Summer is coming to a close, vacations are ending, and the kiddos will soon return to school. From pumpkin spiced everything to bonfires, hoodies, leggings and Ugg boots, you’re probably noticing all of the little reminders of the fall season popping up everywhere. There’s plenty of hustle and bustle that comes with this time of year especially for busy parents who are trying to get their children prepared for returning to school. Here’s some helpful tips for everyone, regarding backpack safety and footwear, as they get ready to do the “September Shuffle”:
The backpack is an essential piece of the “back-to-school” puzzle. There are some good guidelines to help you pick out the appropriate backpack for your child. In terms of the fill capacity of your child’s backpack you may be tempted to buy a bag that will fit every book they may be assigned into it but try to fight that urge. Try a smaller capacity pack that still offers compartments that can be used to distribute the contents, and their weight, evenly. Your child should never wear a pack that is longer or wider than their own torso/upper body and the straps should be adjusted so that the pack is worn as close to the torso as possible. While the weight of the pack will vary day to day, they should never be carrying more than 15% of their bodyweight. So a smaller bag that will force your child to be diligent in taking the appropriate books home every day, to avoid strain of their back, is essential. You’ll also want to choose a bag that has wide, and ideally padded, straps that cover a large portion of the shoulders. The wider straps will offer more biomechanically helpful distribution of the weight. Your children should wear their packs so that they sit high on the back so the weight can be distributed evenly across the shoulders. A good guideline for this is making sure that the bottom of the pack never drops below your child’s waistline. A backpack that has a waist and/or chest strap will also help with the days when the pack is a little bit heavier. Make sure that when your child’s backpack is packed the heaviest items are situated inside the pack as close to the body as possible.
If proper backpack ergonomics are important for your child’s spinal health proper footwear is equally so. If your house was built on a poorly constructed foundation the overall structural integrity of your house would be questionable, unsafe and prone to problems. Not having the proper footwear will eventually have the same effect on your child’s spine no matter how diligent you are in making sure they have proper backpack habits. If your child attends a school where uniforms are required, including the footwear, it may be wise to have them wear orthotics in their shoes if the mandated footwear does not offer proper arch and ankle support; which is commonly the case. Custom orthotics are best since they are made specifically for the individual’s pedal needs, but if this is not an option purchasing an appropriate pair at your local drugstore is a good start. Orthotics would be a good idea even if your child’s footwear is not mandated so it is a good option to consider no matter what the circumstance; particularly if your child is a student-athlete as well.
There are some other things to consider that may be considerably helpful with your back to school journey this year. Consider a bookstand for your child for their home studying time. Not having to put the book on the desk/table will eliminate strain on the neck and upper back from looking down for hours on end while studying at home. In addition to being relatively inexpensive, book stands are small so the use of one will also free up desk space.
Limit computer and electronic device time at night. Using these items while in bed or a darkened room can cause retinal damage. Moreover, too much electronic stimulation can interfere with your child’s sleep quality. Try shutting down all computer, tablet, and cell phone use for your child at least 60 minutes prior to bed. If you’re worried about how to keep your child occupied you can try using the time to have them help you prepare their clothes or lunch or backpack for the next day.
If you’re helping your college aged kid move onto campus and that transport requires the lifting of heavy boxes remember to use proper mechanics when attempting to lift heavy weight. Bend at the knee and the hip, lowering your entire body down to the box/object, so as to use your legs for the power needed to get the heavy item off of the floor. Be sure to situate yourself as close to the load you are lifting as possible. Try to give yourself plenty of time for the commute and the move in. Many moving injuries are a result of rushing which breeds bad form and makes it easier for you to injure yourself.