It is becoming an all too familiar scenario that we hear about nationwide – now it has hit home for parents of high schoolers in Santa Maria. The recent lockdown of Pioneer Valley and Santa Maria high schools has brought school safety issues to the forefront of our concerns. As parents, it’s crucial to understand how to communicate with our children about these issues, as it plays a vital role in recognizing and preventing acts of violence.
This article will provide guidance, suggestions and downloadable resources to help parents navigate discussions about school violence and ensure their children’s well-being. To guide parents through discussions about school violence, Mental Health America offers the following suggestions:
Encourage Open Communication
Start by encouraging your children to share their concerns and express their feelings about school safety. Prompt them with questions, ensuring they feel safe and supported. Remember to adapt the conversation to their age and understanding, using language they can relate to.
Validate Their Feelings
It’s important not to minimize your child’s concerns. Validate their feelings and let them know they are not alone. Acknowledging their worries creates a safe space for them to open up and seek support.
Empower and Educate
Empower your children by encouraging them to take action in promoting school safety. Teach them the importance of reporting specific incidents like bullying, threats, or signs of distress. Help them develop problem-solving and conflict-resolution skills. For older children, encourage their involvement in student-run anti-violence programs.
Discuss Safety Procedures
Talk about the safety procedures in place at your child’s school. Explain why certain doors remain locked or why visitors sign in at the principal’s office. Please help your child understand that these precautions are in place to ensure their safety. Emphasize the importance of adhering to school rules and policies.
Create Safety Plans
Work with your child to create safety plans. Identify trusted adults, such as a friendly secretary, trusted teacher, or approachable administrator, whom they can turn to if they feel threatened. Ensure they know how to reach you or another family member or friend in case of a crisis during the school day.
Recognize Warning Signs
Stay vigilant and recognize behavior that may indicate your child’s concerns about returning to school. Younger children may exhibit reluctance to attend school or participate in activities. Older children and teens may show signs of withdrawal, argumentativeness, or a decline in school performance. Address these concerns promptly and provide the necessary support.
Keep the dialogue about school safety ongoing, making it a regular topic in family discussions rather than just a reaction to an immediate crisis. Maintaining open communication creates a supportive environment where children feel comfortable sharing their concerns.
Seek Professional Help if Needed
If you are worried about your child’s reaction or have ongoing concerns about their behavior or emotions, don’t hesitate to seek help. Contact a mental health professional at school or consult your pediatrician for a referral to behavioral health services.
As parents, we have a crucial role in promoting school safety and addressing our children’s concerns. Following these guidelines and maintaining open communication can empower and educate our children while fostering a safe and supportive school environment. For more helpful tips on communicating with your children, please refer to the attached resources in English and Spanish.
Remember, together we can create a safer and healthier learning environment for our children.
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TIPS FOR FAMILIES AND EDUCATORS – English