American Academy of Pediatrics offers back to school safety tips

The following health and safety tips are from the American Academy of Pediatrics. 

Making the first day easier 

Remind children that he or 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. They will get to see old friends and meet new ones. Refresh their memory about previous years, when they may have returned home after the first day with high spirits because they had a good time. 

Find other children in the neighborhood that can walk to school or ride with on the bus.
Back pack 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 the student's body weight. 

Always use both shoulder straps. Slinging a backpack over one shoulder can strain muscles. Wearing a backpack on one shoulder may also increase curvature of the spine. 

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. 

Tips for traveling to and from school 

By school bus 

If the school bus has lap/shoulder seat belts, make sure children use one at all times when in the bus. 

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. 

Make sure to always remain in clear view of the bus driver. 

By Car 

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

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

Children 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 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, not the stomach; and the child is tall enough to sit against the vehicle seat back with her legs bent at the knees and feet hanging down. 

All children under 13 years of age should ride in the rear seat of vehicles. 

Remember that many crashes occur while novice teen drivers are going to and from school. Some parents may want to limit the number of teen passengers to prevent driver distraction. 

By bike
Children should 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 color clothing to increase visibility. 

Know the rules of the road. http://www.aap.org/family/bicycle.htm 


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

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

Bright colored clothing will make children more visible to drivers. 

Eating during the school day 

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

Restrict children's soft drink consumption. 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 percent. 

What to do about 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, or over the Internet.  

When a child is bullied 

Help children learn how to respond by teaching them how to look the bully in the eye; stand tall and stay calm in a difficult situation and walk away. 

Teach your child how to say in a firm voice "I don't like what you are doing," or "Please do not talk to me like that, " or "Why would you say that?" 

Teach children when and how to ask for help. 

Encourage them to make friends with other children. 

Support activities that interest them. 

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 the child's safety and well-being when a parent cannot be there. 

When a child is a bully 

Be sure children know that bullying is never OK. 

Set firm and consistent limits on 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 child who has bullied another. 

When children are bystanders 

Tell children not to cheer on or even quietly watch bullying. 

Encourage them to tell a trusted adult about the bullying. 

Help them support other children who may be bullied. Encourage children to join with others in telling bullies to stop. 

Before and after school care tips 

During 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, those between 11 and 12 years-old, 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 may need a permanent work space in their bedroom or another part of the home that offers privacy.
Set aside ample time for homework. 

Some parents may establish a household rule that the TV set stays off during homework time. 

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

To help alleviate eye fatigue, neck fatigue and brain fatigue while studying, it's recommended that youngsters close the books for 10 minutes every hour and go do something else. 

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.