How To Handle The Fact You Are Not There
Of course, our concern is for our college students’ safety. I’m not a helicopter parent. Really, I’m not. I believe my kids have learned some of their most valuable lessons by tackling things on their own. Regardless, once we have moved our students in and they are ready to embark on a new independent life, we still want to know they are safe at all times. Once the tears have stopped (ours, of course), it becomes easier each time you realize their growing autonomy (this is what we are supposed to want for our children) and happiness. Knowing they are safe is a forever thing. Therefore, it may be helpful to know that IU has supportive resources available. Our students’ safety really is all that matters.
Bloomington is generally safe, but it is always wise to know what to do in a potentially dangerous situation. If students are on campus they should contact IU Police. If they are off-campus, contact Bloomington Police. The IU Police Department is a law enforcement agency located on campus, with the same credentialed agents as the Bloomington Police Department. They serve the campus 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
IU-Notify is Indiana University’s mass communication tool for alerting students to immediate dangers, such as severe weather, hostile intruders, sexual assaults, or robberies. The messages are sent to cell phones or emails. IU offers two free services for late-night transportation. One is a student-run service that is called Safety Escort and the other is Night Owl offering the campus bus service. The emergency Blue Light Trail consists of over 56 strategically placed light poles equipped with emergency speakerphones and strobe lights.
In addition, there is the Victim Advocate Program which provides advocacy to victims on- or off-campus. They offer emotional support, instructor notification, referrals, education programming, and more. Hopefully, your kids won’t ever need this, but it is good to know it is there. For me, while I miss my daughter immensely, I am also confident that I have given her the tools to succeed. They are going to experiment; perhaps staying out late or eating unhealthy foods, drinking, and so forth. IU offers yet another safety net if you have concerns that your student is having difficulty adjusting to life on his or her own.
Whether they are stressed out, lonely, overwhelmed, nervous, or homesick there is someone there to help. Their overall goal is to give IU a welcoming and friendly atmosphere. They offer many activities from yoga to speed dating to campus walks; oh and dogs (studies have shown that dogs help students deal with stress and anxiety); literally something for everyone. The bottom line, IU is an enormous institution and programs like the ones above offer a safety net should students be in need. Bookmark them, and be sure your student is aware of each; then sit back and wait for the eye roll, but know you did your duty.
I also recommend getting your student’s roommates or a close friend’s contact information. There is nothing worse than not being able to find your student; it may be as simple as a) he forgot to charge his phone, b) she fell asleep at the sorority house or c) lost her phone under a pile of laundry and is so busy studying she didn’t realize it was gone. (Do not laugh; I have lived through all three.) This being said, remind your students of the obvious (to us) to not walk anywhere alone (particularly at night) or put themselves in dangerous situations. As any campus police will tell you, crime is always based on the opportunity so if you remove the opportunity, in most instances, you can exist safely on campus.
The university sends out alerts to the student for all criminal activity, as well as impending severe weather. I know some parents who subscribe to this service, but I would strongly encourage you to make sure your student subscribes to the service as they are the ones living there. If you choose to receive the notifications as well, realize now they may leave you feeling worried and helpless.
I would also make certain you have your student’s Find My Phone or login information. They may resist, but perhaps you can make a promise not to abuse its benefits in order to make them less resistant. You can also explain how if they should go missing (see a, b, and c above), a cell phone allows the police or anyone else to track your student’s recent activity. Of course, if the phone is shut down it has no service, but it will give the most recent usage. I also like having my daughter on Find My Friends or Life360. Some will resist claiming it is an invasion of privacy. I do not take advantage of using it but it is nice to be able to find them when they are not answering texts or phone calls.
If that doesn’t convince them, threaten to not pay the phone bill (which of course would defeat the purpose, but it works.) I can’t tell you how many times I have heard stories about children who couldn’t be reached for hours at a time, putting the parents into a major tailspin, only to find their students simply forgot to tell their roommate they were sleeping somewhere else. Avoid this situation at all costs and remind your kids to always contact someone (roommate, suitemate, BFF) of their whereabouts, especially if they are not going to be sleeping in the room. Sure, sometimes it is not planned, but social media is so prevalent that there are no reasons to not let someone else know their whereabouts.
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