Preparing Our Students for Another School Year
With the work we do at Bulldog Solution, it is important to set our kids up for success when they start or return to school. There has been a lot of buzz about the new “bullet proof backpacks” and we want to weigh in on the conversation. With the rise in school shootings, there is a fear about dropping our kids off at school. When you think about it, anyone can be a victim, no one is safe, and we need to arm our kids with the right tools.
The challenge is that the bullet proof backpack will not guarantee your kids safety. It will not prevent a mentally ill child from taking a gun to school, and it will not protect them from being shot. It might save their life if they access their backpack in time and if they use it in the right way, but the bullet proof backpack won’t eliminate the problem, and it will not prevent a school shooting from happening. As a parent and a psychologist, I would rather prevent school shootings than arm my child with a bullet proof backpack. I am not pro or against the backpack, but when you break it down it will not prevent or 100% guarantee our children’s safety.
So what can we do to protect our kids, and arm our schools with shields to prevent a school shooting?
Arm our children with empathy, kindness, and compassion. We need to start teaching kindness at home. I would recommend having your child learn how to help another child who is being bullied. Arm your child with strategies of what to do when another child is getting attacked. Teach them to stand up for others and themselves without using violence. Teach your child about different emotions and how they can look in other people. Ask them how they would feel and what they can do to help others. Create daily habits of bringing kindness into your home, from helping a neighbor to asking the new kid to sit with them at lunch.
Reduce phone and screen time. Kids are so self-absorbed these days, “selfying” their life away! Reporting to a virtual audience their whereabouts and checking into their daily stories. Monitoring their likes and views on the hour. Competing with peers for the most likes is emotionally exhausting and quite frankly wasting brain cells. Social media has created this self suffocating bubble of Me, Myself, and I. Take a moment and start noticing how much your child takes selfie, reports to social media, and spends hours watching YouTubers share how much their life is greater than yours. The more kids are into themselves the less they notice their surroundings and may miss signs that another child is suffering or exhibiting strange risky behaviors.
We have developed this new perception, a crime happens or a tragic accident, and we pull out our phones. Instead of jumping to the rescue or getting help, we record and become part of an audience. We need to get back to basics and teach our kids to no longer walk through life as guests in a show, but take action when something is not right.
Get to know our child’s friends, peers, class parents, and teachers. Be present and learn what environment your child is in for over 8 hours a day. Get to know the parents and come up with rules and expectations to build that classroom environment. Absent parents can be the worst role models, if that can’t take the time to show they care, then why should their kids do it. I understand we are all busy, but start a group chat, facebook group, or monthly meeting to stay involved. It does not have to take too much time, but making it a priority can help your child feel safe in their school community.
By getting to know one another, you will be looking out for each other, and serving for the greater good of your child. Small intentional actions make the difference. So start a conversation in the carpool line, get to know your child’s friends, and be more involved.
Come up with a safety plan. Talk to your child about extreme scenarios and what they need to do. Ask them to identify safe people, trusted adults, safe rooms, and come up with ways to protect themselves. Have them memorize your cell phone number. Often we are so used to just scrolling and hitting talk, we forget to teach our children our own numbers. Share with your child that these are extreme cases, but having a visual of what to do, and how to do it can help our children remain calm and strategic when faced with danger.
Fight for more PD training and resources for teachers. Teachers need more resources to help prevent school shootings. They need safety, group management, bullying, cyberbullying, and mental wellness training. Teachers also need more social workers to be on site and to be able to identify the signs of a child suffering from mental illness. It is up to us, the parents, to fight for their resources. Plan a fundraiser, find resources, and be a support system.
These are 5 tips that don’t cost you money, but ask for your time and energy to foster a safe school environment. Prep your child for back-to-school and create habits to help them be the best versions of themselves.
Please reach out if you need any support or help as you plan for your new school year. Until Next Time….
Kortney Peagram, Ph.D.
Bulldog Solution, Inc