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First-time bus ride jitters?

These tips can help ease the anxiety for both you and your child.

Julia Rudden still remembers the day her daughter fell asleep on the school bus on the way home and was transported back to the bus garage. The driver was new and had missed her daughter’s stop.

Parents worry that first-time bus riders won’t recognize their bus number or the driver or that they’ll be too shy to ask for help. Once kids learn their routine, the bus offers an opportunity for growth and independence. Here are a few tips to help the transition go smoothly.

Buses are safe

Buses are the safest and greenest way to get to school. Because of their color and size, school buses are easily visible. Their height raises kids above car-impact level.  They’re equipped with flashing lights, a stop sign arm, cross view mirrors and usually a crossing arm in front that forces kids to cross where the driver can see them.

Their high, padded seats are made from energy absorbing foam. They protect kids much like an egg carton protects eggs, making seat belts unnecessary, according to the  National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Riding the bus takes cars and their emissions off the road and reduces congestion at the school during arrival and release times — when kids are most vulnerable.

Attend orientation day.

Many schools let children ride in a school bus on orientation day, says mom Michelle Blair. If not, “some schools request parent volunteers to ride the bus with kindergarteners for the first week,” Blair notes.

Get to know the bus stop and route.

Prior to the first day, show your child the bus stop. “Try to drive in the same line of travel the bus will take,” says school bus driver Brad Clarkson. “What landmarks can the child identify that would let her know her stop is next?

Talk to other parents.

If you know other parents of kids using the bus stop, consider taking turns as bus monitors. 

Review bus safety and behavior expectations.

Review rules even if you attend an orientation. Some typical rules:

  • Stay seated while the bus is moving.
  • Talk quietly.
  • Keep hands inside the windows.
  • Report any problems to your bus driver.
  • Be aware of the traffic as you exit the bus.
  • When exiting, walk several feet away from the bus so the driver can see you.
  • Always cross in front of the bus (never behind).
  • Never retrieve something dropped near the bus unless you alert the driver.

Teach going-home rules.

Teach children to tell their driver if they are lost or missed their stop and to only get off at their own stop. Teach very young kids not to get off unless their parent or a designated adult is at the stop to meet them.

Extra step

On the first day, give your child an index card with his bus number, his name, address, and phone number. Sending a first-time rider off on the bus can feel daunting to any parent. Your child will learn the routine quickly. In  a couple weeks she’ll be a pro.

Joanna Nesbit is a freelance writer.

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