As parents, sending our kids to school each and every day can be one of the most emotionally challenging things we do. We give up control of who we love the most, and sometimes there are serious dangers associated with the school environment.
These risks can start as soon as our kids get on the school bus. The school bus, particularly if your kid rides one that’s older and has fewer safety features, can be dangerous.
Then throughout the day, there are a number of other possible risks, from dealing with bullies at school to the precautions kids with food allergies need to adhere to.
While as parents school might make us feel nervous, we do have to realize that teachers and administrators are doing their best to make it a safe environment.
Even so, are there things we can also do as parents?
School Bus Safety
If your child rides the bus to and from school, this is a good place to start focusing as far as helping to improve their level of safety.
Work with your child, particularly if your child is younger, about how to be safe at the bus stop. This includes ensuring that you’re always on time, so no one is rushing. Rushing to the school bus can increase the likelihood of accidents.
Your child should always stand at least three “giant” steps from the curb while they wait for the bus, and younger kids should have supervision until the bus arrives and they’re safely on.
Children should not ever walk behind the bus, and your child should learn that if they drop something, they should tell the bus driver before they try to pick it up.
Other school bus safety tips that are important for kids to learn are:
- Kids should always wait until the bus stops, and the doors open all the way before they approach to get on or stand up to get off.
- Teach your kids to use the handrail as they’re getting on and off the bus.
- Don’t let your child have any hanging objects such as drawstrings when they’re getting on or off the bus.
Learn the Procedures at Your Child’s School
Every school will have its own safety and emergency procedures and guidelines.
As a parent, learn what these are and regularly check in to make sure there are no changes or updates you need to be aware of.
When you’re familiar with this information, you can then go over it with your child and make sure he or she will feel confident if certain situations arise.
Your goal in helping your kids learn how to take proper safety measures should be encouraging them to be active, and take an active role in their safety instead of one that’s passive.
Teach Your Kids When to Speak Up
Even the best teachers and school officials don’t see everything that might be happening. As a parent, your role in keeping your kids safe involves teaching them how to speak up when they see something that’s not right.
Speaking up doesn’t mean tattling, and there are ways you can work with your child to differentiate these situations.
Talk with your child about behaviors that aren’t safe or are unacceptable, and how to approach someone in charge when they see these things happening.
If your child tells you something that seems especially harmful or dangerous, go directly to school officials.
Be a Safety Advocate
Being involved is critical to make sure your child has a good school experience.
As a parent, there are ways you can advocate to make the school environment safer for everyone.
While many schools may have plans in place for certain situations, these may be in need of an update, or they may need improvements, and you can play a role in whether or not that happens.
Ask school officials whether all staff have been trained in crisis response, and whether or not the emergency or crisis plans are reviewed and updated every year.
Talk to school officials about how they decide what’s developmentally appropriate for kids as far as crisis training. Has the school done a full risk assessment to determine and address what their vulnerabilities might be?
How does the school identify and deal with potential threats, including threats of violence from students, parents, or other people directly associated with the school?
Encourage Open Communication with Your Child
The more openly and honestly your child communicates with you, the more you will know about what’s going on at school. You’ll also be able to identify any red flags before they become larger problems.
A few tips for good communication with your kids include:
- Don’t make your child feel judged for sharing their feelings. In younger kids, you can help them learn the right words to express what they’re feeling.
- Work with your child on problem-solving skills.
- Be honest when you communicate with your child if you hope for your child to do the same.
- Simply be available and willing to listen, whenever it’s needed. You can’t always schedule a time or structure time for a conversation. Your child will talk when they want to and are ready.
- Show your child you’re actively listening to what they’re saying.
- Learn how to read body language and facial expressions.
Keep Your Child’s Records Up to Date
Your child might have an allergy or health problem, and the only way for the people at the school to know that is if you communicate with them. Regularly check-in to make sure your child’s records are accurate and complete.
Speak to teachers, the school nurse, and anyone else who’s relevant about what your child’s needs are and how you handle their mental or physical health conditions.
It’s scary to let go of control as a parent, but there are things you can do to facilitate a safe school experience for your child through your active involvement.