Irene van der Zande spreads the word about personal safety in ‘The Kidpower Book’
Anxiety does not make children safer,” says Irene van der Zande. “Fear does not make them safer, and neither does worry. What makes them safer is knowledge and skills.”
That message is at the heart of van der Zande’s new book, “The Kidpower Book for Caring Adults: Personal Safety, Self-Protection, Confidence and Advocacy For Young People.” An expert in personal safety, with more than two decades of experience, and the founder of Kidpower Teenpower Fullpower International—a local nonprofit dedicated to teaching people how “to use their power to stay safe, act wisely and believe in themselves”—van der Zande’s book is directed toward parents, teachers, and all adults interested in promoting the safety of children.
And in light of the recent murder of beloved community member and co-owner of Camouflage, Shannon Collins, van der Zande’s book comes at a critical moment locally. “Having a tragic thing like this happen serves to shake us out of denial, and forces us to regroup,” says van der Zande. “We need to make meaning of this death as individuals by garnering safety skills, sharing safety skills, sharing stories, and developing our competence in safety awareness.”
“The Kidpower Book” offers strategies for avoiding trouble, creating boundaries for better relationships, self-defense, protecting young people from bullying, sexual abuse, abduction prevention, and much more. An easy-to-use guide with a forward by best-selling author Gavin de Becker, the book is now available for purchase at Bookshop Santa Cruz and kidpower.org.
Besides learning how to protect the children in their life, readers will discover methods for teaching children about taking charge of their personal safety. “People tend to get stuck in rigid thinking instead of really knowing what to do,” explains van der Zande. “The point of our book and our program is that practicing and rehearsing what to do is more effective than any amount of discussion.”
Kidpower was founded in 1989, following an incident in which van der Zande prevented the abduction of a group of children, including her 7-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son. From there, the organization became a collaborative effort between van der Zande, local educators, law enforcement officials, mental health professionals, martial arts experts, safety experts, and parents. Kidpower currently provides curriculum development for schools, instructor training, and workshops for children and adults.
“Our premise is to teach in ways that are joyful, effective and empowered,” says van der Zande. “We have reached over 2 million people around the world through our publications in print and online, consultations, classes, and workshops.” Kidpower’s website also has a wealth of information that can be accessed for free, as part of their effort to teach locally and share globally.
Van der Zande urges Santa Cruz County residents to brush up on their personal safety skills by taking a self-defense and first aid class. She also recommends three safety tips applicable in any precarious situation: Always be aware of your environment, take action as soon as possible to interrupt the pattern of attack, and be very persistent in getting help.
She believes that “The Kidpower Book” is just a small step in furthering the organization’s mission to become more accessible and expand its influence on creating safer communities, especially in Santa Cruz. Kidpower is predicated on the conviction that personal safety is something that everyone can and should practice. “We’re for kids and for anyone who used to be a kid,” van der Zande says with a laugh. “That about covers it.”
For more information about Kidpower and “The Kidpower Book,” visit kidpower.org. Book available for purchase at Bookshop Santa Cruz and at kidpower.org.