Guest Blogger: Wendy Holmes, MS
Back-to-school season seems to usher a school bus load of paper into our home. It starts with a cheerful postcard showing my child’s new teacher. Then comes the packet with the welcome letter, transportation form, lunch form, contact information form, medical information form, the Parent Teacher Association form, the…well, you get the idea.
We also get the school supply list—do they really need that many pencils? My children even give me lists of things they think they need—“important” things like glitter pens, a super hero lunch box, and new sneakers. This year, my daughter even wrote a five paragraph persuasive essay on why she needs a smart phone!
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all of the new school information, but I try to stay focused on the things I believe are the most critical—often the things that aren’t on all those other lists. First and foremost, children need to stay safe and healthy to learn at school. I talk with them about getting to and from school safely—walking on sidewalks, crossing at crosswalks, wearing their helmets when they ride their bikes, and watching out for drivers who may not see them.
My friends talk to their teens about driving safely. One out of three deaths among US teens is the result of a motor vehicle crash, but we can prevent these needless deaths! CDC’s Injury Center has a wealth of information and practical tips to help parents learn what they can do to keep their teen drivers safe.
School playgrounds also come alive during the school year—filled with cries of joy and games of chase. But each year in the United States, emergency departments treat more than 200,000 children ages 14 and younger for playground-related injuries. Organized sports are also a highlight, but come with the risk for injury—sometimes serious. So I’ve read through and shared information about playground and sports safety, and even made sure my school has a copy of the Injury Center’s toolkit, Heads Up: Concussion in High School Sports.
Finally, I put the unthinkable on my list. Every school day, our children will interact with friends, teachers, and other students, so they’ll need to know how to build healthy relationships with many different people. Unfortunately, violence among youth is a real issue that we as parents have to face. Homicide is the second highest killer of young people ages 15–24, and bullying and hitting often start at even younger ages. Each year, suicide takes the lives of about 4,600 children between 10–24 years old. And sexual violence also begins early in life, but most victims don’t tell friends or family about it.
My back to school supply list includes the things I hope they won’t ever be without—a helmet, a seatbelt, or private conversation with a trusted adult. If they forget their pencil or book, they can always borrow one from someone else.
What is on your back to school supply list?
Wendy Holmes is a Special Communications Advisor in the Office of the Director for the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. She is also the mother of three school-age children.