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Reflections from Protective Behaviours Training

by raphael denis

A couple of months ago, myself and some other members of the C4C team took part in a week-long training session that focused on the Protective Behaviours methodology. Hosted by Citizens 4 Change and facilitated by professional trainer Lucy Holbrook from Inner Learning First, the training was a completely transformative experience! As someone who is passionate about creating safe environments for children, the training provided an excellent opportunity to learn more about how we can empower young people to feel safe and protected at all times. We were also joined by our local partners - the Families and Futures Coalition of Tanzania and the Arusha Catholic Archdiocese.

Watch this reel to get a sense of the training experience!

Throughout the training we learned about the elements that are essential in creating internal and external environments for ourselves and others to feel safe. We learned about the Mind-Body Connection - the idea that our physical state and emotional state are interconnected - and how to use this knowledge to help young people recognize and respond to the early warning signs of harm. We also discussed Trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences, and how both can impact a child's development and sense of safety. The Language of Safety Model was another critical topic we explored during the training.

The Language of Safety Model

This model is referred to as the ‘glue’ that holds all the Protective Behaviour strategies together. It addresses what we say, how we say it, and who we say it to in a way that makes everyone feel safe.

There are four key elements of Language of Safety that are important to consider in our communication with others;

  1. Quality of Language: We need to use words that are kind and respectful. We shouldn't say things that are mean or hurtful to others. For example, we shouldn't use words that make fun of someone's race, gender, or make them feel bad about themselves.

  2. Shared Meaning: It's important that we understand each other when we talk. We should use words that everyone understands, and we need to listen carefully to what others are saying. Sometimes, different people may have different ideas about what a word or phrase means. We can check if we understand each other by repeating back what was said or asking if the other person understands. This helps us make sure we are on the same page and avoid misunderstandings.

  3. Clarity: We need to be clear in how we speak and what we mean. We shouldn't expect others to read our minds or guess what we're thinking. It's not helpful to drop hints or assume that others know what we want or need. We should use clear words and be direct when we ask for help or express our thoughts and feelings. This helps others understand us better and avoids confusion or frustration.

  4. Ownership: We should take responsibility for our own feelings, thoughts, and words. Sometimes we assume that everyone feels the same way we do, but that's not always true. We should ask others how they feel instead of assuming. We should use "I" statements to express our own feelings so that we own how we experience other people. This helps us communicate our needs and expectations without putting the blame on others.

By drawing upon these elements in our communication we are practising our own right to feel safe as well as creating an environment where others can practise their’ rights to feel safe.

The Safety Continuum

We also learned about the Safety Continuum. This tool can help us to evaluate how safe or unsafe a situation makes us feel, in order to navigate through it successfully. The Safety Continuum goes along the following stages:

Feeling Safe >>> Fun to Feel Scared >>> Risking on Purpose >>> Feeling Unsafe

A highlight for me here was learning about the distinction between ‘Fun to Feel Scared’ and ‘Risking on Purpose’, as

these stages are more likely to be interpreted differently depending on the person. A ‘Fun to Feel Scared’ activity is one during which we feel fear but choose to do it anyway because it feels fun. This might include activities such as taking part in extreme sports, watching scary movies, climbing trees, jumping from a height or chasing one another. When we do something for the fun of feeling scared, we have made the choice to be in that situation. Therefore, it is likely that we have control over that decision; we know when it is going to end, or what we can do to stop it. ‘Fun to feel scared’ activities may be different for each person, so we can avoid making assumptions about the choices of others by asking ourselves is my fun fun for everyone?”.

Risking on purpose’ is when we feel fear but choose to do it anyway because the outcome will be worth it. Examples may include going to the doctor when we are worried we may be seriously ill, taking an exam or going for a job interview. We ‘risk on purpose’ when our internal feelings have alerted us of the potential dangers of an activity, but we choose to do it anyway.

The amount of choice and control we have in a situation and how long it lasts are three factors that influence where a situation is on the Safety Continuum.

Another essential theme of the Protective Behaviours methodology is the idea that we

all have the right to feel safe all the time. “We all” means there are no exceptions, and “all the time” means we have the right to feel safe, at all times, even when we can’t be in control of the situation. Another essential theme of the methodology is the idea that we can talk with someone about anything, even if it feels awful or small. Here we looked at the importance of developing a personal safety network. For children this might be a circle of trusted adults who they feel they can turn to for help. This “helping hand” diagram is an example of a tool that can be used by children to help them decide who to have in their safety network.

In addition, the training also covered several topics related to personal power, such as personal boundaries and body privacy. We also learned about the importance of disclosure and building trust with others. Finally, we explored how the adolescent brain works, and how to support young people in developing their personal power to make safe choices.

Overall, the Protective Behaviours methodology training was a powerful experience that deepened my own understanding of safety and of how we can work together to create safe and nurturing environments for everyone, and more specifically young people. I am really looking forward to putting the knowledge I have learned into practice, as, over the next two years, C4C embark on an exciting project that aims to empower young people to transform their schools to be free from violence. The training has not only equipped me with the knowledge and skills I need to exercise my right to feel safe, but it has also greatly contributed to the work C4C are doing to create safe and inclusive school environments.

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