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Empowering youth with a choice

Updated: Aug 5, 2022

At IMPACT Colorado, we’ve noticed an uptick in interest in our Teen and Family classes this year, probably due to the lifting of pandemic precautions and another shift in how we are living our social lives. Our Safer Together class, designed for teens and their parents/caregivers to take together, has been one of our most popular classes.

Many parents are reaching out with questions about college preparation classes and classes for teens and young adults. It makes sense that parents would want their kids to have self-defense strategies. It is normal for parents to have concern for their child’s safety as they get more freedom, especially as we hear more and more about the violence in the world.

However, we’ve also noticed a desire for parents to have their children understand the “ground rules” of safety. As if there is an easy list of dos and the don'ts. Most parents already have set safety rules that they provide for their children– curfews, rules about checking in, rules around who they can spend time with, digital safety, etc. However, as youth get more freedom, they also get more opportunities to make their own decisions, and sometimes those decisions go against what parents think is safe.

Our instructors receive questions such as: “Will you teach them what to do when being followed?”, “Will you teach them how to be safe around someone they haven’t met yet?”, “Will you teach them what to do in public to not seem like a bad target?” The answers to these questions are, ultimately, yes. We will teach them all of these things. However, we may not teach them in the way parents hope. For example, we will not tell our students to never meet up with someone they haven’t met before, or to never wear headphones in public, or never go out at night. We will not tell them, “If you are being followed, here is what you should always do…”

Parents seem to be looking for an easy-to-follow rule book that we can teach their kids that will guarantee their safety. Rules that say “if this, then this” and then provide the dos and don’ts of what is safe. It makes sense that parents want this. If safety was as simple as following a set of rules, we would want that too. But, unfortunately, this type of training frequently comes at the cost of allowing ourselves to live the lives that we want to live. We want our students to live full, rich lives, without fear of the world. We don’t want them to be bogged down by dos and don’ts that they forget to make the decisions that make life worth living.

IMPACT cannot guarantee safety, and we will never be able to provide enough dos and don’ts to cover every scenario that will happen in someone’s life. Life will happen, and not everything in life is safe. However, while we can’t guarantee safety, what we can do is make the best decision for us in the moment and know that we are prepared to protect ourselves if we need to. IMPACT helps people do this by providing tools and strategies from which they can choose. You are the expert on your personal safety, so if you find yourself in a bad situation, whatever you do to keep yourself safe is the right thing for you. We cannot predict the choices you will have if anything happens, all we can do is provide a bunch of tools you can use.

IMPACT teaches students how to be prepared by building upon the tools that they already use to keep themselves safe. We teach them active awareness and how to trust their intuition to avoid potentially dangerous situations. We follow it up with verbal boundary setting, de-escalation skills, and physical self-defense techniques so that if they can’t avoid the situation, they can get out of it quickly. We also explore healthy relationships and how to identify and address problematic behaviors early on. We give our students the confidence in themselves and their own power to make decisions regarding their safety, and we help them know they are worth fighting for.

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