Get your child ready to ride the school bus this fall


A fast heartbeat, sweaty palms, and a few tears: the very first day of school is often an emotional one for children and parents.

If your child is also riding the school bus for the first time, teaching them what to expect will build their confidence and make that first ride easy, and maybe tear-free. Children may be nervous and even afraid when they ride the bus to school for the first time, and parents may also have concerns. The best thing parents can do to prepare is to get informed.   

Learn the route number, the bus company responsible for transporting your child, the location of the bus stop, and what time to be there well before the first day of school. This information will ease the transition and help you plan your routine.

Despite the chaos of a typical morning routine, riding the school bus doesn’t need to be stressful. “It’s an important part of the student’s day,” says Nick McRae, general manager of Roxborough Bus Lines Ltd. “We try to make sure they have a positive experience.”   

Roxborough is one of the largest companies transporting students in the Ottawa region; drivers throughout the city are trained to help first-time riders enjoy the trip and get to school safely.

This is what parents need to hear, and learning about safety measures can help to alleviate fears. “[Drivers] take care of the kids, first and foremost,” says McRae. “Safety is what we strive for every day.” It’s important to teach the steps to getting off and on the bus and riding safely to your child as well. Resources abound: the Ottawa Student Transportation Authority, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, and local bus companies all offer safety tips and activities on their websites.

And the Ottawa Student Transportation Authority hosts an annual School Bus Safety Awareness Day, which they recommend all first-time riders and their parents attend. This event, held at eight local schools on Aug. 28, provides kids with an opportunity to learn about safety, how to get on and off a school bus, go on a ride with their parents, and participate in activities aimed at promoting a positive first ride to school.

Even though the bright yellow school bus may be familiar, getting on board is a new experience, and some children may be fearful. If your child is worried about riding the bus, you can help them learn what to expect. Follow these tips to alleviate your child’s fears and get them ready to ride the bus.

• About a week in advance, practise your school-day routine and walk to the bus stop on time.

• Make sure your child will be able to get on and off the bus with their supplies. “We see a lot of kids getting to the bus and their book bag is bigger than them,” says McRae.

• Point out the bus stop location when you are nearby to help your child recognize their stop.

• Remind your child that the bus driver is there to keep them safe and help them get to school, and encourage them to listen to rules.

If possible, learn the bus driver’s name in advance, and teach it to your child. On the first day of school, encourage children to greet the bus driver and introduce themselves.

• Create a bus identification card for your child, providing contact and route information, and store it where they can find it.

• Have a backup plan in case you are unable to meet your child at the stop on time, and talk it over with them. Keep driver and bus company contacts at hand in case of emergencies.

Remember: it can take some time to get used to the new routine. Support your child by arriving to the stop on time before and after school, getting to know the driver and the bus rules, and talking to your child about their school bus experiences. Follow up with the bus company or school if you have any concerns, and review safety information regularly.

“We hope everyone has a safe startup,” says McRae. With a little preparation, parents can make sure their child has a smooth first ride to school.

Photo: © morganlstudios