Personal safety is a 4-H life skill

When you think about life skills that youth gain as part of the 4-H Youth Development Program, you may not automatically think of personal safety, yet it’s one of the most basic life skills and can often be difficult for youth to master.

Wear your seat belt!  Get a hug to comfort your sadness!  Call 911 in an emergency! Talk to a friend who will give you positive and constructive advice!  According to Michigan State University Extension, when you think about life skills that youth gain as part of the 4-H Youth Development Program, you may not automatically think of personal safety. One of the most basic life skills is personal safety, and can often be difficult for youth to master as they grow into adulthood. 

As adults how do we teach kids about this skill? In 4-H Youth Development, we like to think about personal safety as a skill that can be targeted and worked on.  In other words, personal safety can be practiced and youth can gain important skills to help them learn how to work with the positive and negative stresses. This may occur as they make decisions about their personal safety that they will inevitably encounter as they mature and grow older. Review the Targeting Life Skills Model from Iowa State University for information about other life skills 4-H targets. 

According to the model, when developing youth curriculum staff and volunteers work with youth to help them build personal safety skills by: 

  • Understanding physical and emotional safety
  • Taking care to avoid danger, risk or harm
  • Exhibiting self-protection
  • Being cautious and careful
  • Handling emergencies appropriately
  • Avoiding unhealthy attachments such as gangs or bullying
  • Avoiding situations that might put one at risk such as using weapons or walking alone at night
  • Practicing safe driving skills, if a driver, and avoid riding with unsafe drivers
  • Practicing refusal skills

Don’t forget that as adults, 4-H volunteers or staff, we are charged with helping youth to “make the best better.”  However, it is still important to be a role model and show youth the behaviors we expect them to learn.  Practice, discuss and provide examples to youth of when you have had to make decisions about personal safety.  Appropriately explain the positive consequences of those decisions on personal safety. Also explain changes you would make next time during the decision making process that may have resulted differently.