The Importance of Playing “What If” with Your Kids


mom and son driving in car together

I recently came across this article about attitude inoculation. Think of it as role playing with your child—talking through tough situations that they may face, before they are in the moment.

We all hope that our children are prepared to handle any situation that comes their way—maybe a bully, a fight with a friend, someone asking to copy their test. But when faced with the situation, are they really prepared? Will they do or say the right thing?

One of the best ways to put your child to the test and increase their inoculation is to play the “What If” game. It allows you to put your child in a situation before they are in it and have them talk through how they might handle it. The organization Darkness to Light has created the “What If” Game.  The idea is to ask your kids two or three questions at a time, maybe in the car on the way home from school or on the way to practice.  Find a time when you have a captured audience and you don’t have to look them in the eyes!

The cards include some fun questions and some that make your child think through a situation that might really put them to the test.

If you could have any three wishes granted, what would you wish for? 

What do you think your mom or dad were like as kids? 

What if you were with a babysitter and they had a friend come over that you didn’t know? 

What if we were in the store and you couldn’t find me. Who would you ask for help?  

 Getting your child to think through what they would do and coaching them if they are not on the right track is a tool that builds their resilience. It makes them safer in a world that seems to be testing them all of the time.

We want our children to have every tool to keep them safe—a cell phone, a bike helmet, a trusted adult.  Give them the language they need to help them out of difficult and potentially unsafe situations.


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Tracy is the Director of Programming and Partnerships for Darkness to Light, a child sexual abuse prevention organization. She grew up in northeast Ohio, and has lived in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Arizona, and Northern Virginia and has worked in the arts, in education, in non-profits and in ed tech. Her husband's job brought them to the Bay Area and there's no looking back! Tracy is mom to two trans teens who are just beginning their journey. Self-care includes pedicures, reading, cooking, crafting, and just being with her family. She also serves as Chair of the Board for the Attachment and Trauma Network, a national non-profit.


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