A few weeks ago, I woke to an email from our high school principal that was sparse on details, but highlighted a potential threat at school and promised police involvement and presence. It was from social media and other moms that I learned about a fake Snapchat account that boasted a picture of a rifle along with the chilling message to certain students to stay home the following day.
My mom instincts kicked in with the urge to keep my kids home. A quick call to my husband emphasized that his reaction was in stark contrast to mine. Once I removed the emotion from the decision, I realized his instincts felt right.
Send the kids. The authorities felt it was safe, send the kids.
And it was safe. But how do we, as moms, know how to navigate this danger facing our kids? And how do we prepare our kids for it?
A phrase ingrained in my children is one that my husband often says, “Be aware of the world around you.” When they were toddlers, this meant teaching them to give each other space, and not to run off in parking lots. As they got older, it branched out to include noticing when someone was behind you and holding the door open, and yes, still stay out of your siblings’ space. I can’t begin to count the number of situations where my husband has encouraged this awareness in our kids.
And now, this awareness could one day impact their lives. Be aware. Notice the exits when you enter a room. Notice when something doesn’t feel right, and speak up. Notice when someone is left out and include them. Notice when someone doesn’t seem to belong, and be aware.
My gut reaction when I hear of potential threats at school is to keep my kids home and to shelter them. But sadly, this last incident wasn’t the first time we were made aware of a potentially dangerous situation, and we can’t live in fear. We can’t let our kids live in fear.
When the circumstances seem to be safe, and under control, we have to trust and send our kids off. Watching my boys drive away the day of the threat tore me up inside. I wanted to chase them down and persuade them to stay home. But I didn’t, they went to school, the police were in control, and my boys were safe.
The group Sandy Hook Promise, led by parents of children killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, pledges to unite parents and educators around the country to spark awareness, to educate, and to hopefully prevent further incidents of violence. A video created by this group circulated this past month. It hit a chord with parents across the country, some championing the need for such a bold statement to be made, while others were offended by how graphic the video’s message was, and the unnecessary fear it may unleash. Regardless of which side you fall on, gun violence in schools is a reality.
How do we prepare our kids, and ourselves, for situations that potentially threaten their well-being? By encouraging awareness, by encouraging communication, and by enforcing the drills that they learn at school. In our district, parents and students have been learning about the 4 E’s of safety: Educate, Escape, Evade, and as a last resort, Engage. These four key concepts are taught, along with the message that if you see anything that makes you think twice, speak up.
Be aware. We can’t live our lives in fear, and yet we can’t ignore the realities. To alleviate some of the anxiety, we talk with our kids. Despite the increase in school violence, statistics show that the likelihood is relatively slight. And while at our high school, there have been a few potentially threatening situations since we have been there, students spoke up, administrators took swift action, and our school has remained a safe place to be. Communication and education are essential. We need to keep talking to our kids, and they need to know that they can come to us anytime something raises a flag with them.
And overall, be aware.