Mar 27 2012
When it comes to safety, Instinct is one of our best barometers.
Instinct (yours or your kids’) tells us when something or someone is “thumbs up or thumbs down.” Kind of like an internal siren!
But how do you start talking to kids about their instinct, so that it’s not scary and so that they’ll listen to it?
For starters, call it the “Uh-Oh” feeling because that’s speaking their language. You can begin with an easy conversation. “We should always listen to our uh-oh feeling. It’s like a little warning bell that tells us there might be a problem or something just doesn’t feel right. Sometimes it might make us feel a little scared or sad or mad. If you get an uh-oh feeling about someone, even a friend or a grownup, it’s okay to tell Mom or Dad all about it, so we can help.”
Ever notice how some kids go from being outgoing with one person, to shy and introverted with someone else? That’s their “uh-oh feeling” kicking in. For whatever reason, it’s important that we honor it, and not try to talk them out of it. If we consistently talk our kids out of their instincts, eventually it stops kicking in or they’ll stop bothering to tell us about it.
Tips For Talking To Kids About The Uh-Oh Feeling!
Ages 2-3: Simply start by identifying a variety of feelings or moods. “Wow, you look mad/sad/scared/happy/confused/surprised/excited.” If it looks like they have an “uh-oh feeling”, you can say: ”Look’s like you got an uh-oh feeling about that big dog or that loud noise.” By labeling their feelings, we help kids name what they’re feeling, and we give them permission to feel it and to express it to us.
Ages 3-4: You can use more specific examples to explain Uh-Oh feelings.
• “Uh-oh, I don’t think it’s a good idea to cross the street when a car is coming!”
• “Uh-oh, I don’t think it’s a good idea to run off at the park unless you tell me where you’re going first.”
• “Uh-oh, there’s so many people at the mall. Let’s stay close so we don’t get lost.”
• “Uh-oh, sometimes I just don’t feel like being tickled by…”
Ages 5 and Up: By now, most kids have experienced some kind of an “uh-oh’ feeling. And there are plenty of innocent reasons for “uh-oh’s” – it’s not always a major catastrophe! Now’s the time to really help them understand their feelings and how to handle an “uh-oh” if they get it. Role play with some gentle “What If” scenarios to help them know what to do if they get an “uh-oh”feeling. Sometimes it means saying NO to someone, or getting away quickly from someone and coming back to find their safe adult. Give kids the tools and language that empower them. You can even share an experience of your own.
• “I got an uh-oh feeling and didn’t want to park my car in a dark spot at the mall, so I drove a little more and found a better spot near a light.”
• “I got an uh-oh feeling when I was a kid because I didn’t like wrestling with my older cousin. So I told him NO, and then told my mom. She told him I didn’t like it either.”
When you share your feelings, your children trust that they can share theirs. And nothing says safety like knowing “Mom and Dad have my back!”
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