Teaching Protective Behaviours To Young Children

Teaching Protective Behaviours To Young Children - blog post

Protective Behaviours

Protective Behaviours are an empowerment process that raises self‐esteem and self‐confidence and enhances assertiveness in the context of feeling safe (Rose, J 2004). It also refers to developing consciousness of the situations in which the child’s personal space and safety may be compromised, so that he or she can respond according to particular circumstances.

Protective behaviours education is important for empowering young children. It focuses on teaching self-safety, self-esteem, decision making, communication, emotional management and necessary skills to identify unsafe situations.  In this blog we explore ways in which can we teach young children Protective Behaviours:

How to Teach Protective Behaviours

Teaching protective behaviours to children is often viewed as difficult because all too often we can shy away from uncomfortable conversations.

Start From Conversation

It is better to start with a natural conversation and discuss what safety ‘feels like’ in situations that the child will identify with — safety when crossing the road, wearing a helmet while riding, wearing a seat belt etc.

Ask Simple Questions

Ask simple questions to evaluate the comprehension level of your child and to enhance their curiosity for further learning. The questions should be age-appropriate:

How do you feel when you are safe?

When do you feel most safe?

What makes you feel safe?

What makes you feel unsafe?

Build Connections

Connect this discussion with feelings and emotions and our physiological reactions. How do their bodies feel when they feel unsafe or afraid or something feels ‘just not right’?  Discuss physical reactions such as a fast heartbeat, sick feeling in the stomach etc.   Building these connections help children to identify people or situations that make them feel unsafe.

Enhance Vocabulary to Convey Feelings

Children should be able to understand their feelings first and then have words to convey them.  To enhance this, it is important to create opportunities for children to speak openly about their feelings.  Not only will this help them to let you know when they have had experiences where they have felt unsafe, it will also improve their communication skills and even self esteem.

Teach How to Ask For Help

It is important that your child feels safe in asking for help. To facilitate this, identify a number of ‘Safe Adults’ – adults with whom the child feels safe and can easily talk to.  It is then important to encourage the child to talk to these ‘Safe Adults’, without hesitation, about any situation where they feel or have felt unsafe.

How MCH promotes Protective Behaviours

My Cubby House Early Learning promotes the importance of teaching children protective behaviours through group discussions, Storytime, and Social stories. We discuss with the children about 5 ‘Safety Hands’, where they can name 5 people they can trust and turn to for help when they feel unsafe.

We talk about the butterfly feelings that they feel in their tummies that signals to them that they are feeling unsafe in a situation. Raising awareness of signs of feeling unsafe helps children understand and make safe choices and ask for help.

Water, fire, Road, Insect and snake safety lessons are also incorporated and implemented as part of the My Cubby House Protective Behaviours programs.

We also offer Braveheart-Ditto’s Keep Safe Adventure Show that teaches children protective behaviour strategies and about personal safety in a fun, interactive and engaging way. https://bravehearts.org.au/

Exploring and teaching Protective Behaviours should not be treated as a ‘one off’ conversation.  These conversations should be part of the ongoing education of your child so that they understand what feeling and being safe means and how they can seek help if needed.

Keeping Kids Safe Resources

The Daniel Morcombe Foundation provide a number of great video resources to help you to facilitate this important child safety education:  https://danielmorcombe.com.au/keeping-kids-safe-resources/


Freda Briggs – Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freda_Briggs
Gelenter, C., Riley, B., & Prescott, N. (2017). Teaching Protective Behaviours to Young Children: First Steps to Safety Programme. Routledge.
Rose, J. (2004). Protective Behaviours: safety, confidence, and self‐esteem. Journal of Public Mental Health.

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