Bells will be ringing as the 2013-14 school year gets underway Intown in August. Students return to classrooms at City of Decatur Schools on Aug. 1, while Atlanta Public Schools resume Aug. 7 and Fulton and DeKalb County Schools on Aug. 12.

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta has some survival tips for kids and parents as the school year routine begins anew. These tips are some basics for eating properly and study habits, as well as selecting a backpack for students that is safe and comfortable.

Survival Tips

• The old saying “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” is never more true than when you’re going to school. Students are more alert and perform better in class if they eat a good breakfast.

• Get enough sleep. Studies show that teens need at least 8½ hours of sleep each night to feel rested. Sleep deprivation can lead students to fall asleep in class (embarrassing if you’re caught!) and can also make it hard to concentrate. It can be more productive to get the sleep you need than it is to stay up late cramming: A recent study found that students who got adequate sleep before a math test were nearly three times more likely to figure out the problem than those who stayed up all night.

• Do more at school and you’ll have less to do at home. Take advantage of those times during the school day when you’re not in class: Review notes, go to the library or computer lab, get a head-start on your homework, or research that big term paper. You’ll be thankful later while you’re at the mall or a concert and your classmates are stuck at home cramming.

• One of the best ways to make friends and learn your way around is by joining school clubs, sports teams, and activities. Even if you can’t kick a 30-yard field goal or sing a solo, getting involved in other ways – going to a school play, helping with a bake sale, or cheering on friends at a swim meet – can help you feel like a part of things.

Tips for Choosing and Using Backpacks

• Consider the construction. Before you grab that new bag off the rack, make sure it’s got two padded straps that go over your shoulders. The wider the straps, the better. A backpack with a metal frame like the ones hikers use may give you more support (although many lockers aren’t big enough to hold this kind of pack). Make use of another hiking tip: Look for a backpack with a waist belt, which helps to distribute the weight more evenly across the body. Backpacks with multiple compartments can also help distribute the weight more evenly.

• Before you load your backpack, adjust the straps so the pack sits close to your back. If the pack bumps against your lower back or your butt when you walk, the straps are probably too long. Always pack your backpack with the heaviest items closest to your back. Don’t drop all your stuff in the main compartment (using the side pockets will distribute the weight more evenly). Wear both straps over your shoulders.

• Try a pack with wheels. Lots of kids use these as an alternative to backpacks, but there are guidelines and considerations to keep in mind with this kind of pack, too. Many schools don’t allow rolling packs because people can trip over them in the halls.

• Limit your load. Doctors and physical therapists recommend that people carry no more than 10 to 15 percent of their body weight in their packs. This means that if you weigh 120 pounds, your backpack should weigh no more than 12 to 18 pounds. Use your bathroom scale to weigh your backpack and get an idea of what the proper weight for you feels like.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.

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