The following health and safety tips are from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
CHECKLIST FOR THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL
Is your child registered? When is the first day of school? What time does school start? What time is lunch? Can your child buy it at school, and how much will it cost? Will she need a snack? Have you filled out all the health forms or emergency contact forms that have been sent home? Have any new health problems developed in your child over the summer that will affect her school day? Does the school nurse know about this condition, or is an appointment set up to discuss it? If your child needs to take medication at school on the first day, have arrangements been made for this? Does your youngster know where she is going after school (e.g., home, babysitter)? Does she know how she will get there? If you will not be there when she arrives, does she know who will be responsible for her, what the rules are, and how to get help in an emergency?
MAKING THE FIRST DAY 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 memory 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.
Choosing the right backpack. Look for the following:
Wide, padded shoulder straps – Narrow straps can dig into shoulders. This can cause pain and restrict circulation. Padded back – A padded back protects against sharp edges on objects inside the pack and increases comfort. To prevent injury when using a backpack, do the following:
Pack light. 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 increase curvature of the spine. Organize the backpack to use all of its compartments. Pack heavier items closest to the center of the back. Use 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 upstairs. And they may be difficult to roll in snow. For additional information: http://www.aap.org/advocacy/backpack_safety.PDF
IF YOUR FAMILY IS PLANNING TO MOVE/STARTING A NEW SCHOOL
If possible, give your teen three months’ notice before an upcoming move, so that he has time to absorb the news and get used to the idea. Explain the reason for relocating. Familiarize your child with her new neighborhood or home town ahead of time. If it’s within driving distance, give him several grand tours. Emphasize the positive aspects of the move. Contact the school your teenager will be attending. If you live nearby, arrange a day and time to visit. Some schools have established a “buddy system” to help newly transferred students adjust socially.
If your child is avoiding school, and has anxiety about returning:
Talk to your child about why he doesn’t want to go to school. Contact the principal, guidance counselor and school nurse, and make them aware of the situation. After you’ve taken steps to rectify the upsetting circumstances, insist that your child return to school immediately. Severe phobias may require a gradual reentry to school. After five days of anxiety-related absences from school, it’s time to visit your pediatrician.
SCHOOL BUS SAFETY
Review the basic bus safety rules with your youngster:
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.
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 offers privacy. Set aside ample time for homework. 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.
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. Schools will be stocking vending machines with healthier choices. Talk with your child about making healthy choices when purchasing snacks. Vending machines choices can also be modified to eliminate high-fat and empty-calorie munchies and provide healthy snacks that include more fresh fruit and low-fat dairy products, as well as water and 100 percent fruit juice instead of sodas. 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.
BEFORE AND AFTER SCHOOL CHILD CARE
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 (the 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 alternative 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. When evaluating child-care options, determine whether other family members can handle these responsibilities. For example, does a grandparent or other relative live nearby, and is he or she available and willing to help? 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.
Set limits on the amount of TV your child watches. Be firm. Limit children’s TV viewing to an hour or two daily. Hide the remote. Eliminate channel surfing which encourages passive viewing. Keep TV’s out of your youngster’s bedroom. Children should watch their favorite shows in a central area of the home. Whenever possible, record programs and watch them later. Fast forwarding through commercials will shave ten minutes off of every hour of TV viewing. Discourage repeated viewings of the same video. The graphic language, violence and sexual content of movies rated PG-13 and R can have a cumulative effect on a child if they’re watched over and over again. Harness the power of television in a positive way. TV can be a valuable tool for learning and expanding one’s awareness of the world. Make use of ratings systems to know whether or not a program or movie is appropriate for your child.
TIPS TO PREVENT ALCOHOL ABUSE
Give your child a sense of confidence. This is the best defense against peer pressure. Listen to what your child says. Pay attention and be helpful during periods of loneliness or doubt. Know who your child’s friends are and make a point to get to know them. Provide parental supervision. Don’t allow your teen to attend parties where alcohol is being served. Insist that a parent be present at parties to supervise. Offer a “free call home”. Drinking and driving may lead to death. Let him know that he can call home without fear of consequences that night. Discuss the incident the next day. Help your child learn to handle strong emotions and feelings. Talk about things that are important issues for your child, including alcohol, drugs and the need for peer-group acceptance. Join your child in learning all you can about preventing alcohol abuse. If talking with your teenager about alcohol is difficult, your pediatrician may be able to help open the lines of communication.
© 2004 – American Academy of Pediatrics