Back-to-School Safety Tips

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Harvard Medical School
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Back-to-School Safety Tips

Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School

Back-to-School Safety Tips

Last reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School on August 9, 2012

By Claire McCarthy, M.D.
Boston Children's Hospital

Although summer is still in full swing, school is just around the corner! So, take some time this month to help your child get ready for school by following these tips, adapted from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Preparing for the First Day of School 

  • Make sure your child is registered.
  • Send all of the important health and emergency contact forms with your child on the first day.
  • If this is a new school for your child, set up a visit to meet the teacher beforehand if possible.
  • Be sure you know when the first day of school is. Many districts now begin before Labor Day.
  • Make sure you and your child know what time school starts and ends.
  • Know about your child's lunch: if it can be purchased there, how much it will cost, and if you need to send a morning or afternoon snack.
  • If your child has developed any health problems since the last school year that may affect the school day, let the school nurse know. Set up an appointment at the school to discuss this if need be.
  • If your child needs to take medication at school, make arrangements on the first day if not sooner.
  • Your child should know where to go after school (for example, home or to a babysitter's house) and how to get there. Until age 11 or 12, children need adult supervision before and after school. 

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Making the First Day Easier 

  • Let your child know that it's normal to have a bit of the jitters on the first day.
  • Tell your child all the good things about starting school, such as how much fun it will be, seeing old friends again and meeting new ones. Also, focus on all of the good times during previous years.
  • Find another child in the neighborhood with whom your child can walk or ride to school.
  • If you feel comfortable with it, walk (or drive) your child to school and pick her up on the first day. 

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Backpack Safety 

  • Choose the right backpack. Look for wide, padded shoulder straps because narrow ones dig into shoulders, causing pain and poor circulation. Check for a padded back, which protects against sharp edges on objects inside the pack and increases comfort.
  • Organize the backpack, using all compartments. Pack heavier items closest to the center of the back.
  • Pack light. Be sure the backpack never weighs more than 10% to 20% of the student's body weight.
  • Always use both shoulder straps. Wearing a backpack over one shoulder may strain muscles and increase curvature of the spine.
  • Consider a rolling backpack. This may be a good choice for students who must carry a heavy load. However, keep in mind that rolling backpacks still must be carried up stairs and are quite difficult to roll in snow. 

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School Bus Safety 

Make sure your child understands the following precautions: 

  • Wait for the bus to stop completely before stepping off the curb to board.
  • Stay seated and do not move around while on the bus.
  • After getting off the bus, check to see that no traffic is coming before crossing the street.
  • Make sure to always stay in clear view of the bus driver. 

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Homework and Study Habits 

  • Create a special place for doing homework in your child's bedroom or another part of the house where it is quiet and private.
  • Set aside enough time every day for homework.
  • Keep the TV set off during homework time.
  • Be available to answer questions and offer help, but never do your child's homework for her.
  • Suggest that your child closes the books for 10 minutes every hour and do something else to help prevent fatigue and strain on the eyes, neck and back. 

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Claire McCarthy, M.D., a senior medical editor for Harvard Health Publications, is an assistant professor in pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. She is an attending physician and Medical Communications Editor at Children's Hospital Boston.


Last updated August 09, 2012

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