By Kathy Hubbard
I often see people walking down the street, not paying any attention to where they’re going or what they might run into or run into them. I’m not picking on kids, I see a lot of adults doing it, but a recent encounter reminded me that school is about to start. Today is a good day to talk to your children about keeping safe.
Walking. The National Safety Council advises us to “review your family’s walking safety rules and practice walking to school with your child. Walk on the sidewalk, if one is available; when on a street with no sidewalk, walk facing the traffic.”
Before crossing the street, stop and look both ways. Before you start to cross, listen to make sure an emergency vehicle or speeding hotshot isn’t barreling down the road. It’s that simple.
Bike Riders. “Teach your child the rules of the road and practice riding the bike route to school with your child.” Besides riding single-file on the right side of the street, remind the kiddos to walk their bikes across the street and to always properly wear their helmets.
Bus Riders. Go to the bus stop with your students and teach them to stand six feet – or three giant steps – away from the curb or edge of the road. “If your child must cross the street in front of the bus, teach him or her to walk on the side of the road until they are 10 feet ahead of the bus; your child and the bus driver should always be able to see each other,” NSC says.
Driving Your Child to School. NSC says to obey school zone speed limits and follow the school’s procedures. Make sure you make eye contact with the children crossing the street and never pass a bus loading or unloading kids.
Teen Drivers. “Car crashes are the number one cause of death for teens. Fortunately, there is something we can do. Teens crash because they are inexperienced; practice with new drivers every week, before and after they get their license.” It’s also a good idea to set a good example with your own driving habits.
Backpacks. Your child’s backpack should not weigh more than five to ten percent of their body weight. Tell them to use both straps to evenly distribute the weight on their shoulders.
Playgrounds and Sports. “To reduce strangulation hazards on playgrounds, have your child leave necklaces and jackets with drawstrings at home,” NSC advises. Also, ensure your child owns and wears the protective gear for the sports they participate in.
Sleeping. Now is the time to start gradually easing into the school day schedule. Start with a five to ten minute earlier wake-up and bedtime and increase until school starts.
Healthychildren.org says, “Getting enough sleep is critical for a child to be successful in school. Insufficient sleep is associated with lower academic achievement, higher rates of absenteeism, and tardiness. The optimal amount of sleep for most younger children is ten to twelve hours, and for thirteen- to eighteen-year-olds, the range is eight to ten hours per night.
Eating. “Studies show that children who eat a nutritious breakfast function better. As a result, they do better in school and have better concentration and more energy,” HC says. Be sure all meals include protein, fresh fruits and vegetables, and as little sugar as possible. If the school lunch menu offers food your child won’t eat, pack something they will.
Immunizations. You know the laws. You know immunization doesn’t cause autism. Get your child’s vaccinations up to date before school starts. Enough said.
Bullying. Tell your child to alert school officials if they are being bullied. Teach them to stand tall and stay calm, and say words such as, “I don’t like what you’re doing,” or “Please don’t talk to me like that.” In addition, HC encourages you to monitor your child’s social media and texting interactions.
If your child is the bully, HC says to “help your child learn empathy for other children by asking them to consider how the other child feels about the way your child treated them.” Set ground rules and stick with them.
If your children are reluctant to go to school, validate their feelings while reinforcing why getting an education is important.
Kathy Hubbard is a member of the Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This article was written for and published in the Bonner County Daily Bee on August 31, 2022.