We are nearing the end of summer here in the US, and I just put on my annual back to school safety puppet show for my kids. I started the practice when my eldest was just starting out, but even at ten years old, he enjoys sitting down for my Mom Production.
I came up with the idea years ago, not only to provide my kids with tips for self-care, but also to mollify my control issues.
When my first son was a toddler at home, and then a preschooler, I felt confident that I could shield him from certain dangers. However, once he started Kindergarten in the public school, I realized that there was much of his day that he would need to navigate on his own, even with support from teachers, staff and friends.
There are many lightly supervised zones where things only get noticed upon full escalation. That was hard for me to accept, but it’s life. So the talent show was born to help us both with this process, and it has stuck to this day.
I cover the big topics in an age-appropriate yet crystal clear manner:
Traveling to and from school. My kids take the bus most of the time, but there are special exceptions for playdates or activities. My puppet show covers who they are allowed to leave school grounds with, and what to do if they are unsure. This naturally brings in talking points around school staff versus unknown persons on campus, and our emergency contact list.
Private body parts. We review what they are and the fact that no one can touch, explore, or try to see anyone else’s. Not kids. Not grownups. No one. Accidental bathroom viewing aside, private parts are aptly named because they are private.
Now bathroom humor can be hilarious, but it’s important that the potty jokes are just words and do not actually cross the physical line.
Weapons. Toy weapons are not allowed at school. So guess what? Real weapons aren’t either. No guns or knives or cross bows or spears or anything of the like, whether it’s real or Nerf. If anyone has one with them, talks about having one hidden at the school or about bringing it to school, it needs to be reported.
Food, drugs, and alcohol. The bottom line is that food and drinks cannot be shared at school. This may sound harsh, but there are too many variables that could go wrong. Teacher-approved birthday treats and school bought lunches aside, you need to stick with what you brought. Some kids have allergies. Some kids need to take medicine. Some kids like to experiment with grown up stuff like beer and cigarettes even if it’s bad for them. So to make sure everyone has the right stuff that won’t harm them, don’t take food or anything consumable from other kids, and don’t share your own. We can plan snack parties and picnics together outside of the school day.
I know it sounds like a lot, but trust me, when hilarious looking puppets are walking you through it, times flies and giggles abound. But how much of this actually sinks in? Probably not all of it, but I do know that a few take-aways stick.
Those include tattling versus helping, the things that have a hard line you cannot cross, and when in doubt, talk with the staff in the school office.
Will my kids always make the choices I want them to? Probably not. However, when things do come up, we have a foundation from which to build. I will continue to do the back to school safety puppet show as long as my kids will sit down and watch. I am hoping to make it to college.
How do you prepare your kids for going back to school? Do you or your school address safety topics?
This has been an original post for World Moms Network by Tara B. Photo credit is to the author.