On the forefront of every parent's mind is the fateful day their kids take off on the school bus to start their education. Who's watching them? Who will protect my children when I'm not there? How can I help them, help themselves in intense and scary situations?
School Violence Fears
Media coverage of school violence is on an almost constant loop. Schools have drills and teachers speak with all school aged children about what procedure is in the event of an emergency. All of these things can stress out the youngest of children and can cause an overload of anxiety and fear in them.
Encourage Them To Talk
Let your children know you are there for help and guidance. Encourage them to convey their concerns and divulge their feelings. It may be easiest for the parent to start the conversation as the child may be too afraid to. Talk to small children on their level and describe the differences between a "mean" classmate and a "violent" classmate. Let them know they can tell you if there is someone they are afraid of. Validate their concerns when they approach you with them.
Inform your child that serious school violence isn't a common event. This is why the media covers it so thoroughly - it isn't commonplace at all. Explain that due to previous incidents, safety continues to be a common theme among schools as is figuring out how to prevent future tragedies.
Empower Your Children
Encourage your children to take an active role in their school safety from a young age. If they are of an appropriate age, allow them to participate in safety programs run by students at their school. Impress the importance on them of reporting bullying or unsafe situations or events.
Learn the safety procedures your child's school takes and go over them with your child at home to reinforce the importance of following the guidelines. Stress the importance of following all rules and policies that school has. If your child asks why a certain rule is in place, give them an explanation. The reason may matter in determining if your child choose to follow it.
Create a Safety Plan
A family emergency plan in place is always an excellent idea. For small children, use the plan to help them identify adults that can be trusted. Perhaps the school secretary, the gym teacher or an administrator. This person should be someone they trust enough to share concerns about safety with while they are at school.
Your ability to recognize behavior in your children that could indicate they are concerned about going to school is vital. Are they arguing about going to school-based activities that would otherwise be fun? Did they once enjoy and look forward to going to school and now play sick or make excuses? Have their grades declined? Keeping an open and honest dialogue with your children will go a long way with their safety and your peace of mind.
Signs Your Child May Have Safety Concerns
Decreased or lack of interest in school
Poor performance in school
Consistently disregarding rules
Cruelty to animals or others
Painting or drawing artwork that is violent, depressing or desolate
Preoccupation with weapons or violence
Carrying a weapon to school (whether to protect or harm others)
Agitation, hostility, yelling or screaming
Withdrawal from school activities or friends
If you feel you don't have the right answers or are in over your head, ask for help from a qualified professional. Don't wait for bad behaviors to pass, it may be too late.