A fresh start in life provides a good feeling for most people. For our children and teachers, the beginning of a new school year is a fresh new start.
The unknown can be frightening, but now that schools are in full swing, most children have adapted well and are excited for new adventures. We want the adventures and experiences that schools provide to be safe and healthy for our children. Parents have a key role in making the school experience safe and productive. Staying educated about the safety issues and risk factors can help parents prepare.
•Special health needs: Communication with the school nurse is critical for children with chronic health issues including diabetes, asthma, seizures or allergies. Preparations can be made to avoid a life-threatening situation when an emergency rescue medication is needed. A school nurse will work with parents to create individual action plans for children with special health issues.
•Backpacks: If your children need emergency rescue medications, keep a labeled supply in their backpacks. Keep an extra inhaler, epipen, etc., with the school in case the backpack set goes missing or is left at home. Check backpacks regularly for communication from school and to make sure they aren’t too heavy.
•Safe routes to schools: Whether your children ride the bus or walk to school, teach them to pay attention to traffic and signs. Remember your little ones may just be learning to read and understand street signs. Schools will send you great literature about safety rules. Review these materials with your children.
•Immunizations: Communicable disease transmission in schools has increased as more parents choose not to immunize their children. Key research advancing the theory of a connection between vaccines and autism has been discredited. In the meantime, diseases that were once almost eradicated have returned. Please immunize!
•Germs, bacteria, viruses: Hand washing, hand washing, hand washing! It is the No. 1 way to reduce transmission of illness. School nurses teach proper technique and use of alcohol-based sanitizers; but parents, we can use your help! Teach your kids to sing their ABCs while thoroughly scrubbing their hands with soap and warm water, and not to finish washing until the song is done. It is also important for children to cover their cough or sneeze and stay home when they are sick.
•Bullying/violence: Bullying is one of the saddest realities in the school setting. Bullying can be traumatic and the effects can last a lifetime. Children who persistently stop wanting to go to school or who have noticeable changes in behavior might be victims of bullying, so keep an eye on your children’s attitude toward school. Violence in teen relationships is also common. A controlling partner is the first red flag.
•Poverty: Many families need financial assistance and we want to help them. Healthy Montana Kids may be an option for families, along with other community resources. Talk to your school nurse or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance.
•Hearing loss: A recent study says that one in five teens suffers from slight hearing loss. This study is lacking hard evidence. However, turning down the volume on earphones may be a simple solution. We certainly do want music in their lives, just not music that’s loud enough to damage hearing.
•Driving: It’s scary enough when teenagers start driving. Talk to them about factors that can increase their risk for an accident, such as drinking alcohol and using a cell phone while driving.
•Depression: Depression is much more common in young people than you might think. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and check up on your children’s mental state.
•Other concerns: Drugs, including prescription drugs, smoking, Internet/technology, family violence and STDs.
While there are many reasons for parents to lose sleep at night, look around. There are also so many reasons to be proud.
Our children are succeeding. They are volunteers, heroes and caregivers. If parents set a good example and schools do their part, we can all show our children that lifetime learning is the key to success.
So let’s keep our children in school, learning about our wonderful world and staying safe along the way. School nurses are a great resource for parents, and they are caring individuals who want all children to be safe and successful.
Vicki Olson Johnson, RN, BSN, manages RiverStone Health’s School Nursing Services. She can be reached at 406.247.3367 or email@example.com.