When considering the discussion you should have with your child(ren) regarding school violence, it seems like a daunting and unpleasant task. How do you broach this subject? What are the signs that it is time to have this talk? How can you recognize if your child is being bullied and what can you do to prevent bullying in your childs school? We may not want to think about this or believe it, but what if your child is the one doing the bullying? All of these questions lead to the same important answers that, as parents, we cant always rely on children to make the right choices naturally. There have been 31 school shootings ranging from elementary school to college in 2017 and the year isnt even over. We must step in and do our part to prevent tragic violent events in schools.
On April 20th, 1999, two students entered Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado and went on a shooting spree, killing 13 and injuring more than 20 others before killing themselves. At the time, this was known as the worst school shooting in U.S. history and prompted major debate on gun control and school safety. One of the main theories as to why these two students committed the mass killings was because they had been bullied. They were social outcasts looking for retaliation. Many wondered if the outcome could have been avoided…
These days school violence is sometimes more than just old fashioned teasing and dealing with a bully. Sadly, sometimes verbal abuse leads to physical altercations which may then lead to further incidents in which weapons are introduced. There have been 239 school shootings in America since 2013, making that an average of nearly one a week. Several factors are attributed to these incidents, including severe bullying, mental health issues, and neglect. The emotions that cause an individual to react in a violent manner are often times preventable through recognizing several warning signs that parents should look for. Parents can also discuss these warning signs with their children so that they may be aware of changes in their friends and classmates that could possibly lead to a devastating incident if not identified.
1. Sudden Mood or Behavior Change
If you notice that your child has recently changed their mood or is acting differently than they usually do, speak to them about it. Depression, anxiety, and anger are some indicators of sudden mood changes. If they are reluctant to open up, speak to their teacher to see if there is anything going on in the classroom that may have led to these changes. If the teacher does not have any information, speak to a medical professional.
2. Being Alone and Isolated
Teach your children to reach out to new students and/or a student that you believe to be isolated to help them feel at home and welcome at your school. Teach your children the importance of kindness. Ask them to describe how they would feel if they didn’t have any friends and then to remember that feeling if they ever notice a fellow student alone. That isolated child who is alone every day may just need a friend to sit and eat lunch with to completely change their attitude and feelings about their life.
3. Change in Friends
Get to know your childrens friends and where they spend their time. It is perfectly fine for your children to make new friends and lose friends, however, if you notice that the new friends your child has been spending more time with is creating a change in your child or negatively influencing them, take a closer look at the friend, their activities, and choices.
Violence Prevention Tips
All parents hope that it is never their child that is the one bringing a weapon to school and initiating violence. Sadly, there have been too many interviews of parents who were “shocked” and “couldn’t believe” that their child would do anything like this. When discussing school violence with your children, there are some obvious tips to share with your child that they may already know, however, some may not realize what they should do in a certain situation. Encouraging them that speaking up is the right thing to do can possibly prevent an attack at the school. Go over these “rules” with your children and reiterate them often.
- Never bring a weapon to school.
- Talk to your children about the dangers or bringing a weapon to school. If you allow your child to have a toy that resembles a weapon, teach them that toy is to never go to school with them. Even if the child has no intentions of using a weapon in a violent manner, make sure they understand that the toy must stay at home. There have been tragic incidents in which a child has brought a toy gun to school and police mistake it for a real firearm and respond to the threat accordingly, without knowledge that it is a fake or toy gun.
- If you see or hear of a student with a weapon, report it.
- Explain to your children why it is important to tell an adult if they see a weapon or hear of another student bringing a weapon to school. Explain to them that this is different from “ratting someone out” or “tattling”. It is very important that they provide this information to a teacher or other adult as soon as they learn of it.
- If someone at school shows signs of anger, tell a parent or teacher.
- Explain to your children that if they ever feel threatened, scared, bullied, or witness other students in a verbal or physical fight, to tell someone in authority.
- Be a role model to your child.
- Allow your child to observe you being nice to strangers and teach them the importance of kindness. Don’t let your children see you fight with other adults. Teach them how to respect others and to have patience.
- Ask your childs school to adopt an anti-violence program if they do not already have one.
- Many schools have programs that monitor school violence and aim to reduce fighting, weapon carrying, bullying, sexual assaults, and suicide.
For more on child relationships, check out Why Kids Become Frenemies.
Picture Credit: Pixabay