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Riding the School Bus: How to Make that Big Step Safe and Relaxing for your Child
Each year, millions of students board the school. For many young children, however, the prospect of riding one can be quite daunting. Preparing your child for this experience can help quell fears and improve safety.

Keep in mind that it’s normal for a child to be concerned about riding a school bus for the first time. Your child’s apprehension can be compounded by fears about starting a new school and separating from you. There are several steps you can take to reduce your child’s anxiety.
  • Several days before school begins, show your child the neighborhood bus stop. Then identify landmarks that will signal her when it’s time to get off of the bus. You should also show your child where the bus arrives at school, and how to reach her new classroom from the bus stop. Decide together who will accompany her to the stop in the morning and who will meet her after school.
  • Arrange for your child to have a “bus buddy”—either an older child already accustomed to riding the bus or a new classmate who’s eager to sit next to her.
  • Your child should be able to remember your name, address and phone number as well as her new teacher’s name and the location of her classroom. Some schools advise you to pin this information to your child’s outfit during the first week of school.
  • Arrive at the bus stop a few minutes before the bus is expected. Being late and running to catch the bus can increase anxiety. Introduce yourself and your child to the bus driver. Try not to convey your own anxiety about your child’s new responsibilities.
  • Allow your child to express any concerns. Ask open-ended questions such as “How do you feel about taking the bus?” Acknowledge your child’s feelings. If she expresses fears, tell her you understand and reassure her about your plans to meet after school. Keep in mind that taking a bus without a parent can be a very big step for many children.
Finally, it’s wise to teach your child safety rules:
  • Waiting for the Bus. Don’t play in the street. Stand at least 6 feet away from the curb. Wait until the bus has come to a complete stop and opens the doors before boarding. Pack your things in a backpack or school bag to minimize the chance of dropping something near the bus. Instruct your child not to retrieve something that rolls or falls under the bus, but rather to ask the bus driver for help.
  • Riding the Bus. Inform your child about the importance of remaining seated for the entire bus ride, even though there may not be seatbelts. Advise her never to stand when the bus is moving, and not to be disruptive. Remind her to act courteous to the driver and to always follow the driver’s directions.
  • Getting Off of the Bus. Teach your child to check to make sure that items aren’t loose that could snag on the bus door. Smaller children might initially need some assistance getting on or off of the bus.
  • Keeping your child safe. Provide your child with instructions in case he misses the bus in the morning or at school. Remind your child never to accept rides from a stranger.
While becoming a seasoned school bus rider takes a bit of practice, most children find that riding the bus is fun and increases self-confidence and independence.

Laura E. Stachel M.D. Obstetrician & Gynecologist