The rush has begun, with families anxiously gathering supplies and preparing to send children back to school. Each school year brings new teachers, responsibilities and situations. Before zipping up the backpack and waving goodbye on the first day, Dr. Tiffany Kimbrough, general pediatrician and Corri Miller-Hobbs, RN, program coordinator for Safe Kids VA recommend that you to take a moment to address important safety information with your child, no matter what grade they’re in.
Emergency action plan
Does your child know how to contact you in the event of an emergency? Who should they call if they’re unable to reach you? Review important phone numbers and make sure your child is comfortable with the action plan.
Home alone readiness
How do you know if your child is ready to be home alone after school? This depends on a number of factors including age, maturity, nearby support networks, comfort level and preparation.
If your child will be going home after school without an adult, be sure they have a way to reach an adult caregiver in the event of an emergency or issue. Then, set some ground rules. Consider rules about:
- Food – What types of snacks can they have? Are cooking and/or sharp utensils off limits?
- TV and internet – What is and is not allowed? How much time can they spend on these activities?
- Friends – Are friends allowed in the home when adults aren’t there?
- Communication – Should the child call or text to let parents know they’ve made it home safely?
- Answering the door – What should the child do if someone knocks or rings the doorbell?
If trusted neighbors will be home you could ask them to keep an eye on the house, especially in the beginning as your child gets used to this new freedom and responsibility. This is also a good time to do a safety check of your home and remove or secure anything that could pose a risk, including medications, alcohol, lighters/matches and guns.
Bus and pedestrian precautions
Riding the school bus is a rite of passage for many children. Make sure your child understands that school bus safety includes waiting for, riding and getting off the bus. Safety instructions may include:
- Stand away from the road/curb while waiting for the bus.
- Wait until the bus comes to a stop before approaching.
- Stay in your seat and keep hands, feet and head inside the windows while the bus is moving.
- Always obey the bus driver.
- If you have to cross the street, make sure the driver can see you at all times, wait for the driver’s signal and cross at least 10 feet in front of the bus.
- Get on and off the bus at the same stop every day.
Children who walk to school should follow the same route each day, using sidewalks as much as possible. When sidewalks aren’t available, walk on the side of the street facing traffic and be alert to vehicles and other surroundings. It’s helpful to practice the route several times before the first day of school. Review looking both ways – left, right, left – and not darting out into the street. Extra precautions need to be taken when children are out in the dark as drivers may have more difficulty seeing them. It’s a good idea to remind them of this when daylight savings time ends in the fall.
We hear a lot about distracted driving, but distracted walking can be extremely dangerous as well. Children should take a break from electronics when crossing or walking on the road. Share this video from Safe Kids Worldwide with your child and encourage a moment of silence to avoid distracted walking.
If your child has food allergies, role play what do to in the event of an allergic reaction. Make sure the teacher and school nurse are aware and have any medications your child may need.
If your child does not have allergies, back-to-school season is a great time to explain to them the seriousness of food and other allergies and the importance of not sharing snacks, lunch or medications with classmates. Check into whether or not the school or classroom has any nut-free or other allergy-related policies to help keep all children safe.
School sports and activities often begin before children return to the classroom. If your child will be participating in a sport or activity, be sure they’ve had a physical. It’s also important to provide protective equipment for their particular sport, such as helmets, shin guards, mouth guards, etc., that fit properly and are in good condition. Emphasize the importance of adequate hydration and rest breaks, particularly while the weather is still warm.
Check with the coach or athletic trainer about injury education and protocols. Be vigilant about ensuring proper recovery from injury prior to allowing your child to return to play.
Keeping germs at bay
As kids gather in classrooms once again, it sets the stage for sharing germs and spreading illnesses. The best course of action against this is frequent and thorough hand-washing. This means scrubbing the hands, fingers and under finger nails with soap and clean water for at least 20 seconds.
Peak influenza season is just around the corner as well, so make time for flu shots for the entire family. CHoR will have the influenza vaccine for patients beginning in mid-September and will once again offer the fast-track flu vaccine clinic for children and families at the Children’s Pavilion Monday – Friday from October 22 – November 21, 2018.
Remind children about healthy habits to prevent spreading germs, such as coughing and sneezing into their elbow, not sharing drinks, and keeping hands away from their eyes, nose and mouth. If your child does get sick, keep them home from school so they don’t share their illness with others.
Healthy eating and adequate sleep will also help to keep the immune system healthy and strong for a great school year.