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What Would You Do? A Kid's Guide to Staying Safe in a World of Strangers

What Would You Do? A Kid's Guide to Staying Safe in a World of Strangers
Keeping Children Safe

Monday, August 13, 2012

Getting Children Started on a Safe and Positive New School Year

"Then the whining school-boy, with his satchel, and shining morning face, creeping like a snail, unwillingly to school." This quote from Shakespeare’s As You Like It, give us a vivid description of the dread and trepidation that some children face when starting a new school year. It doesn’t have to be that way, however.

Parents can play a very effective role in getting their children off to a good start for the new school year. To do so, parents must see their role as being one that involves more than just purchasing their children’s school supplies and new school clothes. Parents have an additional and important role that can positively impact their children’s attitudes about school, success in school, and safety in school.

Affecting Children’s Attitude about School

Ted Feinberg, EdD and member of the National Association of School Psychologists, advises,
“Getting a new school year off to a good start can influence children’s attitude, confidence, and performance both socially and academically. The transition from August to September can be difficult for both children and parents. Even children who are eager to return to class must adjust to the greater levels of activity, structure, and, for some, pressures associated with school life.”

Parents can help their children have a better attitude about returning to school by planning ahead and exhibiting a positive attitude about school themselves. Before school starts, parents should make sure their children are in good mental and physical health with medical, dental, and visual check-ups.

Parents should carefully review any material sent by the school before school begins and during the school year. Parents should familiarize themselves with their children’s teachers, room numbers, school supply requirements, sign-ups for extra-curricular sports and activities, school calendar dates, bus transportation, health and emergency forms. Parents may also want to consider taking advantage of any school volunteer opportunities. Parents who stay involved in the school foster better attitudes about school in their children.

Affecting Children’s Success in School

With the start of the new school year establish bedtime and mealtime routines. Parents should talk to their children about the benefits of school routines so that they will not become overly tired or overwhelmed by school work and after-school activities.

Part of the routine should be to turn off the television shortly before bedtime and, instead, encourage them to play quiet games, or do puzzles and flash cards. Parents should endeavor to maintain this practice throughout the school year.

Parents should designate a spacious and quiet place for their children to do homework. Parents can give older children the option of studying in their room or a quiet area of the house. Parents with younger children, however, should designate a quiet area in the family room or kitchen in order to facilitate adult monitoring, and any needed supervision or encouragement. In addition, parents should encourage children to do their homework before any television or play activities. Homework should be done without the distraction of television or any other kind of auditory or visual distraction.

Affecting a Safe School Year for Children

Parents should talk to their children about school playground safety and about riding the school bus safely. In addition parents should teach children how to stay safe in going to and from school. My book, What Would You Do? A Kid’s Guide to Staying Safe in a World of Strangers, teaches that the buddy system is a good safety strategy for children. Children should never walk to and from school alone. Young children should be accompanied by an adult if they must walk to school. Older children should walk to and from school with a friend.

If parents normally drive their children to and from school, parents should instruct their children always to wait in a safe place to be picked up by them after school, and parents should strive to be on time in picking up their children after school. If children can wait inside the school, that is the safest thing to do. If children must wait outside, however, parents should insist that they wait in a safe spot right in front of the school where there will be other children and teachers around.

My book, What Would You Do? A Kid’s Guide to Staying Safe in a World of Strangers, also offers safety strategies for children who must wait at a school bus stop. Children should never wait at a school bus stop alone. The safest strategy, particularly for small children is to have their parents wait with them. Parents may consider organizing with other parents to take turns waiting with children at the school bus stop. Such an organization of parents is sometimes referred to as Block Parents. After all, as it has been said, “It takes a village….”

My book also teaches children, while waiting at the school bus stop, to stay as far away from the street as possible. The more children at the bus stop, the safer. Small children should stand in the middle of the group of other children for better protection.
Bullying can also present a serious problem for children and teens when they return to school. Bullying is an increasing threat to the happiness, security, and safety of children.  Parents can better help their children deal with any potential bullying dilemma by reading and teaching their children the strategies offered in my article
CopingWith a Bully: How to Stop Bullying”

In conclusion, parents who employ all of these back-to-school practices can better guarantee a healthier, happier, safer, and more successful school year.
Photograph credit: Guillermo Ossa

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The following post is a guest post by Brooke Kerwin. Brooke is a creative writer from Central Michigan University. As an aspiring writer, she specializes in writing about local community issues.

 Preventing and Treating Alcohol Addiction in Children

Alcohol addiction and abuse are well documented problems for adults in society across all demographics. Unfortunately, it is a problem that children and teenagers can also encounter while growing up. The prevalence of alcohol in homes and the media portrayal of its use sometimes cause children to experiment with the substance before their bodies are able to process the chemicals. Additionally, misconceptions about the social acceptance of alcohol abuse can make the problem even worse.

There are many reasons why a child might start to experiment with alcohol. Peer pressure can have a dramatic impact on the actions of a child. It only takes the behavior of one friend to influence an entire peer group. This can establish behavior patterns that result in binge drinking or drinking while at school or home. Another contributing factor can be the alcohol consumption habits of the parents. Children who watch parents drink regularly might not understand the actual effects of the liquor on the body and mind. Finally, some children are thought to have genetic predispositions that make addictive behaviors more likely even without other external factors.

Parents need to be especially concerned about alcohol addiction
in children. If the problem is not identified and dealt with early on, then it can establish habits that will carry on into adulthood. Another problem is that even very minor alcohol consumption by young children and teenagers can have detrimental effects on growth and development. The nervous system and brain could develop abnormally because of the effects of alcohol. This can result in long-term problems such as learning disabilities and potentially brain damage if enough liquor is consumed.

There are several steps that parents can take in order to prevent children from experiencing problems with alcohol. Parents should avoid drinking in front of children or should only do so responsibly. Liquor that is kept in the home should be stored in a location that is not accessible or even visible to children. This will prevent innocent experimentation that can lead to bad decisions later. A very important step is to establish a dialog with children so that the issue can be discussed. There are many media images that can be confusing or that might seem to endorse alcohol abuse. Talking to children about these incidents will help to establish a firm understanding that alcohol abuse is not socially acceptable, healthy or, in any way, glamorous.

Parents should remain very aware of any issues that could indicate that a child has a problem with alcohol. Smells and empty containers should be a simple indication that something is happening. Changes in normal behaviors could be the result of intoxication and should be questioned. Long periods of time spent alone, sudden poor grades
, missing money, and new unknown friends can all be the result of an alcohol addiction that has grown out of control. The addiction will eventually result in increasingly risky behaviors that become harder to stop the longer they are allowed to continue.

A parent who is dealing with a child that is abusing alcohol has several options. The most effective is to place the child in an inpatient alcohol treatment center. This is a program that will work to break habits and provide the child with tools that can be used every single day to combat the addiction. This should be followed by outpatient treatment where regular counseling is received as frequently as needed. A very severe alcohol addiction can affect a child straight into adulthood if actions are not taken to break the psychological and physical dependencies early.