When you have children, keeping them safe becomes your number one priority. And with an increase in mass shootings (the first six months of 2022 saw 442 shootings, well beyond half of the 693 seen last year) it creates stress and anxiety as the back-to-school season approaches. To ensure your children stay as safe as possible, consider these tips to protect your child at school this fall.
Learn School Procedures
Know your school policies for emergency procedures, from fires to active shooters. With this understanding, you and your child can better prepare. Be proactive and stay in active communication with your child’s teacher and the school administration throughout the entire school year.
Create Your Own Safety Plan
Build your own emergency plan and review it with your family often. This plan should include how your child should respond, where they should go, when they should call 911, who should be the main point of contact, and how they should contact them. Your family safety plan may include devices and apps for monitoring and determining physical locations.
Teach Your Child Environmental Awareness
Awareness of their surroundings can drastically improve a child’s chance of dealing with and avoiding emergencies. Prepare them by explaining the types of threats they may encounter and how to be aware of them. Teach them to pay attention to their surroundings by making it a game. The first to spot the exits when entering a public building or who can come up with the quickest way out wins.
Encourage Open Discussions
Talk to your children about real-life situations, listen to their concerns, and answer their questions openly and honestly. Make sure they know they can come to you anytime something makes them feel confused, uncomfortable, or unsafe. Really listen to what they say and validate their thoughts and opinions.
Explain What Happens During a Crisis
If something tragic happens at school, discuss with your child what to expect and how your family safety plans fit in. Here are things to ensure they’re aware of:
- Inform them that when people panic, it becomes chaotic. Explain that gunshots are extremely loud and disorienting. Let them know that staying calm and following the plan is their best chance of staying safe.
- Teach them that if they can get away from danger, do so. Look for any means of escape like exits, doors, and windows.
- Explain that they should execute their plan and get out of the situation as soon as they realize there’s a threat.
- If there’s no way to escape, prepare your child to fight. Have them look for opportunities when the attacker is distracted, demonstrate how they could overcome them with classroom objects, and teach them how to fight back.
Be Aware of High-Risk Times
The beginning and end of the school day have the highest risk for acts of violence. Because there are many people moving in different directions, it’s easy to get disoriented. Have your child leave school with a group of peers and ask that they stick together until they reach their destination.
Role Model Personal Protection Behavior
Children learn not by the words people say, but through the behaviors they witness. Role model appropriate personal protection and self-defense behaviors. Show them how to be situationally aware and stay calm in stressful situations. Consider carrying a TASER Self-Defense device and demonstrating the responsibility and assertiveness you want them to have when the unexpected arises.