Make the transition back to school a safe and easy one!

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The school year is here, and every year brings a new set of challenges and opportunities. Here are some back to school tips from parents and teachers alike, to ensure that the entire family gets off to a great start.

Safety:

Safety is one of the biggest concerns for parents everywhere. With school starting, schedules get hectic, and children are often away from home for most of the day. It is important that children know their parents’ names, phone numbers, their home address, and their bus numbers if applicable. This will help ensure the child knows how to contact someone in case of an emergency. Also, it is important to teach children to be aware of their surroundings, and how to spot potential dangers, seen and unseen.

Each year it is important to not only prepare your children for those seen dangers but talk to them about the dangers of potential abuse and neglect. Surround your child with a safe space to discuss those concerns and what to look out for. It is important to have conversations with them about who is a “safe adult” that they can talk to about concerning feelings or situations. Ask them what the worst and best part of their day was, and if someone ever gave them an “uh-oh” feeling in their gut. Ask how they handled those situations and how they feel now. It is important to keep these conversations short and simple, do not use scare tactics to coerce them to talk, be a good listener, and ask open-ended questions.

Here are some red flags and warning signs to share with your children. Anyone who:

  • Repeatedly ignores social, emotional, or physical boundary limits.

  • Insists on hugging, touching, tickling, kissing, wrestling, or holding a child who does not want physical contact.

  • Refuses to let the child set their own limits.

  • Shares inappropriate information with a child that is normally shared with adults.

  • Is overly interested in the development or sexuality of a child and repeatedly talks about it.

  • Insists upon sending interrupted time alone with the child.

  • Appears “too good to be true”; frequently offering to babysit for free, taking them out alone on outings, or giving money and gifts for no apparent reason.

  • Frequently walking in on children/teens who are in the bathroom or changing.

  • Continually invites children to spend time with them alone, enticing them with latest items, especially an adult with no children.

  • Seems preoccupied with a child and lavishes them with inappropriate attention.

  • Anyone who regularly spends time in public places where children gather and spend a significant amount of time staring at/trying to photograph children.

Talk to your children about these red flags and signs, and frame your safety conversations around them, letting them know that it is safe to discuss these things with you, and helping pinpoint what to do if these situations ever arise.

You should ask questions about the spaces your children will spend time in throughout the school year – the school itself, after-care programs, sports programs, etc. Here are some questions that can be helpful:

  • “Will there ever be an opportunity for my child to be one-on-one with an adult?”

  • “Do you have written policies around the safety and security of children?”

  • “Do you require new employees or volunteers to receive training on child abuse prevention?”

Always trust your gut, and if staff or volunteers are offended or resistant to answering questions, you may want to look elsewhere for care. Believe your children if they ever tell you that a person or place makes them feel uncomfortable in any way – speech, behavior, rules, expectations, secrets, promises – regardless of who the person is or what that person represents in the life of your child and family.

Education:

It is important for children going to Pre-K/Kindergarten to start practicing tying their shoes, as well as the basics such as letters, colors, shapes, phonetics, and word forming. Teachers also recommend that you read to and with your child to build their vocabulary, as well as create a bonding time. Now is a great time to start problem solving with your children. You can do this by using problem talk: asking questions starting with who, what, when, where, and how to learn about the problem and help them come to a possible solution.

Routines:

Routines are very important, not only for the sanity of the parents and teachers, but to help ease back into the school structure. A few weeks before school starts, implement the school-year bedtime. This will help ease the transition from summer nights to school nights. Also, help children get in the habit of getting ready for school the night before rather than the morning.

Routines help with emotional regulation and behavioral skills. Being home for a few months for summer can cause struggles when going back to the structure of school and can cause children to present more challenging behaviors. Set realistic time periods for all nightly routines, allotting enough time for homework, dinner time, and showering. This will ensure lower stress levels for parents and children alike.

School Supplies and Organization:

It is important to make sure your children start their first day back with their school supplies. It not only helps them feel prepared and confident, but it can help their teachers, too. It is also important for everyone to get organized. You can do this by labeling folders, binder tabs, and notebooks; designating places for backpacks and lunchboxes, and so much more. This is the perfect time to start using calendars and planners for important dates, projects, and assignments.

Lastly, make the school year fun and exciting. This is a new adventure for the child as well as you! Embrace the challenges together and make it as fun as possible.

 Prevent Child Abuse Tennessee offers training and education to the community to help parents, teachers, coaches, and other adults understand their role in prevention and how to best protect children. If your organization is interested in hosting a training, please email pcat@pcat.org for more information. Please include the county where the training would take place in order for us to best serve you!