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Respect, Consent, Safety, and Kindness: Middle School Dance Guidelines

My son is going to his first middle school dance! As I heard groups of kids talking about how they would act at the dance and what they were expecting to happen at the dance, I suddenly realized that while we teach our kids to be kind, respectful, and courteous in all interactions, unless we tell our kids specifics, they do not always know what are the kind, courteous, and safe thing in different and new situations.

I knew that I needed to talk with my son about guidelines for how to be kind and respectful at a dance, so I turned to the internet….and I found nothing. All I could find were rules from schools that were phrased in shame and punishment, which is not how we teach kids to be good citizens of the world. And, none of them addressed kindness, consent, or safety.

So, with my son, we discussed some guidelines for the dance that can also apply to lots of other social situations. I thought I would share our guidelines with you all in case one day you are out there Googling for middle school dance guidelines too. I know this is not an exhaustive list. I just hope this is a good starting point for people. Use what works, don’t use what doesn’t, and add to it and change it as it works for your kids.

  • Only ask people to dance if you honestly want to dance with them.

  • Don't pressure your friends to dance with someone- of any gender- just to be funny or to make the other person uncomfortable. It is not funny to see people's reactions or joke about asking people to dance and it sends a message that certain people dancing together is bad, funny, or wrong.

  • You can support a friend to ask someone they really want to ask to dance if they are shy about asking. But, you CAN NOT bribe each other to ask other people to dance, pay each other bets, or otherwise treat other people like an object to be bought, sold, or bet on.

  • If someone asks you to dance and you do not want to dance with them, be kind- a simple "No, but thank you for asking" is fine.

  • If you ask someone to dance and they say no, they do not need to give you a reason why and you do not ask them again or bother them. (Remember, as Megan Trainor says: “My name is, “no”... You need to let it go.”)

  • No laughing or joking about certain people dancing together or about the way people dance.

  • Don't dance in a way that could be physically or emotionally harmful to another person. No slam dancing, which can cause injury. At this age, no grinding.

  • We do not judge and shame other people for the way they dance because dance style is a lot about culture and community expectations.

  • As you get older (high school) and expand to dancing closer together, we talk with our dance partner about what we are both comfortable with.

  • Do not leave the dance for any reason or go anywhere alone with anyone- current friend or new person you met of any gender.

  • If you notice someone else pressuring your friend to dance or engaging with them in a way that is uncomfortable for them or inappropriate, you can intervene by telling your friend you need to talk to them and both walking away. Immediately tell an adult at the dance and call or text the parent who brought you or your own parent.

  • Tell a friend and ask for help (from friend or an adult) if you feel uncomfortable with the way someone is treating you. Also tell an adult when you are safe enough to.

  • No alcohol or drugs and if you see someone else with either of them, tell an adult.

  • When in doubt or if you ever feel uncomfortable, text your parent your emergency word or emoji. (We parents forget that a kid calling or texting their parents that they want to go home or something is going on can be really scary for them because other people are often looking at their phone and watching their every move. Choose a word and/or emoji that your kid can text to you that you know means they need you to call them or come and get them.)

Blessings to my fellow tween/early teen parents and good luck!

Blessings to all of our kids as they navigate being well liked yet responsible, safe, and kind at the same time.

Rev. Katie

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