The first day of school is a momentous occasion for both parents and their children, but so is the first time that your child rides the school bus alone. For some parents, necessity forces them to put their kids on the bus, as their own professional schedules won’t allow for drop-offs and pick-ups. In other cases, belief that riding the bus builds character or exposes kids to manageable difficulty to give them strength is the motivating factor behind using the school bus as primary transportation. Whatever your reasons, there are a few things you should know before your little one climbs those steps for the first time.
Basic School Bus Safety
In order to teach your child the basic rules of school bus safety, you’ll need to know them yourself. Your child should never run to or from the bus, even if he’s late. He should always stand back from the curb and wait for the bus driver’s signal before crossing the street, and should be at least ten feet in front of the bus for peak driver visibility. While he’s on the bus, your child should never shout, get out of his seat or roughhouse with other kids. If you’re not there to put him on the bus and escort him back at the end of the day, your child will need to know these things in order to handle himself safely.
Expected Times of Arrival
Even if you’re not going to be there to greet the bus at the end of the day or put your little one on it, you should still know the expected time of arrival each way. Arranging a system of notification, especially at the end of the day, will let you know that your older child has reached his stop safely. If you don’t know what time the bus arrives at the stop, you won’t know what time to expect that message.
Adults on the Bus
Some school districts or individual buses have an adult aide, in addition to the bus driver, who works as a monitor, while others rely solely on the attention of the driver. If your child’s bus will not have a monitor, you’ll need to understand that he may be exposed to bullying or other behavior that goes unpunished, as the driver’s attention is focused on the road, rather than the conduct of her young riders.
Rules of Conduct
While there are some basic rules of common sense conduct that hold true on every bus, there may be more specific ones on a particular bus or within your school district that you’re not aware of. You can’t pass those rules along and explain them to your child if you don’t know what they are, so make a point of procuring a copy of the conduct rules from your child’s teacher or school administrators before his first solo ride.
How Behavioral Problems are Handled
Kids on the school bus may not be monitored as heavily as they are in class, which can lead to behavioral problems you’d never consider under other circumstances. Whether your child is the victim or the perpetrator of these infractions, they’re so likely to happen that you’ll need to have a basic grasp of how your school district and bus driver will handle potential behavioral problems.
Age Span of Student Riders
In some districts, it’s feasible to keep younger children separated from the older, more rambunctious bus riders. Smaller areas may not have enough students to warrant more than one bus on a single route, however, and may lump kids of all ages together. This can make for some particularly scary moments for very young children, who can be the target of older bullies. Find out what the average age span is of the riders on your child’s bus, so that you can be prepared for any problems or can make alternate arrangements if you feel uncomfortable with the idea of him being surrounded by junior high students.
Your Child’s Ability to Handle Riding the Bus Alone
Some kids are more mature than others of their age, while some fall a bit behind on the scale of emotional maturity. Before you put your child on the school bus to essentially fend for himself, you need to know where he falls on that scale and how capable he is of handling the potential stressors of riding a school bus. In the end, you’re the only person who will know exactly how prepared your child is, and how well he’s likely to deal with the situation.