3.3 6.3. Explain why it is important to work with the child or young person to ensure they have strategies to protect themselves and make decisions about safety.
It was quite clear that the majority of these young people were aware of potential dangers and were developing strategies to remain safe. [ However, they worried about avoiding or managing difficult situations or situations that had the potential to get out of control.
The majority of the students were also conscious of their own stage of development and experience and were prepared to take
advice from trusted, more experienced people in their family and friendship networks. Sometimes this was a parent; often it was an older sibling, cousin or family friend.
At the same time these young people expressed a wish to be able to learn to make their own decisions. A common question was: “How will we be able to look after ourselves if we don't learn how to by practising now?” They wanted to discuss issues and to be listened to, but expressed a reluctance to discuss some issues with adults who might become anxious, take over, forbid an activity or make a big deal out of the situation.
This approach is supported by the findings of the drug education initiative, The Backgrounds Project of the Victorian Department of Education Employment and Training, established in 1997. Students included in this project preferred an informal style of learning, where they could discuss their concerns and experiences with each other and develop their own strategies to deal with, or avoid, difficult situations.
This introduces a dilemma when we are teaching about personal safety. We need to consider how students can talk about private issues and learn to make their own decisions. At the same time we need to consider how adults and professionals can ensure that students are planning appropriately and making safe decisions. Using group work as a teaching strategy allows students to explore strategies and actions for developing personal safety plans. These plans can be checked by other students in the group and also by the teacher when using groups to report back their findings.
Teachers should be alert to and use protective interrupting strategies if students begin to disclose abuse in a group of peers. ]
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