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Tips for Parents on How to Keep Kids Safe as They Go Back to School

Go over traffic and walking safety with kids, LUHS pediatrician advises

MAYWOOD, Ill. – Part of heading back to school is actually getting your kids back to school safely. On average, there is one pedestrian death every two hours in the United States and a pedestrian injury every eight minutes, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Vehicles and children can be a very scary combination, whether the child is walking, biking, riding or driving.

"It's important for parents to go over and enforce traffic-safety rules when kids are heading back to school," said Bridget Boyd, MD, Loyola University Health System pediatric safety expert and assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. "Talk to your kids and have them verbally repeat the rules back to you. Don’t just go with a head nod - make sure they know the rules and why they are important."

When walking to and from school, Boyd says kids need to be extremely careful when crossing the street and always try to use crosswalks.

"If possible, children should try to cross with a crossing guard and make sure they know never to cross where cars are not looking for them, like running across the middle of a street," Boyd said.

She also suggests having an adult walk the child to school. If this isn’t possible, do a few trial runs. Walk to school with your child a few times to ensure he or she feels comfortable and understands the route.

If there will not be adult supervision, here are some safety rules:

  • Always walk in a group.
  • Take the same, safest route. Don’t look for shortcuts.
  • Always use crosswalks and the assistance of crossing guards when available.
  • Be aware of your surroundings.
  • Don’t talk to strangers.
  • Don’t wear headphones.

"Wearing headphones can be distracting, making us less attentive to our surroundings and possibly run into other people, trees or cars. They cause us to be less aware of dangerous situations that make children more vulnerable to predators. If your child must wear headphones, ask him or her to only have them on one ear so they can still hear," Boyd said.

The headphone rule should be enforced for bike riding as well. Here are a few bike-riding safety tips:

  • Obey traffic laws just like vehicles do. Bikers must stop at stop signs and red lights.
  • Always wear a helmet when riding a bike.
  • If your child is younger, encourage him or her to walk the bike across the street.

One of the best ways to make sure your kids are safe is to help them get a good night’s rest. 

"When a child is sleep deprived he or she is not able to make good, quick decisions, which can lead to injury," Boyd said. "After a summer of staying up late and sleeping in, that early morning alarm can be torture. The best way to get kids back on a sleep schedule is to start a few weeks before school and every night move the alarm about 15 minutes closer to the school wake-up time."

She also recommends keeping cell phones out of the bedroom and powering them off each night.

"Cell phones are one of the worst offenders for stealing sleep. Consider giving phones a bedtime as well as your kids. At a certain time, all phones are powered off and tucked into their chargers in a common area of the house, not a bedroom, to be charged overnight and let everyone in the house get some rest," Boyd said.

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is a member of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and more than 30 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. The medical center campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of the Chicago Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. The heart of the medical center campus is a 559-licensed-bed hospital that houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children's Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as the LUC Stritch School of Medicine, the LUC Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola's Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 255-licensed-bed community hospital, the Professional Office Building housing 150 private practice clinics, the Adult Day Care, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.

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Evie Polsley
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