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NOTE: This is an interactive story, which can be read to one child or to a group of kids. Encourage each child to respond to the questions by nodding or shaking their head, raising their hand, or answering out loud. Adapt the directions depending on the child or children with you. Change names if necessary so that no child you are reading to has the same names as the children in the story.

Even though you know lots of ways to stay safe, it can be hard to remember what to do in real life. Once a girl who learned Kidpower went to her best friend’s house for an overnight. We do not use the real names of our students, so we will call her Penny, and her friend, Kerry. [Change the names if the child you are reading to has that same name.]

Have any of you stayed overnight at a friend’s house? [Encourage children to respond.] Penny and Kerry decided to stay awake after Kerry’s parents told them to go to sleep. Have any of you ever stayed up after adults told you to go to sleep? [Encourage children to respond.]

After everybody was asleep, Kerry said to Penny, “I’m hungry! Let’s go sneak some chips from the kitchen!” Have any of you ever snuck treats when you weren’t supposed to? [Encourage children to respond.] Then Kerry said, “Let’s go watch something on the computer. I just found a movie for grownups that I know we’re not supposed to see. OK?”

Penny thought this sounded exciting and said, “OK!” even though she knew it was against the rules. She felt like grownups make too many rules! Do any of you ever feel like there are too many rules? [Encourage children to respond.] Have any of you ever broken rules on purpose? [Encourage children to respond.]

Anyway, while they were snuggled together eating chips and watching the movie, Penny started to feel uncomfortable about what she was seeing. She thought, “This is gross. But I don’t want Kerry to think I’m a baby! And what do adults know anyway!” So she said nothing. Have any of you ever not wanted your friends to think you were a baby? [Encourage children to respond.]

Suddenly, Kerry started touching Penny between her legs in her private area. Penny was shocked. She thought, “This is my best friend. I don’t want her to get mad at me. But I’m starting to feel real bad! And I already broke a lot of rules. Being up late, sneaking the chips, watching the movie. I can’t stop now. And who could I talk to? I don’t know Kerry’s parents that well. They might get mad at me.”

Penny was so confused that she just waited and did nothing. What other choices did Penny have? [Let the children answer. If they get stuck, prompt them.] Could she tell Kerry to stop? Would Kerry be a good friend to get mad at Penny if she says to stop? If you make one mistake, should you keep on making mistakes? Could Penny call home? Even in the middle of the night? Check with your parents so that you know that you can always call if you have a problem, even in the middle of the night.

Penny felt so upset about what happened that she pushed it out of her mind. It took a lot of work, but every time the memory came up, she made herself forget. Have you ever made yourself forget things you felt bad about? [Encourage children to respond.]

About a week later, Penny had a bad dream. She woke up and said to herself, “Oh, no, that wasn’t just a dream. It really happened! I broke all my safety rules. I feel like such a bad person. And I feel so mixed up about Kerry. She did something that makes me feel bad, but she’s my best friend. It’s been a whole week! I can’t tell anybody about it now!” What other choices does Penny have? [Wait for suggestions] Is it ever too late to ask for help? No, it is never too late to tell.

Penny kept feeling bad and making herself forget for a whole year. Then she tried to tell her mother. [Or father] She said, “Mom, Kerry is acting funny.”

Her Mom said, “What do you mean by funny?”

Penny said, “Well, she makes me uncomfortable.”

Penny’s mom said, “That’s okay, honey. Things do change with friends, as you get older. Why don’t you try talking with Kerry or play with someone else?”

Penny went away feeling really upset, though she did not show her mother. She thought, “Mom does not care about what happened to me! I’ve felt so awful for so long and she doesn’t even care!” What do you think? Does Penny’s Mom care about her? [Wait for response] What else could Penny have done? [Wait for suggestions and coach answers.] Did she tell her Mom the whole story? Can her Mom read her mind?

Finally, Penny tried to tell her Mom again. She said, “Mom, something has really bothered me for a long time, and I’m scared you’ll get mad that I didn’t tell you sooner. But one time I was at Kerry’s house and we stayed up and watched a movie that we weren’t supposed to, and she touched me in a way that I know broke our safety rules about touching private areas. And I feel like a really bad person.”

Penny’s Mom said, “You’re not bad, Penny, you just made a mistake. And I’m glad you told me now. We’ll talk some more until you feel better. And we’ll talk to Kerry’s family. I’m sure she needs help too.”

And Penny and Kerry and their grownups all got the help they needed to be safe and to feel good about themselves.

Sometimes the people kids love have problems. Sometimes their problems are so big that they do things to hurt kids or make them uncomfortable. If this happens to you or to someone you know, it does not mean that anybody is bad. But it does mean that everyone needs help. The way to get help is to tell an adult you trust. If the first adult you tell does not understand, try again. If this adult does not help, find another adult to tell. If an adult tells you not to talk about it, tell a different adult. Keep telling until somebody does something about the problem. Remember that what happened is not your fault, and that it is never too late to tell.

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Published: March 9, 2012   |   Last Updated: February 24, 2022

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: cartoon-illustrated Kidpower Safety Comics and Kidpower Teaching Books curriculum; Bullying: What Adults Need to Know and Do to Keep Kids Safe; the Relationship Safety Skills Handbook for Teens and Adults; Earliest Teachable Moment: Personal Safety for Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers; The Kidpower Book for Caring Adults: Personal Safety, Self-Protection, Confidence, and Advocacy for Young People, and the Amazon Best Seller Doing Right by Our Kids: Protecting Child Safety at All Levels.