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September 29, 2017

Safety Tips for Going Back to School

Hello readers, welcome back to the pediatric blog. I hope you enjoyed the first topic last week about sleep and found it to be helpful. This week’s blog is a continuation of our back to school tips topic. We have a lot to cover so let’s just dive right in and get started!

This week we are going to bundle several very important topics under one overall category of… SAFETY. Making sure our children are safe when they are out of our care is something we as parents constantly worry about. My hope is that this week’s blog will provide you with some enlightening information not only for you as a parent to think about and consider but also may allow for discussions with your child. Lastly, I know something we as parents also worry about is bullying, not only while our children are at school but from online bullying that is on the rise due to the access the internet and social media has brought. You have most likely heard from the news and other media sources of horrific bullying situations and consequences from them, sometimes the unimaginable like suicide. Bullying is one topic that I think will need its own dedicated blog in the near future, but I want to go ahead and touch on it now with school starting back.


Traveling To and From School:

School Bus: these tips are helpful whether you are there at the bus stop with your child or they are alone at the bus stop (if this is the case make sure and to review these tips with your child)

  • Children should always board and exit the bus at designated locations that provide safe access to the bus.
  • Remind your child to wait for the bus to come to a complete stop before approaching it from the curb.
  • Make sure your child walks where he/she can see the bus driver (this means the driver will be able to see him/her too).
  • Remind your child not to cross the street to board the bus until the bus has completely come to a stop, the lights are on, and the cross arm and stop sign are out.
  • When the bus is stopped as above remind your child to look both ways to ensure that no other traffic is coming before crossing the street, just in case traffic does not stop as required.
  • On the bus your child should stay seated at all times and should not be up and moving around.
  • If your child has a chronic condition that could result in an emergency on the bus, make sure you work with the school nurse or other school health personnel to have a bus emergency plan.
  • There should be no eating on the bus as it can present a problem for students with allergies and also lead to infestations of insects and vermin on the vehicles.

Car: Whether you are taking your child in your own vehicle or they are carpooling with friends in another, check out these important tips, especially when it comes to child safety seats.

  • All passengers should wear a seat belt or use an age and size-appropriate car safety seat or booster seat.
  • Your child should ride in a car safety seat with a harness as long as possible and then ride in a belt positioning booster seat. (Your child is ready for a booster seat when he/she has reached the top weight or height allowed for their seat, their shoulders are above the top harness slots, or their ears have reached the top of the seat).
  • Your child should ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle’s seat belt fits properly. This means that the child is tall enough to sit against the vehicle seat back with their legs bent at the knees and feet hanging down and the shoulder belt lies across the middle of the chest and shoulder, NOT the neck or throat. The lap belt is low and snug across the thighs, NOT the stomach. This usually occurs when the child reaches about 4’9″ in height and is between 8 to 12 years of age.
  • All children younger than 13 years of age should ride in the rear seat of vehicles. If driving more children than can fit in the rear seats, move the front passenger’s seat back as much as possible and have the child ride in a booster seat if the seat belts do not fit properly without it.
  • For our teen drivers, remember many crashes occur while novice teen drivers are going to and from school. You should require seat belt use, limit the number of teen passengers, and do not allow eating, drinking, cell phone use (Even with hands-free devices or speakerphone/Bluetooth) which includes texting, to prevent distraction.


  • Practice the bike route to school before the first day of school to make sure your child can manage it and of course so they know how to get to school.
  • ALWAYS wear a bicycle helmet no matter how long or short the ride is.
  • Ride on the right, in the same direction as auto traffic, and ride in bike lanes if they are present.
  • Use appropriate hand signals.
  • Respect traffic lights and stop signs.
  • Wear bright colored clothing to increase visibility.

Walking to School: When reading these tips make sure you not only think about the walk to school but the walk home from school as well, especially if they take different routes. Consider these tips as well for those children who walk to and from the school bus stop on their own.

  • Children are generally ready to start walking to school at 9 to 11 years of age.
  • Make sure your child’s walk to school is a safe route with well-trained adult crossing guards at every intersection.
  • Identify other children in the neighborhood with whom your child can walk to school.
  • In neighborhoods with higher levels of traffic, consider organizing a “walking school bus” in which an adult accompanies a group of neighborhood children walking to school.
  • Be realistic about your child’s pedestrian skills because small children are impulsive and less cautious around traffic. Carefully consider whether or not your child is ready to walk to school or the bus stop without adult supervision.
  • If the route requires crossing busier streets than your child can reasonably do safely, have an adult, older friend or sibling escort them.
  • Bright-colored clothing or a visibility device, like a vest or armband with reflectors, will make your child more visible to drivers.

Backpack Safety: 

  • Choose a backpack with wide, padded shoulder straps and a padded back.
  • Pack light. The backpack should never weigh more than 10-20 percent of your child’s body weight.
  • Go through the pack with your child weekly and remove unneeded items to keep it light
  • Pack heavier items closest to the center of the back.
  • Organize the backpack to use all of its compartments.
  • Remind your child to always use both shoulder straps. Slinging a backpack over one shoulder can strain muscles.
  • Adjust the pack so that the bottom sits at your child’s waist.
  • If the school allows it, consider a rolling backpack. This type of backpack may be a good choice for students who must tote a heavy load. Don’t forget! Rolling backpacks still must be carried up stairs, they may be difficult to roll in snow, and they may not fit in some lockers.
  • Reviews backpack safety with your child.

Bullying: Bullying is when one child picks on another child repeatedly. Bullying can be physical, verbal, or social. It can happen at school, on the playground, on the school bus, in the neighborhood, over the Internet, or through mobile devices like cell phones.

When Your Child is Bullied: 

  • Notify school officials to the problem and work with them on solutions.
  • Teach your child to be comfortable with when and how to ask a trusted adult for help.
  • Ask them who they feel like they can ask for help while at school.
  • Recognize the serious nature of bullying and acknowledge your child’s feelings about it.
  • Encourage your child to make friends with other children.
  • Support outside activities that interest your child.
  • Make sure an adult who knows about the bullying can watch out for your child’s safety and well-being when you cannot be there.
  • Monitor your child’s social media or texting interactions so you can identify problems before they get out of hand.

When Your Child is the Bully: 

  • Be sure your child knows that bullying is NEVER okay.
  • Set firm and consistent limits on your child’s aggressive behavior.
  • Help your child learn empathy for other children by asking them to consider how the other child feels about the way your child treated them.
  • Ask your child how they would feel if someone bullied them.
  • Be a positive role model. Show children they can get what they want without teasing, threatening or hurting someone.
  • Use effective, non-physical discipline, such as loss of privileges.
  • Focus on praising your child when they behave in positive ways, such as helping or being kind to other children as opposed to bullying them.
  • Develop practical solutions with the school principal, teachers, school social workers or psychologists, and parents of the children your child has bullied.

When your Child Is a Bystander: 

  • Encourage your child to tell a trusted adult about the bullying.
  • Encourage your child to join with others in telling bullies to stop.
  • Help your child support other children who may be bullied. Encourage your child to include these children in activities.

That wraps up this week’s pediatric blog. I know it was quite lengthy but there was a lot of important information to cover. Next week’s blog will complete our series on back to school. We will discuss topics such as: before and after school care, developing good homework and study habits, and eating during school.


Back-to-School-Tips. (n.d.) Retrieved September 18, 2017, from

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Written By: Christopher Elkins, CPNP

Practitioner Elkins was born and raised in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He is a board certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner by the PNCB (Pediatric Nursing Certification Board). He sees patients from birth to 21 years of age Christopher and his wife Erin have an 8-year-old son, Everett and are expecting another baby boy in October 2017. Christopher and his family enjoy traveling to the mountains of North Carolina in the fall; enjoy the beaches during the summer, and concert-going all year round.

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