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Safety for kids takes discussion, practice

Alison Feigh leads children and their parents through an exercise to keep them focused for the "most important" segment of the "Empower Me" personal safety talk last Tuesday. (Photo by Teri Cadeau)1 / 3
Alison Feigh spoke with children and parents last Tuesday at Proctor High School about personal safety. (Photo by Teri Cadeau)2 / 3
A slide in Alison Feigh's personal safety presentation instructs children to "listen to the uh-oh feeling in your gut." (Photo by Teri Cadeau)3 / 3

About 150 elementary students and parents attended "Empower Me," an energetic personal safety lesson held in the Proctor High School auditorium last Tuesday.

"Everyone hold your hand up with your five fingers stretched out. Those five fingers remind us that we should always have five trusted adults that we can talk to about anything. Those are five adults who we can go to if we don't feel safe," said speaker Alison Feigh. "Adults, please turn to your children right now to discuss those five adults."

Although the safety tips were aimed at the K-5th graders, parents also received advice in how to talk with children about personal safety without fear.

"I think it helped me figure out how some phrasing that I can use with my daughters. Now we can talk about our personal safety rules and practice keeping our safety bubbles," said parent Dehlia Seim. "It was geared towards kids, but I learned something too."

Presenter Alison Feigh said that's the point of her presentation.

"My goal here tonight is to jump-start conversation and to get parents and children thinking and talking about safety. But I can talk as much as I want. it won't do much good if you don't continue to have conversations. I'm just giving parents the language to do so," Feigh said.

Teaching children personal safety is a passion for Feigh, a former classmate of Jacob Wetterling, the 11-year-old St. Joseph boy abducted in 1989. Today, she is the program manager for the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center, part of the Gundersen National Child Protection Training Center in Minneapolis. The organization works to "end forms of child abuse, neglect and exploitation through training education, advocacy, prevention and awareness." She presents "Empower Me" talks across the state and country.

The number one safety rule for children, according to Feigh, is to "check first" with a parent, guardian or babysitter, especially when in public. Children should check first before accepting a ride, accepting a gift, going into a house or having their photo taken.

Feigh demonstrated how important this was by sharing a story about a time she didn't obey that rule. She had asked for permission to leave early to go to a park in St. Cloud. Her parents said yes and that they would meet her at Centennial Park. But as she was walking to the park, she decided she'd rather go to Hester Park because it had a tire swing. Her parents didn't know which park she'd gone to and it started to get dark.

"I found a mother I recognized with kids and she walked with me back to the right park where I found my parents. But what could I have done differently?" Feigh asked.

Several hands shot up in the air.

"You could have checked with your parents first," a young child said.

"Exactly, I could have check with the person who was taking care of me. Always check before you go someplace or do something. It doesn't hurt to check," Feigh said.

Feigh also talked about what children should do if they get an "uh-oh" feeling in their gut.

"Sometimes we get a bad feeling in our gut. Something that tells us we shouldn't be doing something because it's against our personal safety rules. When we feel that twisty, bad feeling, we need to make sure we have room to think and room to move," Feigh said.

Feigh demonstrated what's called "bubble room" by encouraging children take two steps back whenever they feel uncomfortable. If the adult or older child doesn't respect the bubble room, children are instructed to get away from the person and shout "NO" in a loud voice. But she emphasized that it was important to yell "no" loudly and firmly, but not to scream it.

"Screaming can sometimes sound like playing. Adults, think about the last time you were in a grocery store and you heard a screaming child. Did you run towards it?" Feigh said. "But if a kid yelled out 'No I will not go with you,' you'd probably pay more attention." Lastly Feigh encouraged families to practice safety habits regularly.

"We practice for fires and for bad weather, but we don't practice safety very often. But if we were to, then if a situation arises, we know what to do. Preparation is the best form of prevention," Feigh said.

For more personal safety tips refer to the sidebar or visit jwrc.org.

Empower Me: safety rules for children

Check First with a parent, guardian or babysitter before

    • Accepting a ride

    • Accepting a gift

    • Going into a house

    • Having your photo taken

  1. Use the buddy system! Play and stay with friends.

  2. Find five trusted adults to talk to about any problem or worry. They could be your parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches, neighbors or any safe adult.

  3. Trust your gut! Pay attention to your “uh-oh” feeling. If any person acts in a way that makes your “uh-oh” feeling go off, get away from that person and tell a trusted adult. It doesn’t matter how you know them; it only matters how they make you feel. Pay attention to that same feeling when you are online! Talk to a trusted adult about anything in-person or online that doesn’t feel right in your gut.

  4. No secrets! There is never a good reason to keep a secret from your mom, dad or caregiver. Surprises are okay. Talk about the difference!

  5. Your private areas are private and different from the rest of your body. You are allowed to say, “NO!” to any person trying to touch or show your private parts or their private parts. “NO!” is a complete sentence. If you ever have questions about touches, talk to a trusted adult. If the first person you talk to doesn’t know how to help you, keep telling until someone does help. If someone tricks you into a touch or you don’t say “NO!” it still isn’t your fault. You can tell, even a long time after the touching happened.

  6. Say “NO!” get away and tell an adult if someone tries to get you to break a safety rule.

  7. Remember that you are far more valuable than any of your stuff. Drop anything making it hard to get away.

  8. Yelling is different than screaming. Yelling for help from your belly with words like “Call 911!” will alert others that you are in danger. Screaming can sometimes sound like playing.

  9. Have a family password to use in case you are in over your head.

  10. You are special and deserve to be safe!

  11. Teri Cadeau

    Teri Cadeau is a reporter for the Budgeteer.

    (218) 720-4176
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