Whether online, back in the classroom, or making do with a hybrid learning model, children and families have been challenged to stay on track, stay safe and frankly, stay sane during difficult days.
Dr. Jack Shonkoff, Director of Harvard’s Center for the Developing Child and a pediatrician told USA Today, “This could affect a whole generation for the rest of their lives. All kids will be affected. Some will get through this and be fine. They will learn from it and grow, but lots of kids are going to be in big trouble.”
So, before we get to the special challenges of our new normal, let’s remember some of the back-to-school basics that put the security of our children first. The well-respected team at the National Crime Prevention Council has 10 tips for keeping kids safe and we’ll augment them with a little Childhelp wisdom.
Ten Tips for Keeping Students Safe:
- SAFE TRANSPORT: Parents and children should plan a route to and from school together, avoiding short cuts that may take them out of public view. Even if the trip is from the bedroom to the virtual learning station, make sure your child is in an open area for monitoring and proper online supervision.
- BUDDY SYSTEM: If you are not personally escorting your child, encourage children to travel with friends to and from school. In the virtual classroom, consider a parenting round table to share academic oversight with a few well-known parents from your child’s class. By having a parenting “buddy” you trust, you can also manage stress, complete your own work requirements, or just practice a little self-care while your child is studying and socializing with friends.
- FUN GOALS: Establish clear rules for after-school activities, schedule plenty of fun/recreation, and review your rules regularly. What time is curfew? When should a child call home? (A supervising parent/caregiver leaves children alone, there is bullying, a child feels uncomfortable for any reason, etc.)
- SAFE ADULTS: Help your child identify safe adults in his or her life. Children should report suspicious behaviors or threats by peers or others to a safe parent, teacher, or counselor.
- CALM, COOL AND SECURE: Help children learn how to manage anger effectively. Encourage schools to provide conflict resolution training and body safety prevention education for all students. When we speak the same language, we build more secure systems of learning.
- RESPECT: Teach children to respect others and their belongings. Help them understand it is inappropriate to bully, threaten or steal personal property. This includes online bullying, such as insulting others in chats, on social media, or during virtual learning.
- OBSERVE: Look for warning signs of emotional distress, depression, or anxiety. Parents should listen to and talk with their children regularly to find out what is happening at school both in and out of the classroom. Communication is not just verbal, but observant of nonverbal signs of upset. Childhelp has a list of signs and symptoms that could be indicative of abuse or neglect: What Is Child Abuse? (childhelp.org)
- SPEAK UP: Ask administrators about safety efforts. Do they control access to the school by visitors? Are all visitors required to check in with badges/ID at all times? Are teachers receiving regular mandated reporter training? Learn more about the safety curricula at your child’s school.
- GET INVOLVED: Request school safety assessments to identify potential problems and upgrades needed to improve school safety measures. Ask what the rules are for online learning and teacher-to-student email. There should be no interactions that parents don’t know about.
- PLAY A PART: Parents should know their child’s friends. You are their model!
In addition to the yearly basics, following the American Academy of Pediatrics and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations for COVID safety will round out a great, healthy and happy year for your child. Here’s what we know: vaccines, masking, and social distancing work.
With clear communication, your involvement in the learning process, attention to mental health and partnering with others for support, you and your children can not just survive the school year but thrive in these tough times. Need a little extra help? Connect with the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline night or day. We’re not just an emergency hotline, we can walk you through the basics of school safety and help you prepare for a great year! Click here to get started.