Summertime offers a nice reprieve from the constant shuffling of papers, carpools and heavy backpacks of the school year. But once fall rolls around again, parents and kids have a lot to juggle. As your children march out the door on that first day of school – and every day – there is really only one priority: Nothing is more important than making sure they get home safely.
Lighten the Load
When you move your child’s backpack after he or she drops it at the door, does it feel like it contains 40 pounds of rocks? Backpacks that are too heavy can cause a lot of problems for kids, like back and shoulder pain, and poor posture. The American Chiropractic Association recommends a backpack weigh no more than 10 percent of a child’s weight.
Remember: A roomy backpack may seem like a good idea, but the more space there is to fill, the more likely your child will fill it. Make sure your child uses both straps when carrying the backpack. Using one strap shifts the weight to one side and causes muscle pain and posture problems.
Help your child determine what is absolutely necessary to carry. If it’s not essential, leave it at home.
Some 25 million students nationwide begin and end their day with a trip on a school bus. Designed for safety, school buses are the safest way to get to and from school. Riding a bus to school is 13 times safer than riding in the family vehicle and 10 times safer than walking.
While school buses are, by far, the safest way for students to travel, children need to do their part to stay alert and aware of their surroundings to prevent injury. The National Safety Council urges parents to teach their children safety rules for getting on and off the bus, and for exercising good behavior while riding. When waiting for the bus, children need to stay away from traffic and avoid roughhousing. While on the bus, they need to stay in their seats and keep the aisle clear of books and bags. After a long day at school, it’s important that they pay attention when getting off the bus at home– especially if they need to cross the street in front of the bus.
Watch your head
Every three minutes a child in the U.S. is treated for a sports-related concussion. Don’t think it’s just football players – or boys – who bang their heads. An estimated 3.8 million athletes a year suffer concussion, though the majority are underreported and underdiagnosed, according to the Brain Trauma Foundation. A study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics shows the number of sports-related concussions is highest in high school athletes, but they are significant and on the rise in younger athletes.
If your child gets hit on the head, do not assume he just had his bell rung, or she was just dinged. Concussions are very serious and always require medical attention. Signs and symptoms of concussion include:
• Glassy eyes
• Clumsiness or poor balance
• Slowed speech
• Changes in mood, behavior or personality
Research indicates most children and teens who have a concussion feel better within a couple of weeks. However, for some, symptoms may last for months or longer and can lead to short- and long-term problems affecting how they think, act, learn and feel.
Following a concussion, athletes of all ages are advised to undergo a series of steps before returning to play: rest, then light exercise and sport-specific training. Only then should they be cleared to resume contact drills.
The National Safety Council is focused on efforts to eliminate distracted walking – specifically walking while texting. According to a study by The Nielsen Company, kids age 13 to 17 send more than 3,400 texts a month. That’s seven messages every hour they are awake.
Before your children head out, remind them of these year-round safety tips:• Never walk while texting or talking on the phone.
• If texting, move out of the way of others and stop on the sidewalk.
• Never cross the street while using an electronic device
• Do not walk with headphones on.
• Be aware of the surroundings.
• Always walk on the sidewalk if one is available; if a child must walk on the street, he or she should face oncoming traffic.
• Look left, right, then left again before crossing the street.
• Cross only at crosswalks.