Feeling Safe

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From a very young age, children are taught the concept of what it means to be safe. "Use safe hands with friends," "We stay safe by holding hands while crossing the street," "Use the scissors safely." "With this in mind, talking about human rights in terms of safety, can be a meaningful, effective, and developmentally appropriate way to allow children to draw connections.

I describe it by simply stating: Every one of us deserves to feel safe in our skin, in our homes, in our schools, in parks, on the street, everywhere in our world. It's important for children to know how we (as adults) feel about the fact that not everyone feels safe in our world, to exemplify what it looks like to name your feelings about something and to think about ways that you can respond to what is upsetting you. You can express: It makes me feel so sad and also really angry, that in our world so many members of our human family do not feel safe.

You can wonder aloud with your child about the things that make them feel safe, maybe give some examples from your own life, from the more concrete: "having a warm home to sleep in makes me feel safe" to the more emotion based: "feeling loved and accepted makes me feel safe." Your child can use colors, pictures, or words in this open ended sheet to express the themes that arise in your dialogue.

From there, you and your child can begin to discuss ways that you/they can help others around them to feel safe. You might want to begin by discussing reasons why a person would not feel safe. This is an opportunity to talk about the reality that black people are made to feel unsafe by police officers in our country. That black people are made to feel unsafe by their neighbors in certain neighborhoods. When children have a sense of why their human family members might not be feeling safe, from there they can come up with their own responses to ways to help others feel safe. If your child is having trouble coming up with ideas, again, this is a time where you can share some of your own examples. Similarly, this is open ended sheet leaves space for children to use words, colors, shapes, and images in order to express what comes out in your dialogue.

Even if you leave things more open ended than described above, the simple act of allowing your child space to reflect upon the importance of all people feeling safe, and to empower them to understand that there are actions they can take to help others to feel safe, can be a meaningful exercise and step toward deepening care, respect, empathy, and solidarity. This should be an ongoing discussion and exploration. <3

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