School floors are getting swept, buses washed in preparation for the big day and uniforms being ironed, all in preparation for a new year of school. This is an experience that leaves us feeling wary, no doubts about that. As soon as we put our kids on the school bus or we drop them at the gate of their school and wave at them as they go off to join friends, we experience an onslaught of mixed emotions.
And even though we feel conflicting emotions, there is one that seems to stand out and haunt us even as we go about our daily activities.
How is she coping? Would her friends love her? Would he be bullied? Would his teacher be nice and gentle? For the first time in a while, or in some cases, the very first time, we are leaving their welfare into the hands of others and themselves.
However, since we can't be there peering over their shoulders and telling them what to do, we can ingrain in them certain habits and teach them how to be conscious of their safety and to also express themselves in the best way possible.
Keeping children safe is the top priority, especially for younger children and those heading to school for the first time. Our teenagers are also not left out.
Parents should teach their children to take the following steps:
Don't accept free rides.
Don't hitch hike. Never accept a ride without first getting permission from parents. Ingrain this into them time and time again. Tell them it's not okay to accept the ride even if the person is someone they know or their parents know. Teach them to check in with you first. You want to ascertain the well-being of the person your child is going to be riding with.
Never take shortcuts.
Let them know the importance of sticking to the routes selected by the school or by you, out in the open, and encourage them to move in groups with other kids going their way. This applies to teenagers old enough to drive too.
Also constantly remind them to use the sidewalks and no playing or racing their friends on the roads.
Look left, right and left again
Whether they walk to school or are driven in a bus, chances are they may have to cross the road at some point and we know how kids can be careless in nature. It's either they get carried away with their cellphones or they are just being impulsive. However, the onus lies on you to always remind them to look both ways while crossing the street. If you repeat it long enough, it would fast become a habit.
Wear your Lanyards
No doubt parents are very interested in dressing up their children in the most fashionable manner. To most parents, having their child look dapper is almost an indicator of just how fashion savvy they are. However it's important to encourage your kids to wear their lanyards while at school. Most schools have specific lanyards to students, teachers and visitors so that everyone can be easily identified and a stranger sticks out like a sore thumb.
Especially when going for school trips, remind them not to part with their lanyards as it may be the only thing to identify them with in some cases.
Have Landmarks and Codes
For example, there is a mall on the way home from school. It's either the mall is closer to home or closer to school or right smack in the middle. Let your kid understand this. If you're past the mall and you sense trouble, make a dash for home. Home is closer. However if you're yet to get to the mall and you sense you're in danger, make a dash back to school. School is closer.
Teach them the safe places to go and the "right type of strangers" to talk to. Point out the nearest police or fire stations or even a church.
Develop a code word with your child such that if any one comes to pick them up, they must utter the code word, regardless of whether they know the person or not.
Don't be physically present and emotionally absent. Pay attention to your kid. Listen to the spoken and unspoken words. Pay attention to changes in your child's habits. A change in their attitude may be a signal of something wrong. Help them be very comfortable with you so they can tell you about their "new adult friends" and can report any suspicious behaviour.
Also, ensure your kid memorizes your contact details and emergency numbers at the earliest age possible as well as emergency procedures.
No matter how big our kids are, they look to us for reassurance in a lot of things, including school. And if you're anxious and appear worried, they pick up on your feelings and this may act out in their behaviour.
You are the parent and so you know the best security measures you need to take to ensure their safety as they go to school. Take the above steps and some more of your own and train your kids with the best way you can so they can grow up to protect themselves in an healthy manner and in turn, groom them for the days ahead where they would no longer be heading to kindergarten but to the real world.