My children are in lower school and never alone – why would they need a self-defense class?
Prepare uses the term personal safety and a broad context to talk about our classes for young people. In its simplest sense, it is the skills needed to set limits in situations that make us uncomfortable or are potentially dangerous. It includes how we feel about ourselves (self esteem, self efficacy, and confidence), how we relate to our bodies, and how to trust our instincts.
Most children find themselves alone for a short period of time (in another aisle in the grocery store, or out of direct contact with their caregiver at a park) at some point, have had a peer or adult touch them in a way that is annoying or unwelcome, or experience being treated unkindly or targeted with mean words.
Our classes help young people develop an external awareness of their environment, make safer choices about how to behave, and advocate for themselves and set boundaries when others speak to them, touch them, or treat them in a way they don’t like or is unsafe. Being able to communicate boundaries and limits is a protective factor for people of all ages.
How do you teach personal safety and self-defense for young people?
All of the teaching material is age-appropriate so students can easily learn the information. Prepare emphasizes better communication skills as the foundation for personal safety. Students learn how to recognize and protect their emotional and physical integrity by practicing communication skills to express difficult thoughts and feelings. Students learn through success and gain confidence in their ability to handle themselves in stressful situations.
All of the Prepare programs are designed to lower risk factors and raise protective factors. We teach using a variety of methods including: role-plays, real life stories, small group exercises, and repetitive practice — with layers of progressive challenge. Prepare programs follow the recommendations and guidelines of Center for Disease Control, SEICUS, Blueprints for Violence Prevention, Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and Gavin de Becker.
How can this program lower children’s anxiety?
Giving children information about safety is part of our responsibility as adults. Education does not raise children’s anxiety; it actually can lower anxiety by providing them with a plan and teaching them self-reliance. Teaching self-defense is similar to teaching your children other safety skills, such as how to cross the street or how to use a kitchen knife. It is not necessary to discuss the details of being hit by a car or cut by a sharp knife to learn safe conduct, just as it is not necessary to discuss the details of child abuse or molestation to learn self-defense.
My child already studies martial arts; why would s/he need a self-defense class?
Martial arts training is a wonderful discipline that provides an opportunity for children to learn awareness of their bodies, to build strength, focus, and self-control.
Our program uses an expansive definition of personal safety and self-defense:
Personal safety is external awareness of our environment, choices about how we behave, how we speak to others, and how we let others speak to us or treat us. In its simplest sense, it is the skills needed to set limits in situations that make us uncomfortable or are potentially dangerous – sometimes referred to as social skills education. It includes how we feel about ourselves and how we relate to our bodies, and how to trust our instincts.
Self-defense includes all the things you do to protect your body, for example: how you use your voice, how you stand, how you breathe, how you move, walking away, and physical strikes for emergency situations when all other options are unavailable.
Prepare’s emphasis on communication skills, self advocacy, and finding trusted adults to go to for help supplements martial arts programs. We teach awareness of many situations and a range of skills and options for response including de-escalation. We look at what happens before one might choose to physically resist with strikes. We also look at how to take care of yourself after you’ve experienced a boundary violation, abuse or violence. Prepare values and practices all responses from walking away to physical resistance. Class is role-play driven: for example, your child will be practicing in realistic settings how to verbally and non-verbally set limits with peers and adults.
Martial arts training is not a pre-requisite for enrollment in our classes. Children only practice with instructors and students are not ranked vis a vis each other.
What do you teach?
How will parents know what their children have learned?
At our training center, the last 45 minutes of every Children’s and Young Teen program is our Open House. The students teach and demonstrate to their grown-ups what they’ve learned and the instructors talk about how families can reinforce the lessons. It’s a very exciting culmination of all the young people’s hard work during class.