Many things go through our minds when school starts – for parents and children, it’s the beginning of a whole new school year – and it carries different meanings for everyone.  For the kids, it’s a brand new start – a chance to do better, strive to make better grades, and have fun!  For parents, it’s a rushed time to  prepare their lunches, or be sure they have lunch money, get them all to school on time,  and ensure that they arrive safely.    Parents should set the alarm a little earlier than usual, allowing for interruptions that might cause their child to be late to school, resulting in tardiness at work for them, as well.  For the rest of us, whose children are grown-ups, it’s a time for us to slow down – literally! 

Too many accidents happen because someone is in a big hurry.  We’re used to driving down the street that the school building is on at a speed that’s a little faster than the limit during school hours.  In many states, cell phones are banned in school zones, so put that cell phone away until you are safely away from the school zone.  Remember to watch for little ones.  This applies to parents, teens, and all other motorists.  One mistake caused by careless or hurried driving could change many lives, so slow down.  Regardless of how children are going to get to school, they must understand safety precautions.  Before school starts, if your child is going to walk to school, take a few practice walks with him/her.  Be sure they know to stop and look both ways, and never  dart out in front of a car.  If they want to ride their bikes, be sure they wear their helmets, and that they understand the rules of the road.  If a school bus is to be their mode of transportation, go to the bus stop with them the first few times to be sure they know how to get on and off the bus, and that they always stand six feet away from the curb.  Motorists must stop for school buses that have stopped to load or unload passengers. 

According to the National Safety Council, in 2009, over 230,000 children visited hospital emergency rooms because of playground injuries – many could have been prevented.  Children should use playgrounds with a soft surface.  Playgrounds with concrete, grass and dirt surfaces are too hard.  Monkey bars are unsafe and should not be used by children of any age.  Those under the age of four should not use climbing equipment. 

Last, but certainly not least,  an age-old problem in schools is bullying.  It’s sad but true  that there is some child that is going to pick on another child and make their day miserable.  Parents are responsible to teach their children that this is not acceptable; if theirs is the bully, and they are aware of it, they must put a stop to it.  If your child is the victim, encourage him/her to stay with a group of friends who will stand up for him.  All children should be taught to treat everyone the way they want to be treated, and this rule can be learned at a very young age.

Teachers should not tolerate bullying behavior and inform parents about what is going on so they can correct it.  Times are different than back in the “good old days”, when there was a certain amount of picking on or teasing someone, but it seems that it has reached a new level, and become even life-threatening in older teens on some occasions, such as online cyber-bullying.    

Hopefully this will be a happy and safe 2012 – 2013 school year for all.  Parents, cherish these times because they go by all too fast!  Support your kids in their extracurricular activities and studies, and take the time to ask them about how their school life is going.  They need to know you are interested.  Again, have a good school year, and keep our kids safe by driving slowly in school zones and paying close attention to their safety.