Children love getting close to others and there are times when this is entirely appropriate, especially when it comes to sharing love and affection. Understanding what personal space is, however, can be a difficult concept for kids to grasp, which is why strategies need to be taught to help them achieve this.
As a parent you can help children understand the concept of personal space by giving them their own bedroom, wardrobe or toy box to keep their personal belongings in. You can teach them the concept of privacy as they grow, by allowing them to close their door when they use the bathroom or get dressed.
In the Magic Coat we teach children the concept of drawing a ‘Circle in the Sand’ and standing in the middle of it. Children are taught that within that circle is their personal space. The only way another person can get into that circle is if they invite them in, perhaps for a hug.
Children are taught that they can keep anything that is personal to them inside that circle. This can include their physical body but also things within their mind, that they want to keep to themselves.
Sometimes children are told that they must share everything but, just like adults, they may have something that is very special to them and they don’t want to share it in case it gets damaged or broken by the carelessness of others. It is okay for children to take that item or thought into their ‘Circle in the Sand’ and explain nicely to others that, because it is very special to them, they are not ready to share it right now.
It is important that parents don’t get angry at children for doing this. They should encourage children to communicate their feelings effectively and set boundaries for personal space. This is a necessary skill for life.
Children are also taught that sometimes they may feel as if they just want to be on their own. They can then enter that personal space but may have to explain, using a friendly face and body language and a kind tone of voice, that they just want some time alone.
When, as a parent, you need your personal space it is okay for you to draw your ‘Circle in the Sand’ and explain to your children that you just need some time in there, by yourself for a little while. This provides a role model to your children that, as well as having their own ‘Circle in the Sand’, they need to respect that everyone else has a circle in the sand as well.
As a family you can incorporate “Circle in the Sand” as part of your day to day language so that it becomes second nature to your children no matter where or who they are with.