Keeping young people safe through informed intuition

How can you use your intuition to help safeguard the wellbeing of children?

Unfortunately, children and young people can be hurt by the very adults entrusted to care for them. When this happens, those close to the situation may find themselves saying they "had a feeling something was off.” While this is not always the case, learning to understand and listen to those "feelings" when they occur may prove useful in safeguarding the wellbeing of children.

This feeling can be called informed intuition—seeing the unseen, understanding without the need for reasoning or, as Friends for Youth said, knowing without knowing why. Some people consider intuition to be that initial instinct when faced with a choice.

So is intuition a real thing? Consider this: You are constantly processing your surroundings and storing knowledge. Intuition kicks in when something in one moment reminds you of information you have gathered through other life experiences. We describe this as a gut feeling or instinct, but in many situations there is more going on.

We often have physical responses when intuition kicks in—particularly when our intuition is detecting a problem. You may feel clammy, a change in temperature, a tightening of the stomach, a sick feeling or the hair standing up on the back of your neck—all signs to seek safety. It is common for people to dismiss these signs of unease because they cannot describe why they feel the way they do. Taking a moment to process the situation can sometimes lead to some answers—perhaps someone is crossing boundaries, breaking rules or acting out of the norm.

How does intuition relate to keeping young people safe? Your intuition is a gift that allows you to recognize unsafe situations. It is common to think you are over-reacting or misreading the situation, but often you are unconsciously picking up on information that reminds you of unsafe situations you have had yourself or know about through others. By acknowledging this intuition and understanding it is enough to act on, you will feel more comfortable talking to someone when you “have a bad feeling” that should be further examined. 

When this happens, Michigan State University Extension recommends bringing concerns to someone who can help. Depending on the setting, you may talk to a teacher, counselor, volunteer coordinator, parent or law enforcement. Share your observations and as much about the situation as you can. Even if everything checks out, it is better to be safe and precautious when working with others, especially youth.

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