For Teachers – Prevention Strategies
The dynamics of victimization suggest targeted children are often chosen for the very qualities that prevent them from saying “no” or telling someone about the abuse. Vulnerable children with low self-esteem, poor communication skills, a lack of understanding about how and where to get help are at a higher risk of victimization.
Boost CYAC’s I’m A Great Kid! and I’m A Great Little Kid! programs empower children to think and act positively, while building skills and abilities to lessen their vulnerability to victimization. We do this by building self-esteem, developing communication and decision-making skills, and fostering a developmentally appropriate understanding of healthy relationships and respect for others.
Children who are confident and feel good about themselves are not only less likely to be victimized, but also less likely to grow up to victimize others. Teachers can help children to build self-esteem.
- Teach children to say positive things about themselves: positive self-talk increases self-respect, which can impact how children see themselves and how they are treated by others. Help your students practice positive affirmations.
- Focus on strengths: help children believe in themselves. Guide them to identify things they are good at, enjoy doing or that others appreciate about them.
- Model respect: children learn from the actions of adults. Speak well of others, avoid using sarcasm and be aware of negative body language.
- Motivate through praise: children are more likely to co-operate when they feel they’re valued and well-liked. Berating, embarrassing or constantly reprimanding a child can build resentment and work against your efforts to influence behaviour.
- Create projects: support creativity within the classroom and school. Motivate your students with pride, accomplishment and the courage to try something new.
Children can increase skill and confidence in themselves as communicators when they receive support to communicate in situations they recognize as important. Teachers can help their students develop communication skills:
- Talk with them: give lots of opportunity for children to participate in conversations.
- Listen to them: recognize that what children have to say is important.
- Respect them: when you consider your students’ feelings, they learn that everyone’s feelings are valued.
- Set an example for them: surround your students with positive communication where ideas and feelings are expressed openly.
- Guide them: Recognize that words are powerful and use positive messages when responding to your students
For children, learning to make positive choices involves:
- recognizing they have the ability to make decisions
- having the opportunity to practice developmentally appropriate decision-making, as a group and independently
- using critical thinking skills such as identifying cause and effect, analysing, processing, and predicting
- recognizing that making decisions is developmental and it’s okay to ask for help if the choices are confusing.
Teachers can help their students learn how to make positive choices:
- Allow opportunities for choice – provide the chance to make age-appropriate decisions every day.
- Express confidence – let your students know you have faith in their ability to make reasonable choices.
- Consider others: consider your students’ feelings when you make decisions, and they will learn to consider others in their decision-making.
- Respect the choices of others: show your students you respect the choices of others by accepting their decisions, as long as no one’s well-being is being jeopardized.
- Consider different points of view: help your students value what others have to say.
Respect entails a universal regard for differences and a celebration of culture, religion, values, family, and diversity. Teachers can help their students learn the importance of respect:
- Show respect: listen to what others have to say.
- Talk openly: all feelings and ideas are valuable and important and can be talked about.
- Set an example: treat everyone in the class fairly; provide opportunities for all students that respect their interests and abilities.
- Appreciate people’s differences: participate in events and activities that give children the opportunity to share in and appreciate the beliefs and customs of others.
Children need to be taught they can give permission to touch or to be touched. They also need help to develop skills to differentiate between touch that feels good, touch that does not feel good and uncomfortable touch. Most important is providing the understanding that no one has the right to force or trick someone into touch, and all touch can be talked about with others. Children who know they have the right to say “no” and/or question such behaviour will gain valuable prevention skills against exploitation.
Teachers can help their students talk about touch:
- Respect differences: emphasize that people have different beliefs about touching depending on culture, family values, age, sex and personal preferences – beliefs that should be respected.
- Talk about touch: openly discuss with children different kinds of touch and the feelings connected to touching.
- Show respect: talk to children about liking and respecting themselves; appreciate that they have the right to decide how they want to be touched.
- Set an example: children need to know that angry feelings are okay, and problems can be solved without being physical and hurting one another.
- There are no secrets: explain to children that no one has the right to tell them to keep any kind of touch a secret – ALL touching can be talked about.
How and where to get help
Help children understand there are two kinds of support systems: a formal support system that includes teachers, doctors, nurses, counselors, police, and child protection services; and an informal support system that includes family, friends, relatives, and neighbours. Teachers can support their students to feel comfortable asking for help:
- Identify supports: talk with students to identify which adults they would go to for help; who they choose must be someone they trust.
- Talk about secrets: discuss the difference between secrets and surprises – reinforce the message that no one has the right to ask you to keep a secret, especially if it makes you feel uncomfortable.
- Always trust your feelings: emphasize to students that they should trust their feelings and talk to someone if they need help, even if they feel embarrassed, confused, or scared about telling.
- Set an example: show children the different ways friends and family help one another.
- Keep telling: empower children to get help for themselves and others by encouraging them to keep telling until someone helps them.