This year approximately 55 million students will return to classrooms in the United States.  Regardless of how they get to and from school, whether it’s walking, biking, riding in a car, or bus, safety is a concern the minute they leave their home.  This is the time that parents need to plan how they can ensure the safety of their children by being involved in every aspect of their school experience.  Many students are apprehensive about beginning a new school year, and parents must assure them that they will be there for them, listening to their concerns.

 This is a good time to get your student in the habit of getting to bed early.  It’s hard to wind down from summer, getting to stay up later than usual.  Getting a head start on “early to bed, early to rise” might help them get used to their early morning routine. 

A great way for kids to get more exercise is to walk or ride a bicycle to school.  If it is possible for your child to do this, walk the route with them to find the safest way possible.  The best plan is to have a group from the neighborhood go together each day.  There’s always safety in numbers.  If your student rides his/her bike to school, be sure that they wear their helmet every time they get on the bike.  Wearing helmets can reduce the risk of injury by up to 85%.  Also, caution them to walk their bike across the streets, and to obey traffic signals and crosswalk guards.  Wearing bright colors or reflective gear will help your child be seen, whether riding or walking.

“Stranger Danger” is always an important thing you must teach your children.  They should never talk to strangers or get in vehicles with someone they don’t know.  Many predators apper to be very nice and can lure children with candy, or ask them to help look for a lost puppy, etc.  Most youngsters know to tell their teacher or parent if they notice someone suspicious hanging around their school. 

Check out the school playground that your youngster will be using.  More than 200,000 children, ages 14 and younger, are treated in emergency rooms for playground-associated injuries each year, mainly caused by falls from equipment.  It’s also a good idea to scope out the school menu.  On days that healthy options are not available, pack a lunch.  Be sure to start them off with a good breakfast, and send a nutritious meal that they will enjoy.  Food to be sent to school should be kept in the refrigerator until time to leave for school.  Packing a frozen juice box, or water bottle in an insulated lunch bag will help keep lunch products cool. 

Most kids carry their school supplies in backpacks.  Younger children should not carry a backpack that is more than 10% to 15% of their body weight.  Help them arrange their load, by packing the heavier items first, which results in less strain on their backs and shoulders. 

Transportation is one of the most important safety concerns during school years.  Be sure children are buckled up.  Every driver should let their children out of the vehicle in front of their school, and not leave until they see that they have entered the building.  We again stress what we say every year, “slow down.”  Parents should allow plenty of time to get their kids to school and then on to work.  If your child rides a school bus, he should understand how to get on and off the bus safely.  

There are many other things to think about when it comes to school and safety.  Pay close attention to details that you feel are important to your child’s well-being.  Parents sometimes get overwhelmed with responsibilities of raising children, trying to combine work, school, church, and other activities.  The twelve years of school (plus kindergarten) go by faster than one can realize.  Try to slow down and enjoy every minute of your child’s school experience that you can.  You’ll be sending them off to college before you know it!