One of the hardest moments for those about to be empty nesters, whether it be your first kid or your last, is the college drop-off. It is brutal. Your Kids if off on a whole adventure. About to start their life. And you're going home to one last problem to solve. One last mouth to feed. One last kid to wait up for. It's a little more quiet. Then the worry sets in. What if they aren't ready for all this freedom. What if they don't eat enough. What if they walk home along in the dark. You can make yourself crazy with the what-ifs. There goes your precious cargo, off on their own with an early onset of optimism. Optimism you may have abandoned long ago because you just experienced more life.
There in-lies the question then. How do we support them the right way. Balanced, supportive, able to listen with no judgment, all the things. We believe a lot of the foundation is the internal knowing that they are safe.
A recent College Safety Survey1 conducted by Clery Center and ADT found that 82% of college students are concerned about their personal safety as they return to school this fall and 97% consider their personal safety while on campus, yet only 70% have talked to their family about ways to be safe while attending school. This demonstrates that if you have a college student in your life, safety isn’t just a topic you have a responsibility to raise, it’s one students want to talk more about.
The Clery center has put together a comprehensive list of questions that are pertinent to talk to your student about:
- Familiarity is Key: Start familiarizing yourself with your new campus, like identifying key buildings such as the health center or campus police, and surroundings areas, such as where the nearest hospital is or areas where crimes are more common. Once on campus, parents can help students by doing a dry run of how to get to buildings they will frequent and learning about other means of transportation like campus shuttles or the local subway system.
- Carry the Essentials: You will likely always have your phone with you but it’s important to have an In Case of Emergency or ICE contact clearly labeled. Check your phone’s settings, too, ensure that this information can be accessed even if your phone is locked. Always carry your student ID, government ID and any medical cards.
- Get to Know Your School: Each institution publishes an annual security report (ASR) that provides information about campus safety, like where to report a crime, rights and options afforded to victims of dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking, plus campus crime statistics for the previous three calendar years. Reviewing this information along with bias incident policies, amnesty policies and reporting policies is essential. Look at what kind of law enforcement is present on your campus to better understand how you may interact with them. For example, some institutions have sworn and/or armed law enforcement with arrest authority, while others work with local police.
- Create a Safety Plan: Families or trusted adults can play an important role in helping you safely prepare for campus life by working with you to create a safety plan. Loved ones should start by talking with students about their specific worries and validating their feelings and concerns and then thinking through a plan of action for each event. These conversations can center on who to call for help and support, when it’s right to escalate to emergency services, and how to find safe shelter. Look for bystander intervention programs that teach strategies for addressing concerning behaviors on campus. These safety plans are great to establish with friends, too, to encourage an open dialogue around safety.
- Know How to Recognize an Unhealthy Relationship: There has always been education around stranger danger, but in the case of incidents like hazing, dating violence, and sexual assault, the person causing harm is often someone the person knows and likely even trusts. Knowing how to identify abusive behaviors can help students stay safe. Warning signs include controlling behavior, jealousy, manipulation, isolation, belittling, guilting and volatility. Understanding and recognizing these signs can be key to interpreting your relationships, whether with a partner or friend.
- Be an Active Bystander: Creating a safer campus needs to involve everyone who is a part of it. Attend programs to learn strategies for how to speak out against concerning behaviors and how to support a friend who is being harmed. Most schools have amnesty policies, which encourages students to seek help in dangerous situations without fear of getting in trouble for other policy violations like alcohol use.
You got this.