Monthly e-Tip: Back To School
School is officially back in session and along with new schools and new bell schedules come new safety concerns. It’s simple yet extremely important for parents to talk with their children about specific dos and don’ts as they head back to school. Here are three scenarios to help get the conversation started:
- Family password- The final school bell rings. Your child is waiting at your normal meeting point but an emergency came up and you’re unable to get to school. An adult your child doesn’t know comes along and says, “Your mom was in an accident and she told me to come pick you up.” Your child:
- Goes with the stranger, no questions asked.
- Keeps waiting for you insisting that no one else should be taking him/her off campus.
- Asks for the password and knows it is safe to go with the person if they answer correctly.
Emergencies come up sometimes and in those times we may need help from a friend, relative or coworker that our child may or may not know. By establishing a family password, you eliminate the guess work for your child. Choose something obscure that your child can easily recall and, just like you do with your computer, change it every few months. If possible, call the school and let them know that someone other than you will be picking your child up that day, but if you can’t make contact with the school, at least your child will have the proper tool to know how to handle the situation.
- Safe Route- Your home is two blocks away from your child’s school. They want independence and you want to give them a little more responsibility. You:
- Say absolutely not. It’s just not safe!
- Plot out a safe route with your child.
- Time the walk/ride so that you both know how long it will take to get to and from school.
- Explain that if they deviate from the route they will lose the privilege of walking him/herself.
- B,C, and D
If you feel comfortable allowing your child to walk or ride their bike to and from school, that’s wonderful. Responsibility and independence are excellent lessons for every child to learn and getting to school on their own is a good start, as long as both parent and child feel safe. Make sure you plan a route together and explain that your child should never take shortcuts. Time the walk/ride so that you both know what time to expect arrival. Also, identify and talk with safe neighbors so that if something happens and your child needs to get to safety, they know exactly where they can go.
- Bullying- Your child comes home from school and is acting very withdrawn. In the little bit of information you can get out of him/her, you discover that they are being teased at school. Over time you start to notice posts from your child’s classmates that are more and more hurtful. You are very concerned, so you:
- Take away all electronics and insist that your child stop talking with those mean kids.
- Document the bullying through screenshots, delete the posts from your child’s page and report the incident(s) to the school or local law enforcement.
- Remind your child that you love them and are very proud of who they are. Try to find a new activity they can get involved in—maybe a new sport, acting class, religious group or volunteer organization.
- Make up a fake account and start bullying the kids who are bullying your child.
- Reach out to the parents of the bully/ies.
Answer: B, C, and E
Bullying has recently become a bigger issue for many students because it doesn’t necessarily stop when kids get home from school. Home isn’t really a safe haven anymore because bullies are able to sneak into other student’s lives through social media. As a parent, it is vital to keep up with your child’s social media usage and watch for warning signs of bullying. If you notice signs that your child is being bullied on social media, document it and then get rid of the original messages. Your son or daughter does not need to have repeated access to those negative words. However, you do want to have documentation to be able to make your case. On the opposite side, if you notice that your son or daughter is being a bully, intervene immediately. No parent wants to admit that their child is misbehaving, but by stepping in and stopping this behavior you can drastically change or even save another child’s life.
If your child is being bullied, it is extremely important that you give them positive feedback and remind them that they will not always be in school—elementary, middle and high school are all very temporary phases in life. It is also important to not become a bully in the process of dealing with a bully. It is so easy to fire back when someone hurts our feelings, especially online where there is no face-to-face contact, but by responding to bullying by being a bully, you will only make the problem worse. Take a step back and find a different way to respond, whether that’s contacting your child’s school, the other child’s parents, or in extreme cases, law enforcement.
Parents, the most important thing you can do with your children is talk. Choose any topic and let the conversation flow. The more often you have casual conversations with your kids, the more comfortable they will feel opening up to you when problems come along. Be proactive and know that you’re probably doing a better job at parenting than you give yourself credit for.