Safety Tips For Parents
Talk to Your Children
Keeping the lines of communication open with your children and teens is an important step to keeping involved in their schoolwork, friends, and activities. Communicating with your child does not have to be a game of 20 Questions—ask open-ended questions and use phrases such as "Tell me more" and "What do you think?" Phrases like these show your children that you are listening and that you want to hear more about their opinions, ideas, and how they view the world. Initiate important discussions with your children—about violence, smoking, drugs, sex, drinking, and death—even if the topics are difficult or embarrassing. Don't wait for your children or teens to come to you.
Set Clear Rules and Limits for Your Children
Children need clearly defined rules and limits set for them so that they know what is expected of them and the consequences for not complying. When setting family rules and limits, be sure that children understand the purpose behind the rules and be consistent in enforcing them.
Discipline is more effective if children have been involved in establishing the rules and, oftentimes, in deciding the consequences. Work together to set limits for behavior at home and at school. Remember to be fair and flexible—as your children grow older, they become ready for expanded rights and changes in rules and limits. Parents also need to model appropriate and positive behaviors. When parents say one thing and do another, they lose credibility with their children. Show your children through your actions how to adhere to rules and regulations, be responsible, have empathy toward others, control anger, and manage stress.
Know the Warning Signs
Knowing what's normal behavior for your son or daughter can help you recognize even small changes in behavior and give you an early warning that something is troubling your child. Sudden changes—from subtle to dramatic—should alert parents to potential problems. These could include withdrawal from friends, decline in grades, abruptly quitting sports or clubs the child had previously enjoyed, sleep disruptions, eating problems, evasiveness, lying, and chronic physical complaints (stomachache or headaches). Know your child well and know the early warning signs.
Don't Be Afraid to Parent; Know When to Intervene
Parents need to step in and intervene when children exhibit behavior or attitudes that could potentially harm them or others. It's okay to be concerned when you notice warning signs in a child, and it's even more appropriate to do something about those concerns. Concerned parents should seek a diagnosis from a doctor, school counselor, or other mental health professional trained to assess young people. And you don't have to deal with problems alone—the most effective interventions have parent, school, and health professionals working together to provide ongoing monitoring and support.
Stay Involved in Your Child's School
Show your children that you believe education is important and that you want your children to do their best in school by being involved in their education. Get to know your child's teachers and help them get to know you and your child. Communicate with your child's teachers throughout the school year, not just when problems arise. Stay informed of school events, class projects, and homework assignments. Attend all parent orientation activities and parent-teacher conferences. Volunteer to assist with school functions and join your local PTA. Help your children seek a balance between schoolwork and outside activities.
Parents also need to support school rules and goals. Find out about the school's policies for discipline and procedures for handling emergencies such as fire, evacuations, severe weather, power outages, injuries, and illness, or other dangers that might face students at school. Know the procedure for contacting students during the day or for having adults visit the school building. Know the route your student will take to and from school and throughout the school building during the day. Staying involved in your child's school will help you feel more a part of your child's education.
Join Your PTO or a Violence Prevention Coalition
All parents, students, school staff, and members of the community need to be a part of creating safe school environments for our children. Many PTAs and other school-based groups are working to identify the problems and causes of school violence and possible solutions for violence prevention.
When people work together for a common cause, great things can happen. According to the National Crime Prevention Council, the crime rate can decrease by as much as 30 percent when a violence prevention initiative is a communitywide effort. Find out what violence prevention programs or community groups are already working together in your area. Contact those that interest you the most and ask how you can join or support their efforts.