During martial arts classes, we take the opportunity to discuss with children a variety of issues, from safety and stranger awareness to peer pressure and dealing with bullies.

Parents wanting to discuss these issues with their children must make opportunities to do the same.

We discuss the issue with the children by providing them with solid guidelines on how to behave in the situation. To drive home the point, we do role-playing exercises.

Role-playing activities allow children to prepare for such situations because they know what should be done or said.

Be sure to discuss similar situations, because children don’t always see the connections the way adults do. For example, they might see being approached by a stranger on the street completely differently than being approached by a stranger on the playground. Even though the response is mostly the same, it is best to express to children a variety of scenarios.

These topics are perfect for heart-to-heart discussions in the car or at the dinner table. Here are just a few discussion starters:

• “Let’s say I’m your friend and I just found a pack of cigarettes. I want you to come and smoke them with me. What would you do?”
• “I’m the class bully and I just shoved you really hard. What should you do?”
• “I’m a stranger in a car and am asking you to help me find my puppy. What now?”

Role playing gives children a chance to think through these types of situations in a way that is concrete and understandable to them.