At Little Grange Preschool, we seem to live by the saying “Go big or go home”… well in the true spirit of this, here goes my first blog ever written …
Let’s play a little game. Let me start by asking you a few questions?
How could we keep our children safe EVEN IF….
- They had to wash an elephant?
- They had to brush a crocodiles teeth?
- They had to put eye drops in a giraffe’s eye?
(… not so bad… now let’s get a little more serious)
- We had to send our children out into the big wide world of school, sports, social clubs and beyond and realize that we have very little control when they are not in our care?
- We realize that 1:3 children in South Africa are abused?
- We know that 96% of children abused are abused by someone they know and trust?
- We believe that 72% are harmed in their own home?
- What IF I had to tell you that I was referring to sexual abuse?
- What if I had to tell you that 80% of 9-year-olds in South Africa have already been exposed to pornography….
The game just got a lot less fun, didn’t it. The sad truth is that these are the statistics and the game just got real!
In 2018 we started to implement the Protective Behaviours Course at Little Grange. This course is run by the most committed, passionate, educated, dynamic, and approachable lady, Hayley Walker, who is an absolute ray of sunshine but at the same time, a force to be reckoned with should the time come. She is a protector of children, a level-headed sounding board, and a fantastic ally.
Protective Behaviours is a course that understands how children are groomed for sexual abuse and endeavors to stop the possibility of abuse in the grooming phases, in the best-case scenario, before the more serious damage is done.
I first came across this course when a friend who owns a school invited me to a parent talk. You see, before the Protective Behaviours course commences, the parents are brought in and the course is explained to them so that they, firstly, understand that the protection of their child’s innocents is key and will not be compromised in any way and secondly, carry though some of the key concepts into their own homes. I had no heads up and thought Protective Behaviours, hmmmm must be something about bullying, right? Um no! I found out 2 minutes in that we would be discussing things that evoked my worst nightmares and raised fears within me for my own children and those within my school that I never actually fully considered. I left that talk with my head spinning and I actually felt quite sick to my stomach, my jaw was quite sore as I think my mouth was hanging open for 90% of the talk and my eyes were bone dry as I think I blinked, maybe, twice the whole talk! I immediately got on the parents group and informed them that Protective Behaviours would be implemented at Little Grange and that this was not negotiable.
We welcome Hayley into the school for a 6-8 week course each year, paid by the school, and are so very grateful to be able to provide the children with these life saving skills. We start as early as 2 years old (the reason for my insistence on including even my babies in everything we do is another blog for another day). The course teaches children about their right to feel safe at all times, how to listen to their “early warning signs”, to assess whether they are in danger and then gives them strategies to cope. Secrets being unsafe is a big part of this training. More delicate subjects like public and private, and calling body parts by their actual names, are dealt with in a non threatening way but, as with everything in Protective Behaviours, if the child ever needs to apply any of what they have learned, it will be crystal clear to them as to why they should stop what is happening, how to stop what is happening and that the shame or blame is not on them. It’s like installing a little red warning light within your child that will hopefully stay unlit, but if, and I sincerely pray it is never the case for your children or mine (and if you know me you will know that mine refers to my school children as much as my biological children), the time comes, this light will set off blazing and alarm bells will ring loud and proud and that will potentially save your child’s life. It also became evident to me, especially as my boys are reaching the preteen years (give me strength … you think the baby sleepless nights are rough or terrible twos are tough … just wait…), that this little red warning light will work for a range of different scenarios, from protection against sexual, or any abuse, to making poor choices, taking drugs, being exposed to damaging images or concepts or a range of other sticky situations provoked by a peer or adult pressure they might find themselves in. Even as an adult, I am more in tune with my early warning signs as a result of Protective Behaviours and adjust my decision-making accordingly.
I am very proud to announce that ALL teachers and assistants at Little Grange Preschool have attended the training and can now teach Protective Behaviours. The aim of this training was never, however, to deem Hayley’s annual visits to the school unnecessary. We will still have her come in each year as the children hearing these lessons from someone new brings novelty into the subject matter which is always most effective. Besides for this, it ensures that no corners are cut. It also allows for the introduction of another person who they may trust to disclose information to. Our aim for training all staff was to engrain Protective Behaviours even deeper into the very fiber of our school and live these concepts each and every day, as well as teach them more directly.
I hope to host a more comprehensive parent training session and start fundraising so that Little Grange can sponsor Protective Behaviours where needed but maybe the funds are not available.
So, I am asking you to “go big AND go home” with Protective Behaviours! But more than that, push for this in your school, church, Scouts group, sports club or social group! And where you get resistance, best you start asking “what if….”
I hope you always have a scarecrow to chase the worries away and that rainbows fill your days.