Keeping Kids Healthy
By SALLY ROBINSON and KEITH BLY

A new school year has begun. As you prepare your child for his or her time in the classroom, remember that there is more to getting ready for school than just buying supplies.

If your child will be walking or riding a bicycle to school:

• Teach your child to obey all traffic signals and signs and to look left, then right, and then left again for moving vehicles before he or she crosses the street, to cross at an intersection, and to never dart into the street from behind objects, such as bushes or parked cars.  

• Make sure that your child knows to look out for cars because even though adults in cars should be sure to look out for children while driving through school zones, this does not always happen. Don’t allow your child to wear headphones or play hand-held video games while walking to school. 

• If you drop your child off at school, stay until he or she makes it in the building. Don’t feel pressured to drive off just because other cars are waiting. 

• If your child is riding a bike, make sure that he or she wears a helmet that meets safety standards. 

• Map out his or her route to school. Make sure that you know who lives along your child’s path to school. Parents can visit their local police station to see if there are any registered sex offenders along their child’s route. 

Other safety issues to consider when sending your child back to school include:

• Buy jackets and sweatshirts without drawstring around the neck or hood. Drawstrings can get caught in car or school bus doors or on playground equipment.

• Check playground surfaces at your child’s school to make sure that there is a 12-inch depth of wood chips, or other padding. 

• If your child rides a school bus, make sure that he or she knows to remain seated at all times, to keep the aisles clear, to not throw objects, to not shout or distract the driver, and to keep his or her hands and arms inside of the bus. And teach your child that the driver has a blind stop and to be careful when boarding or exiting the bus. 

• Teach your child to resolve problems without fighting. Talk with your child about other ways to work out problems, such as talking about the problem, walking away from the problem, or telling an adult. 

• Ask your child’s school if the computer equipment is monitored and if the computers are equipped to block access to explicit sites. 

• Find out about safety and emergency plans in your child’s school. 

Check your child’s school for potential hazards, and make the school’s administration is aware of any problems.

Sally Robinson is a clinical professor of pediatrics at UTMB Children’s Hospital, and Keith Bly is an associate professor of pediatrics and director of the UTMB Pediatric Urgent Care Clinics. This column isn’t intended to replace the advice of your child’s physician.