Ground Control Parenting – Carol Sutton Lewis

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Ages 13-15

Talking to Our Children About Safety in Public Places

News of mass shootings at concerts and bars are occurring with horrifying regularity. These are places where our teens and young adult children are likely to frequent. What should we tell them about how to prepare themselves for the worst case scenario?

Here is some advice from security experts (via this Washington Post article):

Prepare an Emergency Action Plan: If your child is heading to a festival, concert, bar or house party, tell him to take a few minutes before going to look at the venue’s layout if possible (many can be pulled up on his phone). Tell him to look to see where the entrances and exits are, where the medical personnel (if it is a festival) are stationed, and to figure out an evacuation route. Once he gets to the event, ask him to take a quick look around and ask himself, “If there is an attack, what would I do, where would I go?” It will take just a few minutes of his time to make a mental escape plan, and then he can relax and enjoy his evening.

Helpful tips: If he is going to a concert, tell him to consider choosing seats on the aisle and close to exits. At restaurants, he should try to sit with his back to the wall and face the entrance. Identify escape routes and exit points, including turnstiles, fences and windows.

Practice Situational Awareness: Once he gets to the event, in addition to figuring out an emergency action plan, he should take a few moments to survey the room to determine a baseline “normalcy”. What are people wearing, doing? Once he makes conscious mental notes of the scene, it is easier for him to identify things that are not normal should they occur, and he can react more quickly to them.

It may be tough to have these conversations with our children. We don’t want to freak them out or preoccupy them with worry as they go out for a fun night. But it is information they are better off having, and we can rest a little easier knowing we’ve given it to them (and that we know it for ourselves). In this day and age, it is critical that our children know how to be, in the words of one security expert, “an active participant in [their] own survival”.

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