CLEVELAND – Back-to-school is a busy time for parents and children alike.
But as schedules change and a new school year begins, Kimberly Giuliano, M.D., of Cleveland Clinic Children’s said it’s important to make sure everyone is prepared for a safe and healthy start to the school year.
This includes talking to kids about what they can expect and how they might feel.
“Use positive language as you’re doing that. That creates a little bit of intrigue, curiosity, and potential excitement on the child’s part as well, so that if they know that this is a fun and exciting place to be, they’re more likely to want to go,” she said.
It may be helpful to take a child to visit the school ahead of time, even if it’s to simply see the building and explore the playground.
For children who are especially anxious about the first day of school, Dr. Giuliano said it’s important to help them understand that it’s normal to feel this way. Remind them they are in a safe place, and practice skills to help them cope when they’re in new surroundings.
If kids are making the journey to school by themselves for the first time, knowing and understanding how to obey safety rules is key.
“As they get onto the school bus, they should understand that they need to stay back from the school bus until it comes to a complete stop, the door is opened, and the bus driver waves them on,” said Dr. Giuliano. “Approaching the bus too quickly could be very dangerous.”
Older kids who are riding or walking to school need to have a clear understanding of traffic safety including intersections, cross walks, and looking for vehicles that are turning.
Very young children should never cross the street on their own.
Parents who have high-school aged kids driving themselves or younger siblings to school, should educate them about school zone speeds and the dangers of distracted driving.
“Driving yourself to school is a great privilege, but it’s also a great responsibility,” said Dr. Giuliano. “And so the excitement of heading off to school in a car for the first time, really needs to be weighed with the seriousness and the responsibility at hand.”