5 Things you must do to protect your kids from school violence By Dwight Bain, Nationally Certified Counselor

School should be a safe place of learning from teachers instead of a scary place where shootings and violence bring emergency workers and grief counselors. The recent number of horrifying acts of violence in schools has everyone concerned, from the President to local school and law enforcement officials. However, the best group to take positive action to protect kids at school is always their parents. Here are five key things you can do to take positive action to help protect your son or daughter from violent situations that could occur at school.

1) Listen to your child’s fears and frustrations

Every school has a bully, that’s not a new problem. However these days there are dangerous gangs and violent individuals in or around just about every school environment. Sometimes the violent person comes from the outside, but it’s more likely that threats, harassment, bullying, fights and acts of violence will come from someone on the inside of your child’s school. Students who use weapons against other students, like the Virginia Tech or Columbine shooters for example, often make threats long before acting on them. Become more involved in talking about the safety of your child, instead of just talking about academics or daily activities. Ask your kids direct questions and then really listen to their fears and frustrations about what’s happening around them at school. Keep the conversation age appropriate and allow your child to do most of the talking as you hear about their experiences with bullies or other situations that might have made them feel uncomfortable or afraid while at school, (Remember to change the conversation slightly depending on the ages of your kids and the pressures they may be facing at school, since it’s important to talk about safety to kids of all ages so they know what to do to stay safe while at school or away from their parents).

2) Get involved at their school & ask direct questions about safety

The greater the level of parental involvement the greater the chance that your child’s school will be a much safer place. When kids are involved in healthy after-school activities like sports, music, drama or scouting they are less likely to be in a dangerous situation, because everyone is engaged and involved, instead of bored and detached. Parents can spot and then quietly solve a lot of problems that may be in the ‘shadows’ by getting more involved in the lives of their children and encouraging greater involvement in healthy activities. Sometimes the easiest way to avoid becoming a victim of crime is to be involved in activities with others instead of feeling insecure and isolated when threatening people or situations come along. Kids need their parents to be involved in their lives at all ages, as classroom volunteers or to help with after school sports or extra-curricular activities. The extra support for your child builds a greater sense of connection and self worth, but it also provides another set of ‘eyes and ears’ on the school campus to notice what pressures your child, or their peers are facing. (If you aren’t sure how to spot the warning signs of gangs, weapons, substance abuse or when a fight is going to erupt, there are a number of web links at the end of this article to help you gain greater insight of what warning signs to look for, and more importantly, what to do to keep your child safe). If you see anything that makes you feel uncomfortable don’t be afraid to bring it up to your child’s teacher, school administrators or school safety officers. Also, if you are unsure about the safety plan at your child’s school to deal with crisis events like school violence, then ask to see a copy of their critical incident preparation training guide, or school safety plan so you can review it with your son or daughter and then pass it along to help other parents as well.

3) Use national media events as springboards into serious discussions

Much of the televised news reports about school violence are shocking to say the least, however, you can use stories from the newspaper, television or an Internet news source to bring the facts of a national story out in the open to then ‘springboard’ into a more personal discussion with your son or daughter about how to deal with issues they might one day face on the local level. This can especially be important with teens who believe they are invincible to the harsh realities of violent and aggressive people who direct their rage toward innocent people in public places, especially schools. Something about seeing a group of crying teens gathered around a makeshift memorial to honor their fellow classmate makes it more real… because it shows regular kids, just like them, who were forced to take action to deal with a dangerous situation at or around school. Asking, “what would you do if you saw a weapon pulled out in a classroom?”, or “does anyone at your school make threats to hurt you, your teachers or other classmates?” are all ways to get directly involved in protecting your child, as well as preventing the next breaking news story about school tragedy from happening on their school campus.

4) Have a home crisis plan & review it monthly

If your child’s school were on ‘lockdown’ would you know what to do, and more importantly, would your son or daughter know how to respond? Every school should have a formal plan on how they would respond to man made disasters, like shootings or bomb threats, as well as natural disasters like hurricanes or dangerous storms. Emergency officials encourage parents to have a similar plan for their personal family. If the electricity was knocked out preventing cell phones or the Internet from working to communicate with each other, would your family know where to meet together in spite of the crisis? Knowing what to do and then reviewing that plan monthly will remove a significant amount of panic because planning removes panic. If your son or daughter received a threatening note or heard about an act of violence, do they know who to call to protect themselves and their school? If not there are some web links at the end of this article to help guide you in the process.

5) Pray

We can prepare our kids to know how to respond to acts of violence at their schools, but ultimately we can’t protect our kids from everything. If someone wanted to deliberately hurt someone at school, they likely could try it in just about any school setting. However, we know that God is bigger than any bully and that He is always a safe place to turn throughout the hours of the day when we can’t be there to guard our kids. Many parents have the habit of praying for the safety and strength of their kids throughout day when they are apart. Why not give it a try so you can move from feeling scared about what you can’t do, to feeling secure in knowing that God always hears your prayers. Moving away from panic through prayer is a powerful way to get through any crisis and it’s a great practice to model for your kids. When they learn to pray as the first step in dealing with pressure situations, they will have a remarkable power and peace in dealing with any situation, at school, work or in personal relationships as an adult.

Prayer is a life skill that makes any situation easier to deal with, because you don’t have to carry your problems alone.

For information on school violence to review in preparing to talk to your kids visit:

US Department of Education
http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/osdfs/resources.html#safeschool

SchoolSecurity.org
http://www.schoolsecurity.org/resources/links.html

Center for the Prevention of School Violence
http://www.ncdjjdp.org/cpsv/cpsv.htm

SafeYouth.org
http://www.safeyouth.org/scripts/topics/school.asp

National Crime Prevention Council
http://www.ncpc.org/
For helpful resources to save time by solving other parenting challenges visit:
http://www.LifeWorksGroup.org/
http://www.Family.org/
NOTE: you can freely redistribute this resource, electronically or in print, provided you leave the authors contact information intact in the box below.

About the Author: Dwight Bain is a Nationally Certified Counselor & Certified Family Law Mediator in practice since 1984 with a primary focus on solving crisis events and managing major change. Critical Incident Stress Management expert with the Orange County Sheriffs Office, founder of StormStress.com and trainer for over 1,000 business groups on the topic of making strategic change to overcome major stress- both personally & professionally. He is a professional member of the National Speakers Association who partners with major corporations and national organizations to make a positive difference in our culture for Jesus Christ. Access more counseling and coaching resources from The LifeWorks Group (407.647.7005) by visiting their extensive posting of blogs and special reports designed to save you time by strategically solving problems at www.LifeWorksGroup.org

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