it is vital to our students’ wellbeing to practice this skill.
One of the resources I used to share about empathy was the book How Full Is Your Bucket by Tom Rath. When Felix’s bucket was empty because of a grumpy morning and teasing, he hoped others would have a bad day, too. But when his bucket was full because of praise and encouragement, he wanted to help others. He also learned that when he helped fill someone else’s bucket through kindness or a good deed, HIS bucket got filled, too!
I encouraged the students to practice filling others’ buckets this school year. The teachers and students shared with me some of the bucket fillers they’ve seen:
- Nathan gave his squirrel picture to a student who didn’t get one but really wanted one.
- Jacob swept up all the trash in the cafeteria for Mr. Steve.
- Andrew tied another student’s shoes in carpool.
- Trey gave his snack to another student because he knew she liked them.
- Maddie and Peyton picked up trash without being asked.
- The whole class congratulated each other after a social studies jeopardy game. Great sportsmanship!
- Avery took the milk basket for a student who was having trouble.
- Sam noticed that another student needed a napkin, and he got one without being asked.
There are many, many more “bucket filling actions” happening every day around Christian Academy. What great examples of responsible, obedient, compassionate kids!
There’s a reason counselors are stereotyped as asking, “How do you feel about that?” – because identifying and understanding feelings is a key component of empathy. And empathy is at the foundation of the Golden Rule – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you (Matthew 7:12).
Identifying emotions – in ourselves as well as in others – is a learned skill. Some kids pick it up faster than others (much like the multiplication tables), but everyone benefits from practice.
Feelings Charades offers a fun way to practice the skill of displaying emotion and guessing another’s emotion.
For two or more players.
Goal: To act out an emotion without words so that others can guess the emotion and respond appropriately.
How to Play: One player chooses an emotion (you can paste emoticons to index cards or simply write feelings words – happy, mad, sad, scared, tired, guilty, shy, etc. – on strips of paper) That player thinks about what might make him/her feel that way and then acts out the emotion without words.
Other players attempt to name the emotion. The player who correctly identifies the emotion then chooses an empathetic response (I.e. “Are you sad?”) gets to go next.
Advanced Level: The person guessing the emotion also asks an empathetic follow up response (I.e. “Are you sad? Would you like to talk about it?”)
Super-Advanced Level: In addition to acting out the emotion, the player also acts out what he might do to change that emotion (i.e. change from mad to calm by taking a deep breath).
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15).
The beginning of every school year brings questions and concerns about our child’s well-being – Will she make friends? Will other kids be mean to him? What if she’s bullied? Christian Academy does not tolerate bullying, and we strive to promote a culture of compassion and respect. However, we have found that there is often confusion about what bullying is and is not.
What is bullying? Bullying is:
• Physical, social or emotional harm.
• An imbalance of power (size, numbers or popularity).
Because elementary students are in the process of learning social skills and maturing, it can sometimes be difficult to assess whether a mean action or remark is bullying or if it is a case of immature social skills, an accident or a misunderstanding.
At Christian Academy we strive to teach students to “responsible, obedient, compassionate kids” and to develop empathy – an understanding of another’s viewpoint. Research shows that empathy-based training in elementary school reduces instances of bullying through high school!
This year, we will practice the following in order to develop a culture of compassion:
• Basing our self-worth on God’s love for each person.
• Accepting and celebrating our different talents, abilities and appearances.
• Demonstrating kindness and compassion toward everyone through words and deeds.
• Responding to mean words/actions in ways that stop (rather than escalate) the meanness.
• Understanding another’s point of view.
• Seeking advice from trusted adults about how to handle difficult situations.
The above skills will be practiced all year in your child’s classroom and throughout the school days. In addition, I will meet with each class on August 29 for an empathy workshop.
We value your support and your input in the goal to develop students with a heart for God who grow as Jesus did in wisdom, stature and in favor with God and man. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.