Sending your child back to school should not cause you to worry. As a mom, you need to be confident about your child’s security.
Ultimately, the school principal and administration are primarily responsible for your child’s safety inside the school. However, you as a parent can follow some basic steps to help ensure your child’s safety while in school.
You are well within your rights to inquire about the school’s action plans and children’s safety in the face of emergencies like natural disasters, fires, armed intruders, and other threats. Get oriented about the school’s safety procedures. You can also proactively provide specific items and instructions to help the school protect your child. And, last but not least, you are best in the position to talk to your child about safety.
What to Look for in Your Child’s School
All schools must have an emergency response system to stay prepared for a crisis and mitigate the risks for threats and harm to their students. Several, if not all, school districts will have a safety coordinator who acts as a point person to liaise with parents, the local government, and direct emergency response teams and business continuity. Ask the school if the staff and faculty are trained during emergencies and if their students are given a proper orientation regarding this aspect.
Each school will have its own protocols related to parent involvement. As a mom, you must understand what your child’s school and community require in parents’ roles in ensuring student safety, especially during emergencies.
What You Can Do With and for Your Child’s School
- First of all, you will need to discuss your own family emergency preparedness plan with your child, especially how to communicate with one another. It goes without saying that you need to establish a plan for the family and ensure that everyone understands how to go about it and the specific roles assigned to each family member.
- Inform the school if your child has unique needs, such as health issues, specific medications, dietary requirements, or medical provider contact information. Also, discuss keeping stock of medicine or supplies in the school office for your child. This will be especially useful in situations are required to undergo lockdown or lock-out in school for an extended period.
- Make sure that the family contact information is always current.
- Ask about the emergency communication protocols, such as if they have a panic button system in school or any other communication plan that effectively notifies first responders.
- Ask your child’s school about their contact information, parental access, and reunification procedures during emergencies.
How to Talk to Your Child About School Safety
When handling conversations with your child, it is vital to keep the elements of the conversation age- and developmentally appropriate.
- Young children: They can handle simple and brief information, offered with the proper reassurance. They should be able to grasp simple safety examples, such as how locking doors can deter harmful elements from entering. Explain to your young child that school and home are safe, as long as parents, teachers, and other adults are around to protect them. This promotes in children how important it is to regard adults as authorities and that they should listen to their advice. Remember that young children typically assess threats or dangerous reactions. Young children respond well to simple examples of school safety, like reminding them the exterior doors are locked.
- Middle school and higher elementary school children: They are often more vocal in their questions about how safe they are in school. At this stage, they might still need your guidance in distinguishing between fantasy and reality. You may share the basics of the school’s safety plans and procedures.
- Higher middle school to high school students: They may already have strong opinions about school and societal violence. Thus, you can emphasize to your child that they play a role in keeping the school safe, largely by complying with the school’s guidelines on safety. Remind your child that they should not provide access to strangers, report the presence of questionable individuals on school property, and refrain from risky behavior themselves.
After a crisis, you must be able to provide emotional support. Keep an eye out for cues your child may want to have a conversation. Some children may need a little prodding in the aftermath of a traumatic event. Silence or blank stares may be a sign that your child is trying to process their experience by themselves, so your guidance is critical to avoid the formation of fallacious beliefs. Watch out for changes in sleep patterns and behavior such as anxiety, tantrums, or a decline in school performance, indicating emotional distress.
As a mother, it is essential to feel confident about your child’s safety in school. While schools are trained and mandated to establish security and emergency response procedures, you are the foremost advocate for your child’s safety. Coordinate with the school about their safety and emergency response protocols and what you can do to help out. Finally, always be prepared to provide emotional support to your child, especially in the aftermath of school crises.