How our spoken, written, and physical expressions of affection have more power than we realize.

Times haven’t changed for the best in my opinion, but then again, I might be dubbed “Old School”.  In the 1980’s, I remember walking to school, passing the open soccer fields and walking onto the basketball courts of my elementary school where a competitive game of kick the can was being played.  I would throw my backpack down onto the ground and join the chaos and excitement.  I had no thoughts of danger; let alone, someone coming onto our campus with a gun.  I just wanted to have fun with my friends.

Lots of time has passed since those days, and now my son is entering into high school this year as a freshman.  The days of open and inviting campuses are over; instead, our schools are being built like decorative fortresses with ten foot high fences and balusters disguised as flower pots in the parking lots.  We know the purpose behind the change; however, it stands as a memorial to those unfortunate school campuses, those tragedies of our past that we are forced to learn from.

My advice to my son was even interesting for me to hear as I talked with him about high school. It started off with all the same wisdoms I heard from my parents back in the day: pay attention in class, be respectful, work hard, make good choices, etc., etc., etc.  However, I found myself talking to him about exit strategies, Run-Hide-Fight, and the importance of him being aware of his surroundings.  As a former School Resource Officer and School Threat Assessment Officer, I knew I had to talk to him about the basics of what I had learned in these assignments.  I drove away from the school with a wide variety of thoughts and emotions, hoping and praying for the safety of my son; as well as, all the students in all of our schools.

As I reflected over the years with my son as I drove on, I reminded myself of the most important wisdom I could communicate to him for his overall health.  I had to tell him, “I love you.”  Alvin Price said it best in my opinion,

Parents need to fill a child’s bucket of self-esteem so high that the rest of the world can’t poke enough holes to drain it dry.”

Our children face a unique set of challenges we never had to face at their ages.  Yes, most of them are similar like popularity, bullying, and acceptance; however, with the internet, the pressures are magnified exponentially.  An active shooter isn’t the only fear they have today; rather, Instagram©, SnapChat©, and other media platforms are weapons of destruction causing fears of embarrassment and harassment which devastate our children’s buckets of self-esteem.

However, we as parents have a tremendous opportunity, and responsibility, not only to safeguard our children’s self-esteem during these pivotal school years, but to construct it.  We don’t want them to just survive, we want them to thrive. Here’s how you start:

Understanding the Effects of Your Love

  1. Morning: Never leave the home, or let your children leave for school, without embracing them and telling them how much they mean to you!  Truly hug them, kiss them on their forehead, hold their shoulders and tell them you love them!  It only takes a few seconds to light a match, and it only takes a few seconds to ignite a great day! Why?  Significance is a vital factor in a person’s self-esteem, and telling your child how much they mean to you and your family is the beginning to them understanding their self-worth.   Feeling loved is significant! Give them this moment so they know they’re priceless!
  1. Noon: Communicate to your child how much you love them throughout the day.  Know what their days consists of: tests, competitions, etc. and text them funny and/or encouraging “memes” and/or “gifs” that will motivate them. Why?  Your love will be felt in these efforts of affection.  If they don’t have a cell phone, write a love note to them and place it in their lunch.  However you do it, you need to do it.  Their knowledge of your love builds confidence, security, and an overall faith in you and their home life.  The key here is to be consistent in your “I love you” and have a variety of ways to express it.  Be creative. Have fun with it!
  1. Night: Never go to sleep without telling your children how much you love them, including how proud of them you are. I say this to my sons, “I love you my man.  I’m so proud to have a son like you…” Why?  You close their day with hope and reassurance.  When you tell them you are proud of them, make sure you include the why. They want to know what you see in them!  Even if you child is asleep, whisper it in their ear as you place your hand on their head.  After all, you never know when they’re truly listening.

Our spoken, written, and physical expressions of affection have more power than we realize. Regardless of the fearful, intimidating, or humiliating experiences they might feel during any given day, the one stable cornerstone every child should know is that the love of their family is unconditional.  We tell our children to make the right choices.  Well, as parents, let’s do the same…choose to love your children more every day and express it.  Long ago I asked my dad, who I considered “Old School” as a kid, for advice in regards to raising my son.  His response was one for all ages, “You can never love them enough.”

Next Steps:

  • Educate yourself about social media and how to intervene in your child’s digital world if necessary.
  • We speak to parents at schools throughout the United States. Find a class near you or find out how to bring a seminar to your child’s school.
  • Read the definitive guide for online safety for families, Parenting in the Digital World. If you haven’t already, subscribe to our newsletter.
  • Install Bark on your child’s phone. Bark will passively monitor your child’s social media and let you know if there is a problem. Use the promo code, “cybersafetycop” to get 15% off.

About the author:

Michael Woodroof is a Cyber Safety Cop instructor and teaches all of the classes offered by Cyber Safety Cop. He began his law enforcement career in 2003 as a Deputy Sheriff for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.  He has served as a School Resource Officer, Community Drug Education Instructor, GRIP (Gang Reduction Intervention Partnership) Deputy, school threat assessment team member, and as a Sergeant in the Custody Operations Command.