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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Getting Ready for Back To School:

The end of summer is here and the excitement of a new school year is upon us. Along with picking out that first day of school outfit, take some time to prepare and talk with your children about the upcoming year 

Be Prepared:
Make a Homework Plan:  Discuss when you expect homework to be done.  For many kids, it is better to have a little free time when they get home from school before they sit down to do homework. However, that short respite can drag on all afternoon, if there isn’t a pre-arranged plan.  For example, your after school plan may be when you get home from school you can have snack and play outside for an hour, but then you need to come in and do your homework. When that is done, you can go back to playing.

Discuss screen and phone rules:  No screen time until homework is done is pretty straightforward and easy to enforce. Have a drop box next to the door where phones can be left until homework is done. Keep screen time to no more than 2 hours a day.  Set a device curfew for when computers and phones need to be turned off for the night and choose a location that is outside your child’s bedroom for charging devices.

Choosing the right backpack:  A backpack should not exceed 10-20% of a child’s weight. If your child needs to carry more than this to and from school, consider a roller bag. Wearing a backpack over one shoulder increases muscle strain, so take the time to adjust the straps to ensure that the bag sits comfortably on BOTH shoulders.

Physicals and Vaccines:  Check with your children’s doctor to see if they are due for their annual health physical and if they are up-to-date on vaccinations. Since most doctors get flu-shots delivered in the fall, you may be able to get their flu shot while you are there.

Review the Rules for Getting to and From School:
Repeating safety information is critical with children. Don’t think that just because you told them once to never get in someone’s car, that they won’t do it. Back to school is a great time to review safety information.

Bus Safety:  Talk to your children about waiting for the bus to stop before approaching the curb, looking both ways when crossing the street and never running into the street to wave the bus down.  It is better to be late to school, than to be hit by a car. Also, remind your children that if the school bus has seat belts, they need to wear them.

Bike Safety:  Check that your child’s bicycle helmet still fits and adjust the straps as necessary.  A bicycle helmet is less effective if it is not fitted properly.  Remind your child to always ride with the flow of traffic, not against it and to follow the rules of the road. If your child will be riding home at dusk or in the evening, make sure he is wearing clothes that will help him be seen by drivers.

Walking Safety:  Discuss the route your child will take to school and where they will be crossing the street. Try to arrange for your child to walk with other children in the neighborhood.  For younger children, consider walking with them until you are certain of their ability to navigate the route and cross the streets safely. 

For more information on preparing for going back to school, check out my radio interview on RadioMD,Healthy Children or on the American Academy of Pediatrics, HealthyChildren website.