This year, I took the plunge and volunteered to teach faith formation at my parish. I got grade 2, which is preparation for first confession. I took a short online course about child safety and had a background check done, and I assume I was approved by the pastor, who knows me. I was given materials for the class (Alive in Christ from OSV and Rooted from Ruah Woods), but what I cover is more or less up to me; but I am required to do one class about safety.
A few people asked me to share my lesson outline, so here it is. I thought it went pretty well, but who the heck knows? I hope to continue teaching this class next year, so I’d be grateful to know what you think and what improvements you would suggest. I try to have a lot of variety, to get them to answer and offer ideas, to read a memorable, engaging book, to get the kids to engage their bodies when possible, to do visual things whenever possible. Kids this age are very eager to absorb rules and facts, but I also want to make sure I’m conveying how beautiful and welcoming Jesus is. I’m just trying to remember that I’m showing up for the Holy Spirit to use.
This is the only class completely dedicated to bodily safety. I’ll be returning to the topic later in the context of other lessons (for instance, the idea that the seal of confession is for the priest to keep, and a child has no obligation to keep things that happen in confession secret). The class is one hour long and includes kids who are well-catechized and kids who know very little about their faith. I’m well aware that this one class isn’t adequate to keep kids safe, but at least they will have heard an adult talk about it, and they will know it’s okay to talk or think about.
PRAYER. We began with a prayer, remembering to make the sign of the cross carefully and respectfully. Prayer: “Jesus, we are here to learn about you. Please help us to hear good things so we can come closer to you. Amen.”
REVIEW. Sign of the cross. The cross is everywhere, not just in church but all over the world, in buildings, in nature, etc., even in our own bodies. (Recall places we have seen crosses, which they were supposed to hunt for during the week.) If we stand up and stretch out our arms, our own bodies make a cross. God puts the cross everywhere to remind us that Jesus is always with us.
REVIEW: The Miracle Man: The Story of Jesus by John Hendrix. (We read this last week, and the kids were enthralled.) Remember how the paralyzed man’s friends opened up the roof and lowered their friend down, because they knew that, if they brought him to Jesus, Jesus would help him. We can’t open up the roof, but we can always bring our friends to Jesus and ask Jesus to help them. [Name friends and relatives we want to bring to Jesus and ask Jesus to help. Kids agreed that they would like this to be a recurring feature of the class. Ended up naming mostly pets.]
READ ALOUD. Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann. [This is a book about physical safety and having a partner who helps you. It was provided by the parish, so I went with it. It’s not a perfect match, but it’s a cute and funny book that the kids like, and it was a good intro to talking about keeping your body safe with the help of other people.]
DISCUSS: Who made our bodies? God made our bodies for us. God even came down from Heaven and got a body, too, so we know that bodies are very important. They are a good gift for us, and it’s our job to try to take care of them. God wants our bodies to stay safe. Here are four things you need to know about keeping your body safe:
HUGGING AND KISSING. Sometimes someone asks us for a hug or a kiss, and we don’t want to do it. This is okay! We don’t have to hug or kiss if we don’t want to. What are some things we can do instead of hug or kiss? Get suggestions from kids, then fill in: Shake hands, blow a kiss, fist bump, high five. I picked kids to stand up and we practiced acting it out: “How about a kiss?” – “No thanks! How about a high five?”
SECRETS. Sometimes people tell us something that makes us feel bad or uncomfortable or creepy or weird, or they ask us to do something that makes us feel bad or uncomfortable or creepy or weird, and they tell us we have to keep it a secret. Do you think you should keep it a secret? No! What if it’s an adult who tells us to keep it a secret? Still no! You’re just kids, and it’s not your job to keep secrets that make you feel bad or weird or creepy or uncomfortable. Kids don’t have to keep bad secrets. If someone wants me to keep a secret that makes me feel bad, I should tell an adult in my safety network right away.
[Here I meant to make a distinction between keeping something a secret, and not giving away a surprise, but I forgot.]
SAFETY NETWORK. What is a safety network? It’s an adult who will listen to you and who will help you. Everyone gets a piece of paper and traces their hand, then writes the names of five adults in their safety network. They can bring it home and hang it up so they will remember who their safety network is. They can finish it at home if they can’t think of five names right now.
PRIVATE PARTS. At this point the kids got pretty antsy, so I had them all stand up and stretch. We stretched our arms way up high, way in front of us, way down, and way in back of us. Then I talked about how all the places we stretched to is places we should feel safe.
Imagine going swimming, and think about how we’re covered by our swim suits. The parts of our bodies that are covered by swim suits are private parts. Sometimes we need adults like our parents or doctors to help us with our bodies, like if we are sick or hurt, but we need to know that most of the time, no one gets to touch our private parts. If a doctor is doing it, we should have someone from their safety network, like a parent, with us. If anyone does anything with our private parts that makes us feel weird, we should tell an adult in our safety network right away.
I also meant to say, but I forgot: No one can make a kid touch their private parts. No one should show a kid pictures of private parts. If any of these things happen, I should tell an adult from my safety network right away.
A few times, the kids started to veer into territory that I thought wasn’t appropriate for me to discuss in a class, so I gently told them that would be something they should talk to their parents about.
SING. I wanted to change the mood a bit, so we learned “Jesus loves me.”
Jesus loves me! This I know,
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong;
We are weak, but He is strong.
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.
A few of the kids already knew it, and I accidentally stumbled on the brilliant pedagogical method of repeatedly mixing up the words, so they had to correct me, which they enjoyed. We sang it a few times and then I handed out coloring pages and crayons. All I had was a Celtic cross, so I asked them what else they would like me to bring in next time. (Here are some links to free coloring pages you can print, many courtesy of my friend Cindy Coleman, a very experienced catechist):
Paper Dali http://paperdali.blogspot.com/p/freebies.html
Catholic Saints, Liturgical Year and Catholic Going-Ons
Saint John the Baptist Church Religious Education http://www.sjtb.org/releducolor.html
Mysteries of the Rosary, Stations of the Cross, the Creed, Saints
Saints, Marian, Biblical, Stations of the Cross
St Anne’s Helper
The Catholic Kid
Life, Love & Sacred Art
We did some more singing while they colored and waited for their parents to show up. We were supposed to end with a prayer, but I forgot.
I sent out a email to the parents, outlining what we would discuss in class. They had the option to opt out if they didn’t want their kids in this class, and I let them know I’d be telling the kids to ask them if they had questions I didn’t think were appropriate for class.
Image: detail from an illustration from The Miracle Man
20 thoughts on “My body safety class for grade 2 faith formation”
WAY better than how I was introduced to this in CCD. I was in fifth grade and had volunteered for VBS. We had to get ‘safe environment’ training and watched an old Boy Scout video about reporting being molested that was meant for teenagers. Seriously freaked me out.
Reading your lesson reminded me of one thing I found I needed to teach my young children: Adults should ask other adults for help. If an adult asks you (a child) to come with them because they need help, go find an adult to help them (or say no / get Mom or Dad …)
I also found that I needed to teach them that just because we are friendly toward our neighbors it doesn’t mean we are friends with them.
These go a bit beyond body safety, but it’s related!
Thank you for sharing your lesson!
I know a fun part of the safe touch talk that’s given in Philly parish schools for the younger grades is singing “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.” For whatever reason, that song has always resonated with my kids. Here’s the whole curriculum: https://www.aopcatholicschools.org/about/programs/
Tough topic to teach. Bravo for doing it Simcha.
I would add that maybe ask the children if their parents had spoken to them about this before? I understand that sometimes abuse occurs within a family but you would hope that the parents are talking about this stuff at home and not leaving it for someone else to do because it’s an uncomfortable topic to tackle.
I like the safety network hand-print- very powerful and would stick in their minds.
I remember as a child we had these drinking cups at home which had cartoony illustrations and text on them and their message was about stranger danger. They stuck in my mind cause we’d stare at these cups whilst we were eating and read the rhymes over and over again, so it drove the message home about stranger danger.
Kids love visuals.
I love your take on the safety class! I taught 2nd grade at a Catholic school for a few years before taking a break to stay home with my little ones. Your lesson looks a lot like the one in the binder I received from the parish. This is one that should absolutely be taught at a young age so that children understand that things that make them feel “creepy or weird or uncomfortable” are not ok and should be stopped.
My only suggestion is that a refresher on this topic in the spring would be a good idea.
I enjoy your blog and your sense of humor…those kids are lucky to have you!
Very solid material!!
I would expand the “hugs and kisses” conversation to include that the words “no,” and “stop,” are great safety words! I have given the example before of “Let’s imagine that you have a baby brother, and he is about to reach for a very very very hot fireplace. What would you say?!” “Imagine your neighbors are playing catch, and the ball rolls into the street. One of them is running after it, and you see a car coming down the road. What do you say?!”
Telling baby brother/friend “no” and “stop” is GOOD because it will help keep them SAFE.
The safe touches can also be a both/and approach.
No one can be forced to give a hug or kiss they don’t want to.
Ex dialogue —
“‘No,’ is BOTH okay to say, AND okay to hear! Anyone may say ‘no’ or ‘stop’ to a touch that they don’t want. Both you AND others may decide to say ‘no’ to a touch. If an adult asks to pick you up, or invites you to sit on their lap, but you don’t want to, it’s okay to say no!! If you say no to a touch, what should that person do?? THEY SHOULD STOP! Now, what if *you* ask for a hug from your friend and they say no?? What should *you* do?? YOU SHOULD STOP! That is because ‘no,’ and ‘stop,’ are safety words.”
Good stuff. I will incorporate that next time!
So interesting! Thanks for sharing it.
And bravo to you for volunteering.
I try go to Confession at least once a month.
Oh my gosh, this is so creepy and immodest. And this is discussed in a co-ed setting? Why would any parent let another adult talk to their child about these things, and in second grade?!
Because kids often get molested and need to know that it’s not okay? When do you think it’s appropriate for kids to get this information, if not in second grade? Once it’s too late and their coach or pastor has already been feeling them up for years and teaching them not to tell anyone?
Guess what, the whole sex abuse crisis persisted for decades because people like you said exactly what you said here. So thanks for making me understand how important it is for people like me to do what I’m doing.
Okay, look, I’m sorry I lost my temper. I know it’s upsetting to realize that we have to have conversations like this with kids. It shouldn’t be this way. But this is how it is. It’s a fallen world, and there are people who will hurt kids if they have a chance. So we have a serious obligation to do what we can to mitigate that. We have to acknowledge the possibility of abuse, just like we acknowledge the possibility of car accidents and drowning. It’s our job as adults.
Second grade is not too young. I have a friend whose long history of being molested by a family friend started at that age. Thank you for doing what you’re doing, Simcha.
If THAT was losing your temper. You are a saint, Simcha. Pointing out the attitudes that allowed abuse to happen is not only OK, it is necessary. J.C. Is likely a troll but if not I hope he or she is listening.
I agree with Beth. Second grade is definitely not too young for this discussion, as many children are sexually abused far younger than age 7. If parents don’t are concerned about the topic, they can opt their kids out of class for that day. Protecting kids is a lot more important than worrying about immodesty.
Very good, but I think a couple of points should be added: 1) Never think that a sin is too small to tell in the confessional; 2) Never think that a sin is so terrible that it cannot/should not be confessed; 3) Never think that if you are struggling with a sinful habit, that you should stop confessing it for fear of boring the priest.
All of these were elements in my own struggle with the confessional for many years. I now regard it as a friend, and as a help – for example, with sinful habits.
Those are good points. We’re not anywhere near beginning to discuss confession directly, yet, though. Some of these kids don’t know Jesus is God, or that God is omnipotent. Some of them don’t attend Mass. it’s baby steps right now.
This is awesome! I’m definitely bookmarking.
Did any parent opt-out a child? It sounds like a nicely done class.
No. A few kids didn’t turn up, but no one opted out, so it could easily have just been typical absences.