Once kids make it to high school, parents may relax a bit about sending them off to school by themselves. They’re older, bigger, and learning more responsibility for themselves. This doesn’t mean they can’t benefit from a few reminders about safety, though. They’re still kids, and teenagers, even though they’re more mature than middle schoolers, can sometimes be irresponsible and even reckless. Some back to school safety tips apply no matter what your child’s age, but there are some things that only apply to high schoolers. Sitting your teenager down for a talk about safety can help make the school year easier and more enjoyable for everyone.
Ease first day jitters
If your teen is just starting high school, she may be pretty nervous. She’s moving from being one of the oldest kids in middle school to one of the youngest in high school. It’s not just a matter of a new school, new teachers, and new curriculum. Her entire social status has changed, and while it may be more easily navigated with the friends moving up with her from middle school, it can still be a nerve wracking experience for a teenager.
Sit your teen down and let her express her fears or concerns. Let her know that everyone goes through the same experience, and that she’ll get through it with the support of her friends, teachers, and family. Make sure she knows that she can talk to you, her teachers, and counselors if any real problems arise. Let her know that you’ll be there to help her and cheer her on from the first day of school to the last.
Stay safe on the school bus
If your teen will be riding the bus to school, there are a few safety concerns to address. Many school buses don’t have seat belts. Make sure your teen knows to stay seated while the bus is moving. Just because it’s a huge bus and not your small sedan doesn’t make it any safer to move around while the vehicle is in motion. In fact, it can be a distraction to the driver, which creates an unsafe situation for everyone.
Some of the rules your teen has been hearing since elementary school still apply. Don’t stand in the street when waiting for the bus. Stay on the sidewalk or curb. Wait for the bus to completely stop before getting on, off, or standing up. Don’t extend hands or anything else out the windows, especially when the bus is in motion. Above all, remind your teen to listen to the bus driver and follow instructions.
Don’t accept rides from strangers
This is something you’ve probably been teaching your child from a very early age. Just because your kid is a teenager now doesn’t mean it doesn’t still apply. Teenagers can sometimes feel invincible, or as if they can handle situations that were beyond their scope of abilities before. This rule is one that bears repeating often.
One thing to add for teenagers, though, is to also be careful when accepting rides from other kids at school, whether it’s a peer or an older kid. Unfortunately, this rule is especially important for girls. Statistics show that girls are most often raped by people they know, even boys their own age who attend their school. Date rape is an all-too-common occurrence nowadays. Tell your kids not to accept rides from kids, or anyone else they don’t know well, and even if they do know them, they shouldn’t get into a car with someone alone. If they don’t have their own transportation, or maybe missed the school bus, make sure they know to call you before accepting a ride with anyone.
Carry backpacks properly
High school usually means more textbooks, which means a heavier backpack. Kids don’t tend to think about their backs the way adults do, partly because they may not feel the effects of having carried a heavy backpack until later in life. It’s becoming more common for high school kids to pull muscles because of heavy backpacks, though.
Explain to your teen that a backpack needs to be carried with both straps over the shoulders, the way it’s intended, rather than slung over one shoulder. Using only one strap over one shoulder necessitates leaning to remain upright, which throws the spine out of alignment strains muscles. While this may not seem like a big concern to your teen at first, if he’s involved in athletics, it should be even more important to avoid pulling a back muscle, which would keep him on the bench, at least temporarily. Some teens use rolling backpacks, thereby eliminating the need to carry them altogether, except when navigating stairs. Your teen may think it doesn’t look very cool to wheel a backpack around campus, but tell him it’s even less cool to miss out on important games because he carried a heavily laden backpack incorrectly.
Don’t drive drunk
Teenagers often experiment with alcohol, and the results can be disastrous. Now that your child is in high school, he may find himself around other kids who are trying it out, or he may be tempted to try it himself. It’s been proved that younger people are more susceptible to the effects of alcohol, meaning that a teenager can become impaired after drinking a lesser amount of alcohol than an adult. Talk to your teen about drinking, and about being responsible when driving.
Sometimes teens won’t call their parents to come pick them up when they’re too drunk to drive because they’re afraid of the consequences. Make sure your teen knows that being grounded is a much better outcome of having had too much to drink than being involved in a potentially fatal accident. Also let him know that it’s never a good idea to get into a car with someone else who’s been drinking, even if they don’t seem drunk. If your teen doesn’t have any other way to get home, let him know it’s ok to call you to pick him up. Make sure he understands that his safety is more important than your being woken up in the middle of the night.
Above all, try to keep the lines of communication open with your teenager. Encourage her to talk to you, even if the topic is embarrassing, or she’s afraid she might get into trouble. Tell her that her safety and well being are far more important to you than any broken rule or embarrassing situation. The more comfortable she feels talking to you, the more you can help her stay safe during the high school years.