Back To School

It’s that time of year again. The kids are all heading back to school and it’s hard to determine who is more excited, the students or the parents! You have the fresh school supplies and the new clothes in-place, but have you thought about safety and what you need to do to prepare for a safe school year?

The transition from months of relaxing summer vacation to the structured school year can be a challenge for many children and parents. On the return to school, many children are very excited to see their friends or their new teacher and the last thing on their minds is safety or caution.

To ensure your child (and others) stay safe, here are a variety of tips and to-do’s that you can review with your kids and put into practice as the school year kicks off.

Getting To & From School

Driving

Extra caution needs to be applied by all drivers with the onset of the school year, especially in designated school zones. Pay special attention to school buses, cross walks, lower posted speed limits and for children darting unpredictably out onto roadways.

Generally, pedestrians have the right-of-way at all intersections. However, regardless of the rules of the road or right-of-way, you as a driver are obligated to exercise great care and extreme caution in these areas

When driving kids to school, deliver and pick them up as close to the school as possible. Also don’t leave until they are in the schoolyard or building.

Walking

Plan a walking route to school or the nearest bus stop. Choose the most direct way with the fewest street crossings and, if possible, with intersections that have crossing guards.

Walk the route with your child beforehand. Be sure that they know to use sidewalks where available, to cross roads at intersections only, never to walk out from between parked cars and to always look both ways.

Your child should understand that they are never to accept rides from strangers (a family ‘safe’ word is also a good idea) and to avoid any detours into vacant lots, forested areas or unfamiliar neighborhoods.

Where possible, be sure your child walks to and from school with a sibling, friend, or neighbor.

Kid’s Vehicles

No matter what they ride, teach your children the rules of the road and to obey all signals and signs.

For bicycles, make sure your child always wears their helmet. For scooters, skateboards and in-line skates, the addition of elbow, knee and wrist protectors is always a good plan.

The School Bus

For drivers, the area 10 feet around a school bus is where children are in the most danger of being hit. Stop your car far enough from the bus to allow children the necessary space to safely enter and exit. Always heed flashing lights and the mechanical safety arm and never attempt to pass a stopped bus from either direction.

Be alert. Kids can be unpredictable. Children walking to or from their bus are usually very comfortable with their surroundings. This makes them more likely to take risks, ignore hazards or fail to look both ways when crossing the street.

Go to the bus stop with your child to teach them the proper way to get on and off the bus. They should also always be seated when the bus is in motion.

Make sure your children stand six feet away from the curb when waiting, to always give the bus a wide berth when going around it, to ensure that the driver is aware of them and to never crouch-down or stop either in front of or behind the bus.

Backpacks

Overloaded backpacks and related health issues have been getting more attention from parents, doctors and the media lately. Improper use can lead to bruises, sprains, strains and even fractures.

You know there’s an issue when:

  • A change in posture occurs when wearing the backpack
  • Your child struggles when putting it on or taking it off
  • There is pain when wearing the backpack
  • Tingling, numbness or red marks occur

Solutions:

  • Don’t overstuff! The pack should weigh no more than 10 to 20 percent of your child’s body weight. If something doesn’t have to be in there, get rid of it.
  • Ensure that the size of the backpack fits the size of the child
  • Choose a pack that is ergonomically designed, includes padding and ideally chest or hip straps to distribute the weight more evenly
  • Always use both straps

At School & In The Yard

Playground Safety

It’s usually a good idea to check the playground equipment at your child’s school at least once per season. Ensure that everything is clean, well-mounted and in good repair.

Because nearly 80 percent of playground injuries are caused by falls, improper surfacing is the first thing parents should watch for when inspecting a playground. Materials like wood chips, mulch, wood fibers, sand, pea gravel, shredded tires and rubber mats offer the best protection against injury. Ideally, kids should avoid playgrounds with concrete, grass and dirt surfaces as they are just too hard.

More children are injured falling off climbing equipment or horizontal ladders than anything else on the playground. Younger children really shouldn't play on this type of equipment at all and older kids still need to be supervised.

Ensure that the playground areas at your child’s school have sufficient, qualified supervision for the number of students out there at any one time.

Bullying & Conflict Resolution

Bullying can threaten students’ physical and emotional safety at school and can negatively impact their ability to learn. The best way to address bullying is to stop it before it starts, and there are a number of ways to proactively approach the issue.

Proactively assess the risk of bullying at your child’s school by speaking with teachers, administration and other parents. Get a strong sense of their awareness, training and determine if these issues are part of their training and/or curriculum.

Teach children to always respect the rights and feelings of others, to never engage in bullying behavior and to report any incidences to teachers even if it doesn’t involve them directly.

Give your child some practical strategies for coping with bullies. He or she should not give in to a bully’s demands, but should simply walk away or tell the bully to stop. If the bullying continues, or if reasonable dialogue fails to resolve the situation, talk to a teacher or school office staff.

With regard to cyber bullying, it’s important to communicate clearly with children and teens as to the nature of the act and to establish rules around their use of technology. Be fully aware of what they do online and encourage them to report any signs of bullying or inappropriate behavior to parents right away.

A, B, C’s of Health

The return to school also brings with it a renewed exposure to a variety of health risks. Here are a few issues that you may want to address and some tips that can help.

If your child has any medical condition, long or short-term, that may potentially require attention during school hours, ensure that both their teacher and the front office staff fully understands the nature of the condition and what to do in an emergency. This includes the use of any medications or other medical treatment. Be diligent and don’t make any assumptions in these cases.

For students with more serious health issues, be sure that all contact information for parents or guardians is up-to-date at the school. This should include home and mobile phone numbers, email addresses and health card number.

If your child has any kind of potentially communicable condition (cold, flu etc), do everyone a favour and keep them at home. Spreading the sickness isn’t exactly the most conscientious thing to do, and they could probably use the rest anyway.

As it is much more common these days, be aware of allergy conditions for both your child and their classmates. Know the risks, triggers and treatments.

Educate your child on all the basics of germ management. Avoiding the touching of nasty objects and sharing cups or water bottles, hand washing and cough/sneeze etiquette are musts.

Kids should also avoid sharing hats, hairbrushes or ear buds in case they bring home an unwanted visitor in the form of head lice.

Many school-related injuries, illnesses or situations are completely preventable. A small amount of planning now can help everyone have a more pleasant and safer experience for the entire school year and beyond.

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