Make back-to-school time easy this year! Our readers are really smart, which is why we asked them about their very best back-to-school hacks.
Getting back into the swing of things for a new school year is no joke. It is hard. The early mornings, the bus schedule, the lunch packing, the homework, the extracurricular sports, the chalkboard first day or school photos. It can be overwhelming, which is why we turned to the most knowledgeable group of people we know to ask for tips: our readers. Here’s what they said.
#1 Start the bedtime/wake-up time school schedule a couple of weeks before school starts
This was one of the top pieces of advice from our readers. Getting up early on day 1 is zero fun in and of itself. If your kid(s) has been doing it for at least a week or so, it’s a tad bit easier.
Consider planning a couple fun outings the week prior to school starting such as going out for donuts to make the earlier rising time an adventure.
Practice lunch by packing the lunch box and setting a timer for the amount of time that your child has for lunch at school.
#2 Pick out the clothes for school for the entire week.
Multiple readers said they help their kids to lay out clothes for the whole week on Sunday or tell their teens to do so themselves. One reader even had a brilliant idea to use hanging cubbies to put clothes for each day. And this is why we ask our readers these questions.
#3 Don’t buy a brand new “back to school” wardrobe
The National Retail Federation estimates that Americans with school-age kids are spending upwards of $867 per kid on back to school supplies and clothing. That number is enormous but can be cut back without going all out for a new wardrobe for your kids. There are tons of consignment shops and sales to make use of to help get your kids a new-to-them wardrobe.
Also, consider purchasing just a couple outfits at the beginning of the school year versus an entire new wardrobe. Your kids might change their mind on what they want to wear after seeing what other kids are wearing and the colder weather is just a couple months away.
#4 Meal prep
Many of our readers noted that prepping meals ahead of time for during the week is a lifesaver when getting back into the swing of things. One mom even prepares one big meal at the beginning of the week that can feed everyone for several nights and just switches up the sides to add variety.
Anything you can prepare the night before such as packing lunches will also make leaving the house on time in the morning much easier.
Setting up a breakfast station the week before with breakfast foods ready to go can also make the morning move smoother.
#5 Take the “first day of ____ grade” pictures the day before!
As yes, the First Day of __ Grade Back to School photos. You know, the ones where you’re desperately trying to get your kid to school but then remember you want to memorialize the occasion but need a chalkboard and pen and paper and nothing else that you have right then but are already late? Yeah, those. Do them the day before school starts. Reader Kerry says, “Just chill. The chalkboard thing doesn’t have to happen; neither does posting to social media. Let them dress for comfort instead of trying to dress to impress.” Another mom said she just has her kids hold up the number of fingers to correspond to the grade they are going into.
#6 Don’t schedule any appointments that first week of school
No doctor appointments. No dentist appointments. Nothing that will give you even more stress than you’re already handling. Schedule them for a few weeks out from the first day of school if you can.
#7 Use Alexa to help you remember things you/your kids need to do
One reader said she programs her Alexa device to set reminders about things her or her kids would likely forget like when the library book is due, what day of the week her kid(s) needs to wear gym shoes or a reminder to plug in the Chromebook.
#8 Plug in that Chromebook
Be sure to plug in the Chromebook on Sunday night because going to school with a dead laptop is no fun.
#9 Keep the social life to a minimum
One mom said she has found that restricting weekend plans for the first few weeks into the school years has helped her kids to get the relaxation they need and helps them to focus on the new school year.
#10 Use your calendar to keep up with events
One mom said she plugs all of the school events into your calendar on her phone before the school years so she knows what to expect and can plan for events.
#11 Keep all school-related things in one place
Mom Stacy has this amazing idea: “I have a back-to-school binder. It has the school calendar and sections for each child for their supply lists and forms teachers send home for platforms the kids use, passwords, usernames, etc and contact lists.
Anything important that’s sent home, especially those early weeks, goes straight in the binder. The supply list stays so I can touch base with the teacher through the year on possible extra needs or send in extras that are consumed quickly.”
If you find yourself running ragged all week with zero time for family dinners and feel more like an Uber driver than a parent, maybe overscheduling is the problem. We asked our readers about this topic and for some possible solutions.
I have no middle ground on overscheduling my kids for activities. It’s basically all or nothing with some classes or organized events thrown in. Why? For two reasons: firstly, I played competitive sports from age 12 through high school and still regret that my poor siblings were dragged all over the place to watch me play sports and that it cut into better things my family could be doing together. Secondly, that having very few evenings and weekends free to do what I want with my kids sends my anxiety through the roof.
When we asked our readers if overscheduling your kids is possible, the majority answered with a resounding yes. Scrolling through social media only reinforces this as parents are asking where their two-year-old can play organized sports or dance classes for their 18-month-old. It’s not necessarily a bad thing to ask these questions but experts tell us that overscheduling kids at any age can lead to very little free time and opportunities for relaxation and creativity. It can also lead to burnout – for both kids and parents, which isn’t fun for anyone.
Overscheduled & Overstimulated
The author of a book called Kids Under Pressure, Karen Sullivan, expands on this topic: “Parents put children under enormous pressure with heavily orchestrated schedules of extra activities, all of which are designed to help them succeed in life. However, this leaves little free time for children to be children and to relax. Children are often left feeling they are not good enough because they are not ‘the best’.”
She goes on to say that because of the time suck of these “heavily orchestrated schedules” there is no more room left for fun. And that causes stress. She’s just talking about the kids and not the stress this places on parents.
One of our readers shared that “Many parents are so obsessed to do allll the things society tells them they should. Sometimes less is more. These kids are overscheduled and over-stimulated.”
The Comparison Trap
It’s so, so easy to compare yourself and your kids to other people with the prevalence of social media. I see friends post about all the cool activities their kids are involved in and I will freely admit that I have moments where I wish that was one of my daughters involved in those activities. But I quickly get back to reality and know that I’d lose my mind if that was my life.
Another reader of ours put it this way: “Remind yourself that kids need to be kids. If you find yourself feeling like an Uber driver. Or like your family are like ships passing in the night, and they don’t have time to just be kids (ie play in the neighborhood, use their creativity and imaginations, and learn what boredom is and in turn how to entertain themselves), probably too much…. But you have to feel like you’re comfortable with what they are scheduled for. Not what other people are doing with their kids but what is right for your family. We were not created to be in constant go mode. Not as kids and not as adults.”
If you feel yourself falling into that comparison trap, think about how you would feel if that were your kids and your crazy schedule and your budget. It may not work for your family or your own personality and that’s totally ok. It’s fine not to schedule your kids for every class or activity.
Every family is different
When my daughters did gymnastics, I made sure their class was at the same time on the same night to minimize our weekly disruptions. We ended those classes when covid hit and while I’d like to enroll them again, I need the same kind of schedule where they both can do classes at the same time. My oldest daughter did Cub Scouts for a few years, which was perfect because it was one meeting a week that I could take both my kids to and the activities fit well into our hiking and outdoor-loving schedule. I did say no to swim team a few years ago when I found out the swim meets were on Saturday mornings. As a working mom who plans the best adventures on weekends, I was not about to give that time up for sitting at a pool during the prime summer months. But that’s me – if you’re the swim team cheering, soccer mom yelling kind of parent, that’s awesome.
But for myself, I really think I’d lose my mind if I had to work all day, homeschool, and then shuttle both my kids to places all week and on weekends. No way. My time with them is too short and too precious. And it’s not like we don’t do anything. We travel often for my work with Kidding Around and have incredible adventures together, go paddleboarding all summer, camp, hike, and have that quality, uninterrupted time with each other that helps to enrich our relationships.
One other thing I would not be able to handle are dinner times and cooking if my kids needed to shuttled all over the place during the week. I know that healthy eating and homecooked meals would fall by the wayside, which not only means unhealthy food for our family but also more money spent on fast food – and that would put even more stress on our family. Yes, I could plan ahead but with working full-time and homeschooling, it wouldn’t work well for us. But that’s my own family and everyone is different and probably more organized than myself!
Playing & creativity also provide benefits
While sports and creative arts certainly provide multiple benefits to children like physical fitness, muscle coordination, boosting of self-esteem, the ability to focus and problem solve, the benefits of play are also numerous. The Genius of Play points out that play also provides:
Social skill development
Physical development (i.e., balance, coordination)
Play also provides an outlet for stress. Think about it as an adult. We need that downtime from our work to rest and relieve stress. For myself, that’s anything outdoors. Send me on a seven-mile hike up Table Rock and I’m good to go for the week. Kids need that same kind of stress relief and if they are always running from one activity to the next, they aren’t getting it.
So what are the solutions to overscheduling?
My own personal solution is to skip pretty much everything that requires my kids to be in multiple places during the week. But that’s me and while it works for us, other parents likely think this is a little crazy or that their kids absolutely need to be involved in some kind of activity. So back to our readers, who have more solutions than I do.
1 – Each kid gets one sport at a time
This was a common response when asked how to solve the problem of overscheduling.
One mom said, “My kids get 1 extra curricular activity each, that’s it. It’s important to spend time as a family and learn how to entertain yourself.”
2 – Each kid gets one sport at a time and the practices must be limited
Another mom took it a step further and limited practices that the sport required:
“My kids are allowed to have one sport going at a time And it can’t be anything that’s going to require More than two practices a week during the school year.”
3 – Stay out of competitive sports.
Competitive sports often require multiple practices a week plus games on weekends, including traveling to surrounding states several times a year. One mom says no to that: “We have 4 kids and DON’T do competitive sports for this exact reason. Takes away family time and money.”
4 – Choose a couple of lower key activities and stick to those.
One mom, who I totally identify with, says she’s an introvert so it’s a little harder on her to stick with a taxing schedule so she does more low-key activities with her kids: “We are introverts and I have health issues so we keep it low key on activities with lots of socializing. We do library day once a week or every other week and get together with others once a month or so. Plus, we have Sunday morning & Wednesday evening church. Smaller activities we might do more often, bigger activities less often as they are very taxing on me.
5 – Take a day off.
If you find yourself overscheduled, don’t be afraid to take a day off now and again. You really can just not go to dance class this week, or skip that practice and go hiking with the family instead.
Do you have any other suggestions for parents who feel like they have overscheduled their kids?
More Parenting Tips and Ideas
11 Best Back-to-School Hacks Our Readers Swear By
5 Tips to Reduce the Pressure of Overscheduling Your Kids
10 Parent-Hacks for Amazing & Memorable Trips to the Farm this Fall
Parent-Tried Tips for Getting Your Kids to Talk
Making one-on-one time special with your kids
Ask the Expert: My child is struggling with anxiety.
Want to make sure your family trip to the farm is amazing? Farms in the fall are perfect places for family fun and lots of memory-making. But, bringing your whole crew anywhere can sometimes be a little stressful, right? So, we have some tips to help you make your fall farm trip easy with nothing but fun and happy faces.
Wear the correct clothes.
A farm is a great opportunity to take some adorable, matching farm-themed photos, but it’s important to realize that it is a farm. Farms have dirt, fire ants, and typically a lot of sun. Cute smocked outfits, warm “fall” clothes, and open-toed shoes might look great in photos but may not be comfortable, practical attire for having fun at the farm.
If your main goal is photos, consider either outfit choices that are comfortable and can get dirty or take your photos and schedule another visit for full farm activities.
We recommend wearing:
Clothes that can get dirty
Closed-toed shoes that are comfortable for walking such as tennis shoes or boots
Layers, even on cooler fall days it can feel really hot in the sun especially if you spend an hour wandering in a corn maze.
A hat or sunglasses if it’s a sunny day
Bring snacks and water.
Most farms will allow you to eat on the property or at your car. Some serve food, but not all. Most do not have a place to refill water bottles.
We recommend making sure you have plenty of food and water.
There will likely only be porta-potties at the farm so plan accordingly.
Wear your sunscreen. It can get hot in October in our region.
Go over farm etiquette before getting out of the car.
It’s important to go over basic farm rules with your kids if they are unfamiliar with farm etiquette. Farming is hard work and it’s important to respect the farmer’s property.
Follow all farm signs and rules.
Be sure to treat plants with respect. Only pick what you plan to pay for and don’t destroy farm property such as forming new paths in a corn maze.
Don’t throw produce such as pumpkins or corn unless it’s part of a farm-approved game.
Watch your kids closely. Farm equipment can be dangerous.
Don’t feed animals unless signs give permission to feed them and only feed animals food that is approved by the farm.
If you have the opportunity to touch or hold animals, remind your children to be gentle.
Be prepared before you get lost in the corn maze.
Corn mazes are fun but they also are in direct sunlight and involve a lot of wandering around trying to figure your way out.
Your kids will likely insist on picking all of the turns which often results in walking in circles for hours.
Make sure your preschooler/toddler understands that they have to stay with you because losing a child in a corn maze is more excitement than most of us want when visiting a farm.
Take a photo of the corn maze before you enter. That way if you get lost and tired, you can still find your way out.
If your kids are little, they usually won’t know the difference between the entrance and exit so you can always have a short visit into the corn maze and just exit out the way you came before everyone gets tired.
Pick the right farm.
If you want to pick apples or pumpkins, make sure the farm lets you pick them before arriving. Some orchards and farms only sell pre-picked produce.
Some farms allow you to enjoy all the activities for one price, whereas others charge per activity. If your main event is picking apples, paying once for the jumping pillow or hay ride might be the right choice. If your main activity is playing at the farm, consider one with an all-inclusive price.
Check to see what forms of payment they accept.
Some of the farms in the region only accept cash or check. Make sure you are prepared.
Farm Fun Near Upstate, SC
Visit Farms and Win Prizes with the SC Agritourism Passport Program
Fall Fun for the Whole Family at Strawberry Hill
20+ Adorable Farms & Petting Zoos: Pet & Play With Animals
How do you get kids to talk to their parents? How do you spark meaningful conversations with kids? You love your kids and you want to hear about their day and what’s happening in their lives. But, how do you encourage your kids to talk to you? Try these tips from parents just like you for encouraging kids to communicate and talk to you.
We have all been there (well, at least most of us). It’s the first day of school or our kid goes to camp, and we can’t wait to hear all about it. Then our kid comes home and only provides information in one-syllable answers … “fine.” Or maybe, our kid talks or at least used to, but our life has gotten so busy that we realize we haven’t had a deep conversation with them in days or even weeks.
Talking with our kids is important. In fact, the Palmetto Basics includes talking to your kids as one of the most basic ways to help your child’s brain grow. We also know that talking with our kids and as a family can continue to strengthen relationships and our children’s personal growth as they grow older.
What are some tips then for getting our kids to talk or better to talk to them in a way that invites conversation? We polled our readers to hear what they do to foster family conversations and these are their tips.
Trying to make time to spend one-on-one with your kids and need some ways to make it special? KAG Contributor and mom of two girls, Kristina, has some ideas.
I think most parents can agree that time flies when their kids are growing up. Maybe not in those first months (or years) when sleep is non-existent and the constant routine of sleep-eat-poop is all kids do but certainly once parents regain consciousness and babies start not being babies anymore, they can tell time is flying. How do you really make the most of the years you have with your kids? I think about this a lot, for reasons I’ll tell you about shortly, and have found a few things that have strengthened my relationship with my children.
Taking my kids on dates
One-on-one time is so special with my two children, ages 11 and 7. I do a lot with them together but getting time just with each of them and myself is truly special.
To make it happen, I have to be pretty creative because it’s not easy to get that time between my husband’s schedule and my own. During his less busy times of the year, I try to give him a heads-up that I want to take my kids out just one of them and myself so he can also think about doing something with the other one. I’ll ask each of my kids what they want to do (within reason) and then plan it out. This is usually pretty simple honestly. For my one daughter over the summer, she wanted to walk around in downtown Greenville and get bubble tea so that’s what we did. It was so much fun and we got to just stroll and sit on the benches downtown and talk and go to M. Judson’s bookstore and browse the books and cute gifts.
My husband has had a tradition of taking our oldest daughter to see the Jurassic Park and Star Wars movies every year when they come out, usually over the summer. It’s something special to them that I think is really sweet and great to share together.
Sometimes finding the hour or two during regular life to take my daughters on a special date is hard but when my family goes on vacation, it’s way easier! One year we went to Hilton Head as a family and I took each of my daughters separately on a kayak and paddleboard tour in the salt marshes. It was such a blast!
Another time, I took each of them window shopping in small beach towns to get ice cream while my husband swapped out with our other kid to spend time with her. It worked out really well.
Tips on Spending Quality Time With Your Child(ren)
Here are some things I’ve found helpful when spending time one-on-one with my kids and quality time with them in everyday life:
Engage them in your regular activities: I try to include my kids in as much of my regular life as possible, like helping out in the kitchen for meals, making grocery lists and shopping, planting and watering our little garden, doing our nails, and even in my own work as I let them read my stories I’ve written or ask them questions about places we go and what’s interesting about them.
Nurture their own interests: My kids’ personalities, interests, and gifts are like presents that I get to open all year long and discover new things about them. One of my daughters loves art and making things so I try to do things with her that involve those activities. My other daughter loves adventurous activities and trying new things so that’s what we do.
Listen to them: I’d say this is a really big one not just for my kids but also for any other relationship. Put your phone down, take out your earplugs, close your laptop and listen to them when they are talking to you and give them your attention. I don’t mean every time your five-year-old says “watch this!” and slides down a slide for the millionth time because that would probably drive me insane. I’m talking about when they want to show you a new drawing or when they come home from school and tell you about their day or talk about a sports game they participated in or an issue with a friend. I remember the people in my life who look me in the eye and make me feel like the only person that matters just because they listen to me. I want to be that person for my loved ones.
Getoutside: I am big into hiking, camping, paddleboarding, and anything outdoors and have nurtured that same love in my kids. When we are hiking or doing something outdoors, I just find it so much easier to remove distractions and be more present with my kids. I’m not constantly checking my phone or email when we are outdoors. I feel like I’m more in tune with life, with my kids, and with myself when we are enjoying nature and this has helped us tremendously to have great conversations on the trail or just talk about whatever my kids want without distraction. Especially where we live in the Upstate, getting outside is so, so easy because of the hundreds of miles of trails we have, the pristine lakes, the beautiful waterfalls. It’s an entire world waiting to be discovered by you and your kids.
Show affection: One of my kids’ love languages (look it up – love languages are interesting) is physical touch so if I hug her or hold her hand, I can see an immediate change in her for the better. If she’s having trouble with schoolwork, I’ll sit right next to her where we are touching and nearly every time, it helps her to calm down and focus. My other daughter loves words of affirmation so I’m mindful to tell her what a great job she is doing or how beautiful her artwork looks or how entertaining her written story is. These are ways I know for sure my kids understand how much I love them and ways I can show affection that they will immediately get.
The time is gone before we know it
I said in the beginning of this post that I’d tell you my reasons for focusing so much on quality and one-on-one time with my kids. I remember the times I had with my own mom where it was just her and I and I treasure those memories and photos like my life depended on it. When I was in college, she visited me in Washington, DC and we did a dinner cruise and bike ride all around the monuments. It was such fun. We were able to spend a week together abroad also when I was in college, which was amazing. And she taught me how to cook in our family kitchen growing up and we loved watching The Food Network together and laughing over how much butter Paula Deen was using to cook bacon.
My mom died when I was in my mid-20s and – I don’t think I’m alone here in saying this – it made an enormous impression on my life. I know what quality time with people I love means. I know what time with my mom meant and I’m determined to give that same time and love to my own kids. I mess up often as a parent but I always try to come back to this road of giving my kids the time they deserve and making memories that they will take with them for the rest of their lives.
Things to Do for One-on-One Time
The effort you make to carve out special moments with your kids is worth it, whether they are toddlers or teenagers. We have plenty of ideas on things to do with your kids for one-on-one dates in the Upstate.
This article is the second in a new series where we ask the parenting experts at Greenville First Steps to weigh in our most pressing parenting issues. Do you have a question that you would love to get an expert opinion on? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you to Greenville First Steps for sponsoring this article.
My 11-year-old really is struggling with anxiety. Is there anything I can do to help her?
Dear Greenville First Steps,
My 11-year-old really is struggling with anxiety. She doesn’t like to ever be put into new situations or to have schedule changes. She often complains about having the door shut to her room at night or being in the dark. She always struggled with being fearful but has been worse since Covid. Is there anything I can do to help her?
Thanks to Palmetto Basics for sponsoring Kidding Around Greenville.
Read and Discuss Stories With the Adventure Squad
“The more we read with young children, the more prepared they become to enjoy reading and to do well in school. It is never too early to begin reading!”
The Adventure Squad Shows Us How to Explore Through Movement and Play
“Movement and play are good for children’s bodies—their coordination, strength, and overall health. They are also ways that children explore and learn about the world.”
The Adventure Squad Maximizes Love & Manages Stress!
“Infants thrive when their world seems loving, safe, and predictable. When you express love and respond to their needs, you teach them that they can count on you.”
Talk, Sing and Point With the Adventure Squad
“As your child develops, talking with them and answering their questions is a way to teach them about the world. By talking with them, you will also get to know the fascinating person they are becoming!”
The Adventure Squad Shows Us How to Count, Group and Compare!
“You don’t need to be a math teacher to start preparing your child to be a problem solver. There are fun and simple activities that you can do now to build math and thinking skills.”
Concerned about the human trafficking stories you see in the news and on social media? We were too. KAG Contributor, Kristina Hernandez, visited with SWITCH, a non profit dedicated to helping victims of human trafficking and educating parents on how to protect their kids. She interviewed Jesslyn Griffith, the former Community Engagement Coordinator at SWITCH, and is bringing us tips for keeping our kids safe.
Maybe it’s because I’m a paranoid parent or because my work involves following the news – which is almost always bad – or maybe just because I watched Taken too many times, but sex trafficking is something that is consistently on my mind as I raise my two daughters. The fact that Greenville County leads the state in human trafficking cases has not escaped my notice either.
So I have a lot of questions, as I’m sure most parents around here do, about trafficking and I want – no, I need – answers. What is considered by law sex trafficking? What can I possibly do to shield my kids from being victims? What do I need to know about trafficking in Greenville and what do I need to watch for? Are my kids at risk of being snatched by traffickers in WalMart or someplace public?
Thankfully there is a nonprofit, SWITCH,in Greenville that works with the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office to not only help victims of trafficking recover, but also acts as an organization that educates the public, works to decrease demand, and intervenes to help women get out of trafficking and counsel them in recovery. Since their inception of the restoration program in 2014, SWITCH has helped over 115 victims of trafficking,
Jesslyn Griffith, the former Community Engagement Coordinator at SWITCH, became my new friend when it came to learning everything I needed to know about sex trafficking here in Greenville. She answered all my questions patiently and thoroughly, which are below. You can watch our Facebook Live interview with Jesslyn below because you cannot have enough information when it comes to protecting your children.
If you have questions you want answered that we didn’t ask, send us an email or message us on Facebook!
Kidding Around Greenville (KAG): What is the actual definition of sex trafficking?
SWITCH: Sex trafficking takes place when force, fraud or coercion is used to induce someone into the commercial sex industry, or when a person 18 yrs or younger is involved in the commercial sex industry.
KAG: What are the biggest misconceptions about human trafficking? SWITCH: Trafficking looks different internationally than it does in the U.S. and it looks different within different parts of the U.S. Because we often think it happens like it does in the movie Taken and involves international kidnappings, chains, and dark basements, we miss it.
It’s such an unseen enemy because it involves psychological chains of force, fraud and coercion. A person can be living at home with their parents but being sold by peers on the weekend. So many victims don’t even self-identify because they aren’t in chains. Also, part of training for traffickers is to try to convince the victim it was their idea or choice. A young person who runs away and ends up being trafficked for a place to sleep may think it’s their fault this is happening because they chose to run away. Traffickers will exploit any vulnerability they can.
KAG: At what age are kids commonly trafficked? What do they have in common?
SWITCH: Nationally, the average age is 12-13 years old; in SC, the average age is 14-16 years old.. Traffickers are so good at what they do – finding someone’s vulnerabilities and unmet needs and then meeting those needs to build trust and establish a strong connection for the sole purpose of exploiting that person through the vulnerabilities and unmet needs they have. It’s the highest level of manipulation and deceit.
The number one way traffickers are reaching youth is through social media. A young person will complain about their parents and the trafficker will jump on that, relating to the youth, becoming a trusted friend, They then begin the process of grooming the young person and isolating them from people they are close to so they can break and turn them out into the commercial sex industry more easily. In our country, 300,000 youth are lured into the commercial sex industry every year.
KAG: How are kids usually recruited into the trafficking industry? Is it in person, online, through friends?
SWITCH: In SC, most cases involve recruitment by a family member.
KAG: Wait, what?! A family member?
SWITCH: This is a hard one for me to understand as well. SC is the #1 state in the country for reported cases of familial trafficking. Recruitment is the way people are brought into the commercial sex industry. The sad thing is, it often becomes a normalized way of life for people eventually and sometimes the only way they know to survive. There are many things traffickers will do to keep victims trapped in this lifestyle as well: criminal records, ruined credit, and drug addictions. It’s often hard for people to escape the commercial sex industry once they have been forced, frauded or coerced into it.
KAG: OK – back to the original question – how are kids recruited?
SWITCH: The second most common method is someone pretending to be a boyfriend which is know as a Romeo Pimp. Peer trafficking came in as the third highest method of recruitment. This could be someone already in “the life” of the commercial sex industry who is now recruiting for their trafficker or a peer who is using threats and blackmail to coerce a classmate to have sex with others. There are numerous tricks, traps and schemes used to force and trick kids into this.
KAG: What steps can parents take to educate themselves on signs that their child may be trafficked and educate their kids on the dangers of sex trafficking?
SWITCH: As part of our prevention program, we have a presentation for parents to help educate them on what to look for and how to talk to their kids about this. It’s important to be a safe person for your child to talk to. Be mindful of your reactions when your kids open up and share things with you. Keep an open line of communication with them and know who the influences are in their lives. Be so careful with technology and social media.
Rick Floyd with Greenville County School system has a Facebook page with a lot of great information on it regarding online safety. He will also come speak to parents as well. You’re trying to guard and protect your kids from as much of this as possible but they need to know what’s happening so they can help protect themselves as well. Love146 is a wonderful resource for parents as well and be sure to check out our website as we will be updating it in 2019 to provide more information on all of this.
KAG: Anyone on Facebook nowadays reads about moms who are followed at WalMart or someplace like that and are petrified that someone is trying to kidnap their child for trafficking. Are those legit concerns? Do pimps really prey on kids like that in public places?
SWITCH: Anything can happen and it’s always good to be aware and cautious. With that being said, our local law enforcement does not receive calls about this type of thing and they aren’t handling cases involving this type of situation. We’ve done a great job teaching our kids about stranger danger and that’s important. With sex trafficking, the exploiter is someone the young person knows and trusts which is one of the most difficult things about these situations. It’s really important youth understand their own vulnerabilities and also know what a healthy relationship looks like as well as red flags to indicate it might be turning into an unhealthy relationship.
KAG: Does SWITCH help victims escape or do you work with other organizations who do that and then you take over on the business and counseling side?
SWITCH: Escape is tricky and looks much different depending on the situation. Some are desperate for a fresh start and do the hard work necessary to heal and start a new life. Not all situations are like that though. For a girl being sold by the man she considers her boyfriend, the level of manipulation is so deep. Even though she is being mistreated and abused, she may be in love with him and willing to endure the situation. Sometimes, people are trapped by the circumstances created by their traffickers like ruined credit, criminal records and drug addictions which makes it harder to break free.
For all victims though, there is an incredible amount of trauma to work through. A person has to be ready to leave the life they know behind in order to pursuit a healthier future. Healing is not easy though and there’s a great fear of the unknown. People know what to expect from their abusive situations and find ways to cope. It may feel safer to keep surviving what they are than to step into a situation where they don’t know what they can expect. Readiness for change is such a key to success though.We encourage them, love them, guide them, but it’s important they make their own choice.
KAG: Greenville County has one of the largest number of sex trafficking cases in the state. That’s concerning. Why is that and what is SWITCH doing to lower those stats?
SWITCH: We’re on the I-85 corridor connecting Atlanta, which is often the highest ranked city for trafficking cases reported and Charlotte, who is usually in the top ten. We’re a convenient location between the two. Also, we currently have two dedicated officers focused on sex trafficking. It’s possible the rest of the state has as much activity but not enough man power within law enforcement to expose what’s really happening.
KAG: What resources does SWITCH have for parents who are looking for help on learning about sex trafficking, especially locally?
SWITCH: In addition to the coming updates to our website, we’re glad to speak to groups in order to raise awareness and train in prevention practices.
About SWITCH: SWITCH was founded in 2012. The idea behind our name is when you switch a light on, the darkness flees. We push back the darkness of sex trafficking through five programs: awareness, prevention, demand, intervention and restoration.
Through our awareness program, we speak to businesses, churches, and other organizations to help adults understand what sex trafficking is and what it looks like in the Upstate. Our prevention program takes Love146’s Not a Number curriculum into youth groups, schools, the department of juvenile justice and other organizations with children in the 7th grade or older. Demand is a group of male volunteers who work with men in the Upstate connecting dots between how online porn is fueling the commercial sex industry. They provide resources, accountability and mentors to help break the addiction of pornography so many individuals face. Intervention is a group of volunteers who go into the district and strip clubs to meet commercial sex workers where they are and offer friendship with no strings attached. When people are ready to leave the life, they know SWITCH is a safe place they can come for help.