Brenner Children’s Hospital and the American Academy of Pediatrics Offer Back to School Tips

August 1, 2005

To ensure children enjoy their return to school, Brenner Children’s Hospital and the American Academy of Pediatrics offer the following tips:

Backpack safety

When choosing a backpack:

• Avoid narrow straps which can dig into shoulders, causing pain and restricting circulation.
• Select a padded back, which protects against sharp edges.

To prevent injury:

• Pack light. The backpack should never weigh more than 10 to 20 percent of the student's weight. Always use both shoulder straps. Pack heavier items closest to the center of the back.
• Use a rolling backpack for students who tote a heavy load.

Checklist for the first day of school

• What time is lunch? Can your child buy it at school, and how much will it cost? Will she need a snack?
• Have you filled out all the health forms or emergency contact forms?
• Have any new health problems developed over the summer that will affect your child’s school day? Does the school nurse know about this condition?
• If your child needs to take medication, have arrangements been made for this?

Making the first day easier

• Remind your child that he or 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. He or she will 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 him or her) to school and pick them up on the first day.

School avoidance

If your teen is avoiding school, and has anxiety about returning:

• Talk to your teenager about why he or she doesn't want to go to school.
• Contact the principal, guidance counselor and school nurse, and make them aware of the situation.
• After you've taken steps to rectify the upsetting circumstances, insist that your teen return to school immediately.
• Severe phobias may require a gradual reentry to school.
• After five days of anxiety-related absences from school, it's time to visit your pediatrician.

School bus safety

Review the basic bus safety rules with your youngster:

• Wait for the bus to stop before approaching it from the curb.
• Do not move around on the bus.
• Check to see that no other traffic is coming before crossing.
• Make sure to always remain in clear view of the bus driver.

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 him or her.
• If your child is struggling with a particular subject, and you aren't able to provide help yourself, a tutor can be a good solution. Talk it over with your child's teacher first.

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 eat.
• Encourage your school to provide healthy snacks that include more fresh fruit and low-fat dairy products, as well as water and 100 percent fruit juice instead of sodas.
• Restrict your child's soft drink consumption. 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 percent..

Tips to prevent alcohol abuse

• Give your child a sense of confidence. This is the best defense against peer pressure. Talk about things that are important issues for your child, including alcohol, drugs and the need for peer-group acceptance.
• Listen to what your child says. Pay attention and be helpful during periods of loneliness or doubt.
• Know who your child's friends are and make a point to get to know them.
• Provide parental supervision. Don't allow your teen to attend parties where alcohol is being served. Insist that a parent be present at parties to supervise.
• Offer a "free call home". Drinking and driving may lead to death. Let him know that he can call home without fear of consequences that night. Discuss the incident the next day.
• Help your child learn to handle strong emotions and feelings. If talking with your teenager about alcohol is difficult, your pediatrician may be able to help open the lines of communication.

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Media Contacts: Rae Bush (336) 716-6878,; Shannon Koontz (336) 716-2415,; or Karen Richardson (336) 716-4453,

About Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center: Wake Forest Baptist is an academic health system comprised of North Carolina Baptist Hospital, Wake Forest University School of Medicine and Brenner Children’s Hospital. It is licensed to operate 1,187 acute care, rehabilitation, psychiatry and long-term care beds and is consistently ranked as one of “America’s Best Hospitals” by U.S. News & World Report. Brenner Children’s was named one of the top children’s hospitals in the nation by Child magazine.

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