As we gear up for a new school year, the worrisome mother in me can’t help but wonder if my school will be next. Moms, I can imagine you’ve had similar thoughts. It would be ignorant for us to assume “not my school”, when this year alone there were 17 school shootings in the U.S. While the administration does their part to make parents feel safe, it’s really up to us to protect our children to the best of our abilities. What can we do as parents right now to make a positive difference in this ongoing fight?
Instead of being reactive, we as parents must take a proactive approach. With a potent mix of gun law debates and seemingly no resolution in sight, there are other ways that we can BE the difference this school year. In fact, let’s start now by instilling a culture of kindness. The thought of any behavior otherwise that leaves a child feeling lost, disconnected or depressed is no longer acceptable. Are you with me?
Consider A Social Media Free World For Your Kids
Living in today’s tech driven world, social media is at the forefront of our lives, and even businesses. When I was young, flipping through a magazine would sometimes have an effect on the way I looked at myself. Think about it. At most, we’d look through a magazine for an hour at a time, once a day. Our kids have the ability to self-compare 24/7 if we allow them to have devices and social media at their fingertips. And parents, if you’re not tech savvy, I suggest you educate yourself now by making sure you know exactly what’s on their device.
My daughter recently had a music app on her iPad that enabled her to lip sync to popular songs. Unbeknownst to me, it had a messenger feature, and she was receiving and sending messages that I wasn’t privy to. If I hadn’t taken the time to learn about each of the apps on the iPad, I wouldn’t have known about this, and God only knows who would be messaging her. Ultimately, I deleted the app and put a stop to my child receiving private messages.
Sadly, social media is also a vehicle for bullying. This is a major concern, even at my age. I’ve recently been on the receiving end, and I can tell you firsthand how awful it is. Now, imagine if you’re a tween or teenager, and this is happening, and as a parent you have no idea. The thought of this hits right at my mothering core. And it’s happening everywhere. Children are being bullied on social media for the entire world to see. What’s more, they can also be a target for child predators.
There isn’t much that’s safe about a child having a social media account, especially an unmonitored one. Earlier this year, I made a pact with other moms from my school, and decided against cell phones until high school. And when that time comes, we will fight that battle together.
Parents, Unplug & Model Who You Want Your Children To Be
Oftentimes, I find myself scrolling through a never-ending vortex of negative banter on my social media feeds. Before participating in such nonsense, we have to ask ourselves: Would we want our child calling any human a disparaging name? I would like to hope not, and we as parents should model kind behavior on social media so our children don’t one day use it as a platform to discredit and harm another. Unplug from technology and plug into our family. We use our time away from the phone, computers and tablets to hone in on what matters the most, and that is one another.
Teach What Bullying Is & How It Can Make A Person Feel
Kids can be cruel, it’s a fact. I can remember growing up a lost soul, and running with the wrong crowds. Ones that encouraged teasing and making fun of others. Looking back, nothing good came from those friendships. This is why it’s imperative to have conversations with your kids and teach them what bullying is, so that they recognize it when it’s happening around them – or worse yet, if they fall victim to it. If you suspect they are hanging out with kids who bully others, encourage them to make new friends right away. We have to keep the lines of communication open if we are going to make a difference.
Display Acts of Kindness + Ways To Instill Kindness With Kids
Kindness starts with parents modeling the behavior we want our kids to emulate. It starts with US! Here are a few things I am doing before school starts. I challenge you to make a list for you and your kids as well:
- Not every child has funds for extras like paid fieldtrips. So, I let my kids know that as a family, we’re going to contribute to a classmate’s fieldtrip this year.
- We’re purchasing an inexpensive pack of decorative pencils for the first day of class, and they’re going to hand deliver a pencil to each classmate as a gesture of kindness and generosity.
- Call me old fashioned, but kindness note cards are also on our list. If you don’t want to purchase them online, make it a family activity and create them together.
- Once per week, sit next to someone new at lunch and make a new friend. Be inclusive!
- Collect books to donate to the school library.
- Smile at everyone… it’s certainly contagious.
I believe that life is unpredictable, just like the weather. But one thing that I know for certain, is that we CAN control our actions. I am doing my part by molding my children to be kind and compassionate. And when it’s time to relinquish my role as the primary conductor of their lives, I hope the footprint I’ve left is one of heartfelt optimism and overflowing acts of kindness. What are you doing this school year to remind your kids to be kind? If we all work together, I believe our world will be richer in compassion, and filled with human beings who care about themselves and one another.