The Tuscaloosa County Sheriff's Office has released a few tips on how to protect your children, and how to teach them to protect themselves.

Getting to School:

  • Give yourself plenty of time as you and your children adjust to the new school schedule.
  • Map out a safe way for your children to walk to school or to the bus stop.
  • Work with other parents in the neighborhood to ensure that children in the neighborhood are supervised closely to and from school.
  • Work with your neighbors and your child on identifying “safe houses” in the neighborhood; homes where your child is familiar and can ask for help if need be.
  • Point out places they should avoid such as vacant lots, alleyways, and construction areas.
  • Encourage your children to use the “buddy system”.
  • Teach your children to never speak to strangers or go anywhere with a stranger, and let them know its okay to report if a stranger tries to approach them.
  • Teach your children to always be aware of their surroundings. Be aware of slow moving vehicles or parked vehicles that appear to be occupied. Choose a different route or walk on the opposite side of the street.
  • Children need to pay attention to traffic signals and use crosswalks with a crossing guard if available.

Bus Safety:

  • Make sure your children arrive at least five minutes early for the bus.
  • Make sure your children know to stand on the sidewalk while waiting for the bus.
  • Teach your children to make sure the bus driver can see them before walking in front of the bus, and to never walk behind a bus.
  • Be aware that bullying often happens on the bus. Ask your children about their bus rides, who they sit with, and what goes on in the bus. Encourage them to report any bullying behavior.

At School:

  • Teach your children to resolve problems without fighting.
  • Encourage your children to report bullying behavior, either as a victim or a witness.
  • Ask school officials about the safety and emergency plans for the school, all schools are required to have one.

After School:

  • Have your children check in with an adult as soon as they get home.
  • Show them how to properly lock all doors and windows.
  • Make sure they know to never open a door to a stranger.
  • Establish a set of rules; who can come over, when homework must be done, and any chores they must do before you get home.
  • Find a trusted neighbor who will allow your children to come over in case of an emergency.
  • Establish strict rules regarding Internet usage.

Bullying:

  • Listen to children and encourage them to talk about their day.
  • Take all complaints about bullying seriously, if you don’t your child may not tell you next time.
  • Watch for symptoms such as withdrawal, a drop in grades, or new friends.
  • Notify the school immediately if you think your child is being bullied.
  • Praise your children when they are kind to others.
  • Teach children self- protection skills; how to walk and talk confidently, stay alert to their surroundings, and to stand up for themselves verbally.

“IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING” – Parents and children alike should be aware of their surroundings. If you or your child becomes aware of something or someone suspicious near the school, report it to law enforcement. We want to know!

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children also offers safety tips for parents to discuss with their youngsters.