Seven Emotional Safety Techniques from Kidpower

Written by Irene van der Zande, Kidpower Founder and Executive Director

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Emotional abuse and triggers can cause great harm to healthy and respectful relationships at home, at play, at school, and at work.  This article is from our Relationship Safety Skills Handbook.

These Emotional Safety techniques have helped to reduce stress and improve communication for people as young as 2 and as old as 102 from many different cultures, all over the world.

You can imagine using an Emotional Screen between you and another person to screen out upsetting language and let in important information.

You can imagine using an Emotional Screen between you and another person to screen out upsetting language and let in important information.

1) Getting Centered or ‘Calm Down Power’.  Push your palms together. Take a breath. Straighten Your Back. Feel where your feet are. Focus on something peaceful.

2)  The Screen. Imagine a screen protecting you from the other person, keeping out insults and letting in useful information – like the screen on a window keeps out the bugs and lets in fresh air.

3) The Kidpower Trash Can. Take one hand and put it on your hip. The hole your arm makes is your Kidpower Trash Can. Use your other hand to catch hurting words before they get into your heart or your head, where they can stay stuck for a really long time. Next, throw the hurting words into your Trash Can. Finally, put your hand on your heart and say something nice to yourself.  You can do this in your imagination or with a real trash can. You can do this with hurtful words others say or that you say to yourself.

4) Take the Power Out of Emotional Triggers. Emotional triggers are thoughts, words, gestures that cause you to explode with feelings. When your mind and body are exploding with feelings, it is hard to make wise choices or to protect yourself. Write your emotional triggers down. Say them out loud over and over, alternating with your favorite food or vacation spots.

5) The Emotional Raincoat. If someone is storming and you cannot just leave, imagine that you are in a real storm, wearing a warm, waterproof raincoat. You can be silent or make non-escalatory statements like, “I am sorry you feel that way. I care about you a lot. We see this differently. We can agree to disagree. You are important to me. I love you.”

6) ‘That’s Not True’ Practice. Sometimes people say something about you that is true and mix it with something that is not. For example, someone might say, “You’re awful because you’re different.” Even if it is true that you are different than others, this does not mean you are awful. Make a fence by putting your hands in front of your heart a little away from your body, palms facing outwards. Practice by having someone say true things mixed up with untrue things. Use your fence to block the hurting words and say out loud, “That’s not true!”

7) Adjust Your Emotional Distance. For dealing with important people who go back and forth between being great to being rude, you can Adjust Your Emotional Distance. This is a useful tool for enjoying the good in the relationship while protecting yourself from what is upsetting.  You can be close when someone’s behavior is safe and respectful and imagine yourself moving away when the behavior becomes upsetting. Practice this by doing it physically.  Start close to a partner who is at first friendly and then becomes rude. Move back as the behavior gets ruder and then walk away once it becomes unacceptable.



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About the Author

Irene van der Zande, Kidpower Founder and Executive Director
Kidpower Founder and Executive Irene van der Zande is a master at teaching safety through stories and practices and at inspiring others to do the same. Her child protection and personal safety expertise has been featured by USA Today, CNN, Today Moms, the LA Times, and The Wall Street Journal. Publications include: Bullying: What Adults Need to Know and Do to Keep Kids Safe, the Kidpower Safety Comics series, the Relationship Safety Skills Handbook for Teens and Adults, and The Kidpower Book for Caring Adults: Personal Safety, Self-Protection, Confidence, and Advocacy for Young People.
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