Back to School Tips

The following health and safety tips are from the American   Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Feel free to excerpt these tips or use them in their entirety in any print or broadcast story, with acknowledgment of source.

MAKING THE FIRST DAY EASIER

  • Remind your     child that there are probably a lot of students who are uneasy about the     first day of school. Teachers know that students are anxious and will make     an extra effort to make sure everyone feels as comfortable as possible.

  • Point out the     positive aspects of starting school: It will be fun! She'll see old     friends and meet new ones. Refresh her positive memories about previous     years, when she may have returned home after the first day with high     spirits because she had a good time.

  • Find another     child in the neighborhood with whom your youngster can walk to school or     ride on the bus.

  • If you feel it     is appropriate, drive your child (or walk with her) to school and pick her     up on the first day.

BACKPACK SAFETY

  • Choose     a backpack with wide, padded shoulder straps and a padded back.    

  • Pack     light. Organize the backpack to use all of its compartments. Pack heavier     items closest to the center of the back. The backpack should never weigh     more than 10 to 20 percent of your child’s body weight.

  • Always     use both shoulder straps. Slinging a backpack over one shoulder can strain     muscles.

  • If     your school allows, consider a rolling backpack. This type of backpack may     be a good choice for students who must tote a heavy load. Remember that     rolling backpacks still must be carried up stairs, and they may be     difficult to roll in snow.

TRAVELING TO AND FROM SCHOOL

Review the basic rules with your youngster:

School Bus

  • If your child’s     school bus has lap/shoulder seat belts,     make sure your child uses one at all times when in the bus. If your     child’s school bus does not have lap/shoulder belts, encourage the school     to buy or lease buses with lap/shoulder belts.

  • Wait for the bus     to stop before approaching it from the curb.

  • Do not move     around on the bus.

  • Check to see     that no other traffic is coming before crossing the street.

  • Make sure you     walk where you can see the bus driver (which means the driver will be able     to see you, too).

  • Children     should always board and exit the bus at locations that provide safe access     to the bus or to the school building.

Car

  • All passengers     should wear a seat belt and/or an age- and size-appropriate car safety     seat or booster seat.

  • Your child     should ride in a car safety seat with a harness as long as possible and     then ride in a belt-positioning booster seat. Your child is ready for a     booster seat when she has reached the top weight or height allowed for her     seat, her shoulders are above the top harness slots, or her ears have     reached the top of the seat.

  • Your child     should ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle's seat     belt fits properly (usually when the child reaches about 4' 9" in     height and is between 8 to 12 years of age). This means that the child is tall     enough to sit against the vehicle seat back with her legs bent at the     knees and feet hanging down and the shoulder belt lies across the middle     of the chest and shoulder, not the neck or throat; the lap belt is low and     snug across the thighs, and not the stomach.

  • All children     younger than 13 years of age should ride in the rear seat of vehicles. If     you must drive more children than can fit in the rear seat (when     carpooling, for example), move the front-seat passenger’s seat as far back     as possible and have the child ride in a booster seat if the seat belts do     not fit properly without it.

  • Remember that     many crashes occur while novice teen drivers are going to and from school.     You should require seat belt use, limit the number of teen passengers, and     do not allow eating, drinking, cell phone conversations,  texting or other mobile device use to     prevent driver distraction. Limit nighttime driving and driving in     inclement weather. Familiarize yourself with your state’s graduated driver’s     license law and consider the use of a parent-teen driver agreement to     facilitate the early driving learning process. For a sample parent-teen     driver agreement, see www.healthychildren.org/teendriver

Bike

  • Always wear a     bicycle helmet, no matter how short or long the ride.

  • Ride on the     right, in the same direction as auto traffic.

  • Use appropriate     hand signals.

  • Respect traffic     lights and stop signs.

  • Wear bright-colored     clothing to increase visibility. White or light-colored clothing is     especially important after dark.

  • Know the     "rules of the road."    

Walking to School

  • Make sure your     child's walk to school is a safe route with well-trained adult crossing     guards at every intersection.

  • Be realistic     about your child's pedestrian skills. Because small children are impulsive     and less cautious around traffic, carefully consider whether or not your child     is ready to walk to school without adult supervision.

  • If your children     are young or are walking to a new school, walk with them the first week or     until you are sure they know the route and can do it safely.

  • Bright-colored clothing will make your child more     visible to drivers.

  • In     neighborhoods with higher levels of traffic, consider organizing a     “walking school bus,” in which an adult accompanies a group of     neighborhood children walking to school.

EATING DURING THE SCHOOL DAY

  • Most schools     regularly send schedules of cafeteria menus home. With this advance     information, you can plan on packing lunch on the days when the main     course is one your child prefers not to eat.

  • Try to get your     child's school to stock healthy choices such as fresh fruit, low-fat dairy     products, water and 100 percent fruit juice in the vending machines.    

  • Each 12-ounce     soft drink contains approximately 10 teaspoons of sugar and 150 calories.     Drinking just one can of soda a day increases a child's risk of obesity by     60%. Restrict your child's soft drink consumption.

BULLYING

Bullying is when one child picks on another child repeatedly. Bullying can be physical, verbal, or social. It can happen at school, on the playground, on the school bus, in the neighborhood, over the Internet, or through mobile devices like cell phones.

When Your Child Is Bullied

  • Help your child     learn how to respond by teaching your child how to:
        1. Look the bully in the eye.
        2. Stand tall and stay calm in a difficult situation.
        3. Walk away.

  • Teach your child     how to say in a firm voice.
        1. "I don't like what you are doing."
        2. "Please do NOT talk to me like that."
        3. "Why would you say that?"

  • Teach your child     when and how to ask for help.

  • Encourage your     child to make friends with other children.

  • Support     activities that interest your child.

  • Alert school     officials to the problems and work with them on solutions.

  • Make sure an     adult who knows about the bullying can watch out for your child's safety     and well-being when you cannot be there.

  • Monitor your     child’s social media or texting interactions so you can identify problems     before they get out of hand.

When Your Child Is the Bully

  • Be sure your     child knows that bullying is never OK.

  • Set firm and     consistent limits on your child's aggressive behavior.    

  • Be a positive     role mode. Show children they can get what they want without teasing,     threatening or hurting someone.

  • Use effective,     non-physical discipline, such as loss of privileges.

  • Develop     practical solutions with the school principal, teachers, counselors, and     parents of the children your child has bullied.    

When Your Child Is a Bystander

  • Tell     your child not to cheer on or even quietly watch bullying.

  • Encourage     your child to tell a trusted adult about the bullying.    

  • Help     your child support other children who may be bullied. Encourage your child     to include these children in activities.

  • Encourage     your child to join with others in telling bullies to stop.

BEFORE AND AFTER SCHOOL CHILD CARE

  • During     early and middle childhood, youngsters need supervision. A responsible     adult should be available to get them ready and off to school in the     morning and watch over them after school until you return home from work.

  • Children     approaching adolescence (11- and 12-year-olds) should not come home to an     empty house in the afternoon unless they show unusual maturity for their     age.

  • If     alternate adult supervision is not available, parents should make special     efforts to supervise their children from a distance. Children should have     a set time when they are expected to arrive at home and should check in     with a neighbor or with a parent by telephone.

  • If     you choose a commercial after-school program, inquire about the training     of the staff. There should be a high staff-to-child ratio, and the rooms     and the playground should be safe.

DEVELOPING GOOD HOMEWORK AND STUDY HABITS

  • Create     an environment that is conducive to doing homework. Youngsters need a     permanent work space in their bedroom or another part of the home that is     quiet, without distractions, and promotes study.

  • Schedule     ample time for homework.

  • Establish     a household rule that the TV set stays off during homework time.    

  • Supervise computer and Internet use.

  • Be     available to answer questions and offer assistance, but never do a child's     homework for her.

  • Take     steps to help alleviate eye fatigue, neck fatigue and brain fatigue while     studying. It may be helpful to close the books for a few minutes, stretch,     and take a break periodically when it will not be too disruptive.    

  • If     your child is struggling with a particular subject, and you aren't able to     help her yourself, a tutor can be a good solution. Talk it over with your     child's teacher first.

  • Some children need help organizing their     homework.  Checklists, timers, and     parental supervision can help  overcome homework problems.

© 2013 - American Academy of Pediatrics