I struggle with this topic. In fact, I’m completely saddened that this is even a topic. When did our schools go from being a welcoming, comforting and safe zone to becoming secured from the outside world, resembling a prison? You have to be buzzed in wherever you go, in or out. We become a number, a face on an ID badge when picking up our children. Where do we go from here?
I’m not sure how to talk to my son about safety as he begins his third year at preschool, but I know I need to. We cannot hide our children from the world, and unfortunately, we cannot hide the world from our children. I struggle with what to tell Evan, how to explain being safe at school. I hate to see him lose his innocence because once that is gone, he realizes just how scary the world around us truly is.
Safety is the topic of conversation for all schools, before we even met the teachers, we learned what measures were taken for the upcoming year. We know how many guards there are, when you have to wear your badge, which doors you need to be buzzed in and out of, who is in control of the cameras, what the updates are on the security systems, what the protocol is for pick-up and drop-off, what needs to happen if someone else is picking up your child, whose eyes are on your kids when, and the list goes on. There is so much we know before we even get the list for school supplies. What happened to the exciting introduction letters? The cute announcements for who is in what class?
In light of all of this, I asked a police officer friend of mine for advice on how to speak to our children about safety and what tips he would suggest. Here are a few key safety tips he had to offer to parents like me.
8 Tips for Safe Kids
1. Stranger danger. Offenders try to pick up kids of all ages. Kids need to be aware of what’s going on around them. Example: If a child is being followed, offenders may turn their headlights on to make it more difficult to see inside the vehicle and slowly drive behind the child to make it seem like they are parking or looking for an address. They may even drive on the wrong side of the street to be closer. Kids should know not to run straight home but to a neighbors house or a safe place nearby for help.
2. Name game. Do not put names on the outside of bags/backpacks. Offenders can call anyone out by their name, often making it seem like they know the child.
3. Provide your child with a safe word. If anyone other than Mom or Dad is picking up your child, have a safe word to indicate this person is a family or friend.
4. Fight right. If someone tries to abduct a child, teach child to fight as hard and as dirty as they can while screaming for help the entire time.
5. No taking, no giving. Educate children to never take anything from anyone, ever. Do not go near someone who says they are looking for anything or asking for help.
6. Plan ahead. Parents should have a safe place to meet their child in case of an emergency.
7. Stick together. In public places, educate children on the importance of staying together. It’s too easy for children to wander off. Again, have a safe place to meet should this happen.
8. Tell authorities. Parents must notify police immediately and make a report of any occurrences.
My plan is to remind Evan that I love him, each and every time I drop him off. What is important for Evan to know is that those in his classroom love him, and his key role at school is to learn and absorb the experience and information that is offered to him. It is just as important for Evan to be sure to listen, and follow directions. Even if he doesn’t agree, directions from our teachers are only to protect us.
Do you have stranger danger talks with your kids? —Jennifer