BENNINGTON -- Starting April 22, the Bennington County Child Advocacy Center will offer a new, free educational program for children ages 2 to 5 years old. Children are to come in with their parents or guardians to teach the skills needed to be safe, responsible and respectful children. The program, Safe Steps, seeks to encourage accountability, communication and empathy among youth.
"Parenting skills are continuous from when the child is an infant," said BCCAC Executive Director Joy Kitchell. "When they turn 2, we can really start to have good interaction with the kids. We are able to provide moms and dads some structured playtime with their children."
The program is being introduced as part of the BCCAC's mission to prevent child abuse. To do so, Safe Steps seeks to teach children empathy, understanding of feeling, accountability and communication of feeling.
"Research shows that those are very important skills to help prevent children from becoming victims and from becoming victimizers," Kitchell said.
To teach those skills to children between the ages of 2 and 5, Kitchell said the program will start with very basic lessons: Teaching kids body awareness and what is and is not appropriate. The program will teach parents how to model proper behavior and interaction with their children, because children will mimic those behaviors.
The curriculum is being developed by Lil' Peeps Preschool LLC, and gives parents take-home activities to continue practicing the skills Safe Steps teaches.
"We are providing a place to learn different activities, stories, music and games to learn about feelings and body awareness," said Kitchell. "Also to learn how to be responsible. We are providing an avenue for parents to give that to their children."
The weekly program will be held from 9:30 to 11 a.m. Tuesdays at Schools Out Children's Center, 901 Main St. The program is free and limited to 15 children. To register, call the BCCAC at (802) 442-5107 or register online at vtbccac.com.
"It's limited to 15 children because we want a really good interaction with the children and their families," Kitchell said.
If the class fills up, BCCAC will keep a waiting list to fill spots that empty. If interest in the program grows, Kitchell plans to allocate funding for an evening program for working parents. The Prevent Child Abuse Vermont website, pcavt.org has a list of additional programs to teach children about self-esteem so that they are stronger and know how to communicate their needs in a safe way.
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