We know. We know! It’s already August, and that means your family focus has honed in on one thing: it’s back to school time.
The start of school is exciting. It’s a flurry of activity – school supply shopping, clothes to buy, and there may be a new backpack in store. There are decisions to be made, perhaps a new bus stop to investigate, and a school lunch menu to pore over.
And of course, there are new safety concerns: street crossings on the way to the bus stop or school, heavy backpacks, and after-school hours home alone. Take some of the anxiety out of your preparations with our back to school safety tips:
1. Practice Walking Safety
Depending on their age – and provided your kids are conscientious about street safety – walking to the bus stop (or school) is a great way for them to learn personal responsibility. If you’re ready to let your children walk alone, be sure to practice the walking route a few times before school starts. Make sure they know the route well, including being familiar with potential danger areas. If you can, encourage your kids to walk with a friend or other children from the neighborhood.
2. Practice Bike Safety
If your kids ride bikes to school, our walking guidelines still apply; for example, be sure to practice the route in advance. Additionally, make sure your kids know to ride single file, on the right-hand side of the road. They should always come to a full stop before crossing the street, and should walk their bike through all crossings. Be sure they wear a helmet at all times.
3. Practice Bus Safety
If your kiddo rides the bus, much of their safety is taken care of but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few tips to impart: teach them to stand far from the curb – at least three steps is a good rule of thumb – and to always, always cross the street in front of the bus, at least 10 feet from the front windshield. And even though cars should be stopped both ways, your kids should always look left-right-left before crossing.
4. Stranger Danger
Even older kids may need a reminder: Always be aware of your surroundings, especially when walking alone. Remind walkers that if they ever suspect they’re being followed, or if a stranger ever approaches them on the street, that they should state aloud, “You’re not my mom/dad!” and immediately seek out a trusted adult or neighbor, or even a nearby business, library, police station or other public safety zone.
5. Backpack Wisely
What with binders, folders, notebooks and multiple subjects’ worth of textbooks, your kids’ backpacks bulk up fast. Keep their backs safe with an ergonomic model (yes, really! they exist), which will help distribute the weight. Also, keep backpacks to less than 20% of a child’s body weight, e.g. no more than 20 pounds for a 100-pound student.
6. Home Alone Precautions
We’re not talking comedic, movie-worth booby traps; we’re focused more on simple things you can do when your kids get home before you do. Precautions can be as simple as asking your kids to text when they get home, to notifying any stay-at-home-neighbors that your kids will be home alone for a few hours everyday (and letting your kids know that they can always contact said neighbors for help).
Also consider the advantages of smart home safety. New technology makes it possible for your locks to auto-text you when your kids walk in the door, or your camera security system to send you a video of your kids doing their homework. You can even set smart appliances to have a warm, nutritious after-school snack ready and waiting.