Surviving Kindergarten: Teaching Self-Defense Without Scaring Them to Bits.

I would consider myself a very protective parent and have spent the last four years avoiding dangerous situations. For example, we don't go to fast food restaurants with public play places, etc. I'm afraid of the germs and unnecessary risk of injury.  I recently had a light bulb moment and realized I've never had the stranger danger TALK with my girl.  She's learned her manners, independent toilet/hygiene routines, and how to spell her name. Is she ready to defend herself against strangers and even acquaintances as she heads off to school each day?

Learning the names of important adults.
By age four most children can identify who the important adults are in their lives. I told my girl the names of the three people who can pick her up from school. There are two more names on her school registration for special circumstances where next of kin are not available. I explained that her teachers would let her know if someone different was going to pick her up.

Be calm and talk often.
Be sure to use a calm voice and talk to your children about their day on a regular basis.  I've encouraged my daughter to speak up for herself and not allow anyone to boss/hit/push/call names.  Ask them how friendships are going. Be specific and ask open-ended questions.  "What sorts of games did you play at school?" "What are your friends names?" "Has anyone done something to make you feel bad/sad/mad?"

I'm still learning to coach her through these first weeks of all day kindergarten. She has had tears about "mean" children.  Getting to the truth of the matter sometimes means realizing your child is exaggerating. With the bullying horror-stories in the media, it's hard not to over-react.  Young children can sometimes mistake the incident of "mean Sam" not wanting to share his toy, with the aspects that make bullying so hurtful. 

If anyone else has tips on talking to young children about self-defense and safety I'd love to hear them.


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