the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)
MAKING THE FIRST DAY EASIER
Remind your child that she is not the only student who
is a bit uneasy about the first day of school. Teachers know that
students are anxious and will make an extra effort to make sure
everyone feels as comfortable as possible.
Point out the positive aspects of starting school: It
will be fun. She'll see old friends and meet new ones. Refresh her
memory about previous years, when she may have returned home after
the first day with high spirits because she had a good time.
Find another child in the neighborhood with whom your
youngster can walk to school or ride with on the bus.
If you feel it is appropriate, drive your child (or walk
with her) to school and pick her up on the first day.
Choose a backpack with wide, padded shoulder straps and
a padded back.
Pack light. Organize the backpack to use all of its
compartments. Pack heavier items closest to the center of the back.
The backpack should never weigh more than 10 to 20 percent of the
student's body weight.
Always use both shoulder straps. Slinging a backpack
over one shoulder can strain muscles. Wearing a backpack on one
shoulder may also increase curvature of the spine.
Consider a rolling backpack. This type of backpack may
be a good choice for students who must tote a heavy load. Remember
that rolling backpacks still must be carried up stairs, and they may
be difficult to roll in snow.
TRAVELING TO AND FROM SCHOOL
Review the basic rules with your youngster:
Wait for the bus to stop before approaching it from the
Do not move around on the bus.
Check to see that no other traffic is coming before
Make sure to always remain in clear view of the bus
All passengers should wear a seat belt and/or 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 she has reached the top
weight or height allowed for her seat, her shoulders are above the
top harness slots, or her 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 (usually when the
child reaches about 4' 9" in height and is between 8 to 12 years of
age). This means 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; and the child is tall
enough to sit against the vehicle seat back with her legs bent at
the knees and feet hanging down.
All children under 13 years of age should ride in the rear seat of
Remember that many crashes occur while novice teen
drivers are going to and from school. You may want to limit the
number of teen passengers to prevent driver distraction. Do not
allow your teen to drive while eating, drinking, or talking on a
Always wear a bicycle helmet, no matter how short or
long the ride.
Ride on the right, in the same direction as auto
Use appropriate hand signals.
Respect traffic lights and stop signs.
Wear bright color clothing to increase visibility.
Know the "rules of the road."
Walking to School
Make sure your child's walk to a school is a safe route
with well-trained adult crossing guards at every intersection.
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 without adult supervision.
Bright colored clothing will make your child more
visible to drivers.
EATING DURING THE SCHOOL DAY
Most schools regularly send schedules of cafeteria menus
home. With this advance information, you can plan on packing lunch
on the days when the main course is one your child prefers not to
Try to get your child's school to stock healthy choices
such as fresh fruit, low-fat dairy products, water and 100 percent
fruit juice in the vending machines.
Each 12-ounce soft drink contains approximately 10
teaspoons of sugar and 150 calories. Drinking just one can of soda a
day increases a child's risk of obesity by 60%. Restrict your
child's soft drink consumption.
Bullying is when one child picks on another child repeatedly. Usually
children being bullied are either weaker or smaller, shy, and generally
feel helpless. Bullying can be physical, verbal, or social. It can
happen at school, on the playground, on the school bus, in the
neighborhood, or over the Internet.
When Your Child Is Bullied
Help your child learn how to respond by teaching your
child how to:
1. Look the bully in the eye.
2. Stand tall and stay calm in a difficult situation.
3. Walk away.
Teach your child how to say in a firm voice.
1. "I don't like what you are doing."
2. "Please do NOT talk to me like that."
3. "Why would you say that?"
Teach your child when and how to ask for help.
Encourage your child to make friends with other
Support activities that interest your child.
Alert school officials to the problems and work with
them on solutions.
Make sure an adult who knows about the bullying can
watch out for your child's safety and well-being when you cannot be
When Your Child Is the Bully
Be sure your child knows that bullying is never OK.
Set firm and consistent limits on your child's
Be a positive role mode. Show children they can get what
they want without teasing, threatening or hurting someone.
Use effective, non-physical discipline, such as loss of
Develop practical solutions with the school principal,
teachers, counselors, and parents of the children your child has
When Your Child Is a Bystander
Tell your child not to cheer on or even quietly
Encourage your child to tell a trusted adult
about the bullying.
Help your child support other children who may be
bullied. Encourage your child to include these children in
Encourage your child to join with others in
telling bullies to stop.
BEFORE AND AFTER SCHOOL CHILD CARE
During middle childhood, youngsters need supervision. A
responsible adult should be available to get them ready and off to
school in the morning and watch over them after school until you
return home from work.
Children approaching adolescence (11- and 12-year-olds)
should not come home to an empty house in the afternoon unless they
show unusual maturity for their age.
If alternate adult supervision is not available, parents
should make special efforts to supervise their children from a
distance. Children should have a set time when they are expected to
arrive at home and should check in with a neighbor or with a parent
If you choose a commercial after-school program, inquire
about the training of the staff. There should be a high
staff-to-child ratio, and the rooms and the playground should be
DEVELOPING GOOD HOMEWORK AND STUDY HABITS
Create an environment that is conducive to doing
homework. Youngsters need a permanent work space in their bedroom or
another part of the home that offers privacy.
Set aside ample time for homework.
Establish a household rule that the TV set stays off
during homework time.
Be available to answer questions and offer assistance,
but never do a child's homework for her.
To help alleviate eye fatigue, neck fatigue and brain
fatigue while studying, it's recommended that youngsters close the
books for 10 minutes every hour and go do something else.
If your child is struggling with a particular subject,
and you aren't able to help her yourself, a tutor can be a good
solution. Talk it over with your child's teacher first.
© 2005 - American Academy of Pediatrics
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