Missed Buses, Scared Kids, and Comforting Books

Before I begin, I just want everyone to know that I have nothing but respect for bus drivers. They are amazing front-line workers who are entrusted with the safety of our children. They see our kids all sleepy and mellow in the morning and have to deal with their pent-up energy in the afternoons. It’s a tough job that takes a special kind of person.

The following thoughts are not meant to chastize bus drivers and school districts, but to give parents and caregivers a way to be proactive when things do go awry in the world of bussing.

Missed Buses and Scared Kids

School districts have always faced issues with staffing, but the pandemic has amplified this in ways I am not sure we had ever imagined.

The most important thing to do is to prepare your child for worst-case scenarios. We do this with so many other things in life; why do we not prepare our children to ride the bus safely? The time to hold a fire drill is not during a fire. 

For decades now, there have been instances of kids being dropped off at the wrong stops or left unattended on a bus. This occurrence is becoming more of an issue recently because there are more new and untrained bus drivers than ever. These new drivers may be trained to drive a bus, but they are likely not trained in the route. To avoid panicky situations, teach your child to know their bus route. Not necessarily the entire route, but empower your child to know exactly what their stop looks like and to not be afraid to correct the adult who mistakenly says, “This is your stop.” We train children to listen to adults, but kids also need to listen to their gut. It is perfectly ok for a child to say, “No, this is not my stop.” Tell your child not to get off the bus if they do not see specific markers or identifiers. 

This alarming situation happened to my son a few years ago. We moved to a new home and he had to start at a new school. I took him to the designated bus stop and was told that there was only one bus that stopped at that stop. I put my son on the bus, and neither of us noticed anything wrong because we had never been at this stop or seen this bus driver.

A couple of hours later, I got a call that my son had just arrived at his new school and not to worry as he was fine. I was instantly concerned that there had been an accident or some other mishap. Why else would his school be calling me right? Seconds later, I learned the reason for the call, and I was not a happy mom. I was told that he was dropped off at the wrong school by his bus driver. Because we had taken him to open house before school started, he knew immediately that this was not his school as soon as the bus pulled up. Unsure what to do next, he got off the bus with the other kids and went inside. Once inside the main doors, he approached a staff member and told them he knew he was in the wrong place. Looking back on this now, I have to say that I am grateful for the kindness and help from this stranger.

They called the bus driver and immediately requested that Nick be bussed to the right school. Once dropped off, a staff member called me to explain the situation and assure us that he was safely in the right school. We are lucky that the story of our mix-up had a positive ending and our son took it all in stride. This is not the case will all kids who are thrown into this scary situation. This school year has been filled with many issues regarding bus safety, but our son is much older now and has his phone, so we do not worry as much.

Over the years, many stories have been shared about kids being on buses being dropped off at the wrong spot, being left alone in a strange neighborhood, or being forgotten on the bus for hours because they fell asleep in the back seat. This is where it is helpful not solely to rely on bus drivers; drivers who are doing the best they can. Make sure your child not only knows what their stop looks like but also understands that it is safe to say, “I am not supposed to get off here.”

Hold the drill before the fire.

There may be delays as bus companies move and sift routes to accommodate drivers and monitor shortages. Staffing shortages mean condensed routes, which means longer rides. If you are a parent who cannot transport your child, talk with your child about what this means for them too. Many of us cannot transport our children because of full-time jobs or other commitments. Moms and dads–please don’t ever feel bad about that either. Forgive yourself and prepare your child for unforeseen situations. 

Pack their backpack with a special kit in a ziplock bag- only to be opened on their adventure. Put a sucker and a juice box in it along with a book, coloring/ activity book with crayons, or colored pencils. Give them a small incentive to write a letter to Grandma or Grandpa. Get creative with this. Children are much more adaptable and resilient than we are. If you make this an adventure, they will think of it this way too.

So, what if they aren’t picked up at school, or the bus misses their stop?

If they are not picked up at school, school staff will address this and get them home. If the bus misses their stop, again prepare them for this and give them the words to verbalize this. Bus drivers will get your child home safely, but sometimes they need our help too. 

I have heard cases of parents using Apple tags to locate their children; however, Apple advises against this. It does appear that an Apple tag is not the best device to use as the tag has to be in the range of another Apple device to be located. Apple advises that parents use an Apple Watch, however, this can get very pricey for most parents. If you want to track your child, I recommend using something called a Gizmo or similar. It is much cheaper than an Apple Watch and the phone plan that comes with it. You still have to sign up for a monthly plan, but it is a few bucks a month compared to adding a whole new phone line, and you can track your child with a Gizmo on something like a school bus.

When my son was younger, he had a Gizmo, and the only time it did not work was when he was in the movie theater with another family. The signal could not be found, but it worked in other people’s homes and on the bus. A Gizmo is worn just like an Apple Watch, and you can designate specific phone numbers who can contact the Gizmo. There is also no internet or app access, so it is safer for many reasons.

This seems to be another bump in the road during an already difficult time, but like everything else that has been thrown at the human race over the last 2+ years, we can prepare, grow, and adapt. Overall, the most important thing to remember during a bussing snafu is to remain calm. The best way to advocate for our kids during a crisis is to do it with a clear mind and a cool temper. You can go full mama bear on the system after your child is found and safe at home. Thankfully, things do turn out ok most of the time. 

If this happens to your child, you have every right to be stressed and upset, but it will not help your child at all if they know precisely how troubling this is. Prepare them for worst-case scenarios before they happen. Talk with your child, make sure they are comfortable, and then send them lots of information, lots of stuff to do if they get delayed, and lots of prayers.

Comforting Books from Make A Way Media and Author Deedee Cummings

Kayla: A Modern-Day Princess–Tough as Tuil

Tough As Tulle is a heartwarming story about being open-minded to new possibilities, role models, dreams, gender diversity, and discovering a determination for growth. As the third book in a five-book #OWNVOICES series, Kayla: A Modern-Day Princess shines the spotlight on the evolving life of a little brown girl who loves musical theatre and never lets anything get in the way of her dreams.

This beautiful diverse picture book is a heartwarming story about family matters, role models, dreams, gender diversity, and discovering a determination for growth.

Parents and Teachers: I’ve spent more than two decades working within the family therapy and support field, and much of my writing share my experiences of working with kids in therapeutic foster care. Using therapeutic techniques in my stories to teach coping skills, I strive to lessen the stigma surrounding children and adults suffering in silence from mental health issues. As a family therapist, many of my tried-and-true therapy techniques are skillfully woven into this story to show young readers gentle ways to cope and find inner peace.

This book is one of our Purple Dragonfly Award Winners! Kayla: A Modern-Day Princess — Tough as Tulle (Cultural Diversity and School Issues category winners)

All Kayla: A Modern-Day Princess books are FREE on Kindle Unlimited! Download today!

Think of it Like This!

Within the pages of Think of it Like This, three different challenging situations are revealed: a little girl tears her cherished dress, a favorite store is closed, and a girl’s behavior is bossy and selfish. Each situation causes the main character to feel bad or struggle, but when each problem is reframed in a different and more positive way, new (and even better) solutions present themselves.

Through the gentle prompts in the book, readers are encouraged to think about their reactions and what is really happening. Is it the end of the world? Did it ruin your day? Does it really have to? Are you part of the problem? Can you change things?

These pages are filled with simple solutions and messages that are so important for today’s kids to learn. This book also teaches therapeutic skills such as mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy to demonstrate the important lessons of self-control and perspective building. {ages 5 and up}

If a Caterpillar Cam Fly, Why Can’t I?

This book is a coloring and activity book. Kids struggle with screen time and esteem issues at a higher rate than ever before. This book helps parents and caregivers discuss these issues in a way that kids will be more receptive and open to hearing this message. There are many activities to help guide children through an internal dialogue that reinforces how special they are.

Many schools have used this book in their girls’ groups as a fun, therapeutic, and creative way to discuss sensitive topics that are facing our children today.

Through my work with children as a therapist, I have recognized two major areas of concern affecting the esteem of today’s youth:

#1-Emphasis on how the world sees you (or worse, approves of you) through social media.

#2-A lack of focus on goals and a real belief that it is possible to achieve them.

This journal is a fun and thought-provoking reminder that it is never too early for kids to begin working toward their dreams. Help teach children and young adults the value of being self-aware which fosters greater resilience, increases dreaming and motivation, and improves relationships with the people in their lives who matter most. It’s not only a roadmap but a time capsule of hopes and dreams for tomorrow’s future leaders!

All people and ages enjoy this book, but the overall content is traditionally geared more towards women and girls.

Thoughts and Praise from Reviewers

If A Caterpillar Can Fly, Why Can’t I? urges the reader to put down electronics, be in the moment and live with gratitude. My favorite page in If a Caterpillar Can Fly, Why Can’t I? talks about boredom. If a Caterpillar Can Fly, Why Can’t I? touches on some deep themes yet never comes across as preachy.  It emphasizes striving for your dreams while not being afraid to make mistakes.  Having goals is extremely important and asking for help is not something to be ashamed of.  Notes to the reader from Ms. Cummings and Ms. Busse are a motivational, sweet surprise at the end of the book. This journal is intended for children to look back on for years to come.  I think we should all take a whirl at one at the start of every decade.  It would be quite fun to see what 20-year-old me dreamed of in detail.  If A Caterpillar Can Fly, Why Can’t I? soars like a butterfly in my opinion!~Michele Carroll

Like Rainwater

Like Rainwater is a book of poetry that is also a coloring and activity book. Like Rain Water is a tribute to the author’s mother, Andrea Mast Pecchioni, who passed away in 2003 from her second battle with breast cancer. This skillfully written book reminds the reader that they can change their reactions by taking time to consider how those actions will affect us and others.

When children or adults react to something they find unfair, they often do or say things that they will regret later. Instead, the author encourages readers to “be like rainwater” and take the time to consider their options and reactions in a mindful and purposeful way.

Adults and educators will also find therapeutic techniques within the pages of this book that will help kids and adults with issues such as depression, self-defeating behaviors, and emotion regulation. {ages 8 and up}

Heart

Lyrically and visually beautiful, Heart is a book for all ages and all walks of life.  Within the pages of Heart, readers, parents, and educators will find affirmations that, when hearts close from fear, other emotions like love, peace, joy, and happiness become closed off as well. Inspired by her work with foster children, the author uses lyrical prose and stunning illustrations to share beliefs of love, life, faith, and the power of prayer.

This is a much-needed book for children of all ages, especially those who have experienced trauma in their lives. Heart provides an overall message to readers that, to find faith, they must never stop believing that there are good people in the world. This is a book that is an excellent resource for classrooms, home bookshelves, and children’s counselor’s office.” Change to “counselors’ offices.

Heart will help lift readers’ spirits and will serve as a guide to the path to healing. {ages 5 and up}

Heart is a moving and emotional picture book that focuses on the importance of guarding your heart, from people who will hurt and take advantage of you. The story also focuses on the importance of trust and finding a balance between the two concepts. It is truly heartbreaking to me that so many young children are closed off because of the damage that has been done to them. This is a much-needed book for children of all ages. I love that the book’s overall message is to find faith and believe that there are good people in the world. This is a book that should definitely be in every school and children’s counselor’s office. A perfect book to add to any mindfulness unit!~ Jennifer D.


How A Love of Christmas Inspired a Much-Needed Picture Book

My family LOVES Christmas.

We are very blessed. We have Christmas trees with different themes in different areas of our home.

I have a Candy Land tree and trains and a little village- the whole deal. I love it all.

Mostly I love all of the feelings associated with Christmas. I love it even more now that it is pretty much the only time of year my daughter who is 27 can come home now. I love to get gifts for people that I know they really want. I listen all year long and then when they open the present my favorite moment is when they say, “HOW DID YOU KNOW!!!!?” And I think to myself because I listen to you. I love the food, the movies, and all of the Christmas books!

These are all great and beloved holiday traditions. The only problem for me is that just once I would have loved to see someone who looked like me. Especially as I became an adult. I wanted to read Christmas stories to my babies who had characters that looked like them. There are literally thousands of Christmas picture books for children.

A simple Google search reveals an endless amount of stories with white kids or with animals as the main protagonist. Really, what does this say to a little brown kid (who is not a bear) who may be searching for a story that’s a little more relatable to them and their experience?

I very much believe in Santa. I am so serious. Every Christmas I see miracles happen, because Santa not only lives in the North Pole, he lives in all of us. I’d like to believe we can make Santa magic happen even when Santa cannot.

I really believe that my diverse children’s picture book, In The Nick of Time, truly might be the first-ever published book where a brown boy helps Santa save Christmas. I have looked and looked and looked and cannot find another. It’s kind of sad, but hopeful because this may be the first of many.

In The Nick of Time by Deedee Cummings
In The Nick of Time by Deedee Cummings

About In The Nick of Time

Ten-year-old Nick Saint never thought his name was all that special until one snowy day in December when he accidentally receives a letter meant for Saint Nick. Encouraged by his mom, young Nick opens the letter with the intent to answer it himself. The unexpected message inside ultimately leads him on a journey of understanding poverty, gratitude, and service to others while discovering the real meaning of the holiday spirit. Nick’s actions and kindness are filled with heartwarming results– results that even please Santa Claus himself! An endearing story of a little brown boy who helps Santa save Christmas.

Children of all ages and backgrounds who read In the Nick of Time will understand that sometimes the smallest act of kindness can take up the biggest space in someone else’s heart. 

I know families will fall in love with this book because not only is the overall message amazing, but because it’s also a rare find to locate a picture book about a little brown boy who helps Santa save Christmas.

It is so important for my children to also feel special and wanted and needed, and like Santa could trust or call on them too. This is not a book just for brown kids. Just like I love watching all of these movies and reading all of these stories, so will all other kids from many different backgrounds, but for once a brown child may be able to better dream that Santa may just pick them to call on for help. That they too, can be considered trustworthy, responsible, and caring. They too can be the hero.

This story is beautiful and filled with messages all children need to hear about poverty, gratitude, and service to others. I believe Santa would be so proud. And so am I.

Pick up your copy and some for your friends, family, and community on the MAWM website or via Amazon and Kindle.

In the Nick of Time by Deedee Cummings

 

 


About Deedee Cummings

As a therapist, attorney, author, and CEO of Make A Way Media, Deedee Cummings has a passion for making the world a better place. All 15 of Cummings’ diverse picture, poetry, and workbooks for kids reflect her professional knowledge and love of life. Colorful and vibrant, her children’s books are not only fun for kids and adults to read, they also work to teach coping skills, reinforce the universal message of love, encourage mindfulness, and facilitate inclusion for all. Cummings has spent more than two decades working within the family therapy and support field and much of her writing shares her experiences of working with kids in therapeutic foster care. As a result, her catalogs of published books for kids are filled with positive, hopeful messages. Using therapeutic techniques in her stories to teach coping skills, Cummings also strives to lessen the stigma that some people feel when it comes to receiving mental health assistance.
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