Kids Need Freedom and Safety – How to Balance These Rivaling Needs?

by | May 28, 2016

Recently, I visited a friend’s 120 acre farm with our granddaughter. It was a beautiful day, and it was wonderful to see Anna run around outside with so much freedom and joy.

kids playing at farmBut I have to admit that her freedom stirred some worry for me. The rope swing she was playing on – was it secure enough? The rope too old? We kept an eye on her as she climbed up bales of hay, my friend warning that the high bales weren’t safe. We kept an eye on her while she swam in the pond, making sure she didn’t wander in too deep.

I worked to find the balance between keeping her safe and allowing her to be free and courageous – to take on the world without a lot of fear.

As a school counselor, I worked with many children who were risk takers. I loved their sense of adventure and wanted to encourage them to explore the world. But I also wanted them to be safe. How could I teach them to listen to both their fear and their courage? To strike the balance between safety and freedom?

I came up with a game I call “Conflicting Feelings.” In it, I have the children act out a risk-taking situation. I ask them to identify the feelings of fear and courage, then to think of the things that each of these feelings say. Together we discuss a plan that honors both feelings. For both are messages from the body. Fear helps us stay safe. Courage helps us explore. If we honor and listen to both feelings, we can explore without putting ourselves into danger.

Here’s what the game looks like in practice:

Since implementing this game, students have come to telling me how they were in a situation outside of school where they could hear both feelings. One boy said, “Remember that game we played, Mrs. Gillen? Well, I was going to ride my bike down this steep hill, and I could hear both of those feelings inside of me!” He seemed surprised that he was able to identify both the fear and courage. He went on to tell me how he listened to both feelings to make a decision.

kids exploringWe can’t protect children at every moment. Indeed, there are real educational merits to risk.

What we can do is teach kids to listen to the voices inside and learn to make safe and fun choices.

Download Lynea’s story about a boy who deals successfully with his conflicting feelings, and share it with your children or students.

The “Conflicting Feelings” video is just one of more than 100 videos, activities, and lesson plans included in our Online Certification Bundle.

Images by Kenley Neufeld & amanda tipton, via Flickr

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