*I posted this column last year and received a lot of requests to re-post this year. I'd encourage everyone to revisit the below and ensure your school-aged children, and you, are prepared!*
As the summer break dwindles to an end and we prepare our eager children for school, some being their first day of school, we attempt to ensure our kids will have all the necessary tools and supplies to be successful. Oh, and don’t forget all of the back to school outfits! With all the hustle and stress that parents endure to make the experience a positive one, we often make “To-do lists” to make sure nothing is overlooked or forgotten. Most schools will give their students an instruction sheet, as well as a class supplies list. These lists and instruction sheets will include everything your child will need, or need to do, to be successful. It will surely instruct you, the parent, on how to properly drop off and pick up your child (Be sure to read this part, trust me! I have been detained by the Drop Off / Pick Up Police… After a few minutes of remedial training and a cavity search, I was set on the right track.) Lists are very useful and they help us remember things, especially when we are under a timeline and under stress. So this year, I challenge all parents and guardians to add another item to their back to school list- SAFETY!
It’s unfortunate that we have to address these issues with our children, but it is a reality of the world we live in today. In our attempt to save our little one’s innocence, it’s easy to overlook or even intentionally omit several topics that are otherwise difficult to communicate. For many of us, we believe if we think about or communicate a difficult topic, we are in some way bringing this act or action upon our family. It’s the old, “If I don’t mention it, it won’t happen” or ‘If I hide under the blanket, the Boogie Man can’t get me!” Well in the real world, that’s not how things work. We need to teach our kids that closing their eyes won’t make the bad things go away. We need to teach our kids to not lie down and be a victim. We need to teach our kids that the actions they take in a crisis can save their lives! These conversations may be difficult, but they’re exactly the conversations we need to have with our children to keep them safe.
So as we prepare our kids for a fun, productive, and successful school year, lets also prepare them to be safe! Even though schools try to prepare our kids, you should not rely on them to be the only voice of safety. Take the time to talk to your kids about their safety. Help them formulate a plan if something goes wrong. This discussion should be based on your particular family situation and your child’s age and understanding.
Some things to think about or discuss with your family:
1. How to safely walk to and from school.
- Set up clear rules
- Leave early enough to arrive at school a few minutes early
- Never walk to or from school in the dark
- Wear bright colored clothing
- Use the same route everyday and avoid sparsely populated areas
- Go straight home after school
- Call a parent or guardian when they arrive
- Always use sidewalks when available
- Practice the route with your child
- Walk to school with a friend or in a group
- If you ride a bike, follow all traffic rules and a take a bicycle safety course
- Teach your child to recognize and obey traffic signals, signs, and crossing
2. Have a plan for if you, the parent, can't pick up your child
- Code Word for the child and designated person picking up the child
- Always notify the school
- Never get into a vehicle, even if the child knows them, without your
permission - RUN and YELL for HELP!
3. Stranger Danger
- Avoid talking to strangers
- If a stranger does approach your child, they should run away and yell for
help! They, or you, should report the incident.
4. Latch Key Children
- Special instructions on what they can and cannot do
- Discuss what they should do if someone knocks on the door
- Have them contact you as soon as they arrive at home
- Cover what they should do in the case of an emergency
5. Fire at Home
- Family Fire Drills
* Escape routes
* Roll-up ladders if the house has two stories
* Meet-up points
- Checking smoke alarm batteries
- Checking carbon monoxide detectors
6. How to Call for Help
- Make sure they know your home address
- Have trusted neighbors that your children can retreat to in an emergency
7. Lost Child Plan
- Where should they go for help
* I recommend they go to a mother who has her child with her.
Sometimes it's difficult for a small child to properly identify a police
officer and it's a safe bet that most mothers with a child will help your
young child. If they don't quickly see that mom then they should look for
a police office or firefighter (and know how to identify them!).
- Ensure they know your actual first name, not just "Mommy" or "Daddy"
- Make sure they know your phone number and home address
8. Active Shooter Events (Run - Hide - Fight)
- Just a note: your school may have a different policy, but, again, it's your
child and it should be *your* policy! Also, to be clear, I am not advocating
that you instruct your young children to fight, but I never said this was a
conversation just for young children. I believe you should have this
conversation with all of your school-aged children, even those headed to
I realize that addressing these topics with our school-aged children can be scary for both the child and parent. However, what is the alternative if we don’t? We can no longer just wish the bad away. We have to understand that bullets and
knives can go through blankets. We must realize that the world has shifted and we must change our approach and take a proactive role in our family’s safety. In saying this, I challenge all pa
rents and guardians to do your own homework before your school year starts. I urge you to research and select the proper topics appropriate to your family and formulate a specific plan for you and your kids. I encourage you to add SAFETY to your back to school check list. Let’s prepare our kids for a safe and successful school year, and as I have always said, “Its better to have a Con10gency and not need it, than to need a Con10gency and not have it!” Let’s have a fun, productive, and SAFE school year.
27-year Police Veteran & Father of Three
President, Con10gency Consulting