Helping children learn about unsafe feelings
Body clues/ Early warning signs:
by Vashty 7/12/2020
It is important that children learn about the clues their body can give them when they are in danger or are facing a possible unsafe situation. I like to call these their body clues or early warning signs.
Explaining body clues can be a little confusing and sometimes the concept can be a bit hard for children to grasp. I’m going to give you my take on it and the approach that I have found successful.
I like to first tell children that our bodies are super clever and that we all have a built-in alarm system to warn us about scary or unsafe situations. I even ask them to think about when they have heard an alarm go off in a car or a shop or even at school. Usually, when we hear an alarm of this nature it lets us know that there is possible danger or an unsafe situation. So, I explain that our bodies are similar to this and let us know, through certain clues, when we might need to get help. I find that children generally relate to this and start to get what you are proposing.
It is important to also let children know that sometimes when we get our body clues it doesn’t always mean that we are unsafe. I emphasise that our body clues are warnings for us. We have to work out if we are going to be okay or if we really need to go and get some help. Our body clues are there to let us know that we could be unsafe! We can break it down like this.
Maybe we are doing something for the first time that we have never done before. This might make us feel a bit scared and worried and we get our body clues to warn us that we could be in danger or we might get hurt while we are partaking in that activity. Let’s look at some examples that children can relate to: Any of the following could definitely set off a child’s body clues and early warning signs. Try asking a child about the feelings they might have experienced if they have ever encountered the following situations:
1. Going to school for the first day.
2. meeting a new teacher and making new friends.
3. Going on a roller coaster for the first time
4. Having your first sleep over
5. Going to the doctor
6. Riding a bike with no training wheels for the first time.
As an adult can you remember those childhood scenarios playing out and the feelings they provoked in your body?
Next start to talk about the different feelings that occurred in the child’s body when they experienced the new encounter. There are many different warning signs and body clues to introduce here. Find some below.
1. Butterflies in your tummy
2. Sweaty palms of hands
4. Sick in the tummy
5. Wobbly knees
6. Need to go to the toilet frequently
7. Heart beating very fast
10. Hard to breathe
If you haven’t done so already you can subscribe to my webpage and receive a free printable poster that can be used to help remind children of their body clues/warning signs. Link below.
Note that all children are different and will experience their own unique set of warning signs. After explaining the different types of body clues that we can get, it is really important to explain to children that sometimes it is very important to go and get some help when we experience these. If our body clues all calm down and we feel safe, that usually tells us that we are going to be okay. If our body clues don’t go away or intensify, we need to go seek help from a trusted grownup.
Let’s explain it using the roller coaster analogy. You have never been on a roller coaster before and are lined up for the very first time. Your hands are all sweaty. Heart beating fast, you have butterflies in your tummy. The roller coaster starts, and you begin to have fun. By the end of the ride all of your body clues have gone away and your want to ride again. Your body clues let you know that you were a bit scared initially and felt unsafe, but they went away. You are most likely going to be okay.
It is important to also note for a child to feel safe they need to have some choice and control over the situation. If they have control and can make informed choices, they will be better equipped to deal with the situation. If a grownup they trust is around during new experiences that heighten their emotions this will also be beneficial is helping them work out their level of safety. Have a chat about this using the scenarios above.
I really encourage you to talk with the children in your care about their warning signs and let them know that they can always talk to a grown up that they trust when they are feeling unsafe. We must teach our children to look out for their body signs and to have some strategies in place to deal with them.
All children have the right to feel safe.
Vashty and Blossom bunny xx