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Information submitted by Patty G., Hamot Shock Trauma

With the hectic back-to-school season finally underway, please make sure you and your children are taking the time to act in ways that are safe and healthy. Spend a few minutes going over the following check points with young children, and make sure they understand the importance of safety, whether at home or at school. August and September are very busy for most families, but it is still important to pay attention to the health and safety or yourself and your family. The following health and safety tips are from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).


Making the First Day of School Easier:

  • Remind your child that she is not the only student who is a bit 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 with 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.
  • 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:

  • 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 to always remain in clear view of the bus driver.
  • Children should always board and exit the bus at locations that provide safe access to the bus or to the school building.

Car Safety:

  • 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 under 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 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, do not allow eating, drinking, cell phone conversations or texting to prevent driver distraction; and limit nighttime driving and driving in inclement weather. Familiarize yourself with your state’s graduated driver 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 the last two pages of the AAP Policy Statement, “The Teen Driver.”

Bicycle Safety:

  • 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.
  • Know the “rules of the road.” www.aap.org/family/bicycle.htm

Walking to School:

  • Make sure your child’s walk to a 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 to make 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 starting 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.

For the full article please visit the American Academy of Pediatrics web site: http://www.aap.org/advocacy/releases/augschool.cfm