ROUNDUP: Top Back-to-School Tips For Parents

by Samantha on August 31, 2015

A selection of the best strategies for anxious parents about how to manage back-to-school season

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Anxious about your child’s return to school?

You’re not alone.

This time of the year, parents everywhere are stressed!

Is it any wonder? There are so many things to consider:

  • What new clothes does my child need?
  • What about shoes?
  • How many school supplies are enough? Or too little?
  • What class will my child be in, and will they be with any of their friends?
  • How will my child adjust?
  • Will my child eat his/her lunch when I’m not there?
  • Who is my child’s teacher, and will they like them? Will I like them?
  • What’s on this year’s curriculum?

It’s not surprising that moms and dads everywhere are feeling a tad anxious. After all - whether your child is going to school for the first time, or about to start high school, there are challenges to be dealt with, regardless of grade.

As a parent of four, I’ve been through the back-to-school stresses and am back in the trenches for more. With my twin boys in elementary school and my daughter in the midst of her tween life as she heads into middle school, I’m very familiar with that anxiety-stricken feeling that overcomes parents as they ready themselves for another school term.

Having learned by trial and error, there are a few simple strategies that I’ve found to work when it comes to handling the craziness of back-to-school preparation.

To make it easy, consider this post a “one-stop-shop” of advice and tips on this stress-inducing topic. Follow the links below as you navigate this exciting yet stressful time of the year and take a deep breath…this too shall pass.

How to Prepare Your Child For the First Day of School - Top 7 Tips For Parents

Back to School Shopping on a Budget

Separate But Equal: Should Twins Be Separated at School?

How to Deal With the Morning Rush - Top 10 Tips For Parents

Top 5 Tips For Getting Your Kids To Eat Breakfast

How to Get Your Child to Do Their Homework

How to Get Your Child to Love Reading

Kids, Lice and School - CBC Radio Interview

Back to School Stress - CBC Radio Interview

Parenting in the Digital Age - CBC Radio Interview

Concern About Technology as Kids Head Back to School - CBC Interview 

Your Kid Wants Designer Clothes - What’s a Parent to Do?

I Hate My Child’s New Friend

Picky Eater? Don’t Sweat It - Tips For School Lunches

Helicopter Parenting and Latchkey Kids


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Top 5 Tips to Help You Send Your Child Off to School For the First Time

first day of school

For parents whose kids are entering Kindergarten for the first time, the stakes are high. Not necessarily for the child but oftentimes more so for the parents. Having been home with their son or daughter for a number of years makes the prospect of sending them off to school particularly anxiety-inducing. Though their kids may have gone to selected preschool classes, play groups or similar social situations, Kindergarten signifies “the big leagues.”

For first-time parents, there is often anxiety, fear and stress felt by the prospect being away from their child and relinquishing responsibility to someone other than themselves. The unknown - in this case a classroom, other kids and a new teacher - can feel particularly daunting.

I’ve written about the first day of school before from the perspective of the child but realize that oftentimes, it’s the parents who need some support and encouragement. Below are some simple tips for those who are facing the prospect of sending their child or children off to school for the first time.

Sending Your Child to School For the First Time - Top 5 Tips For Parents

1) Your Kids Will Be Fine - Kids are a lot more resilient than we think. Surprisingly, they often step up to the challenge and thrive when they’re beyond the protective gaze of their parents. Have faith in both your child and the teachers who understand the anxiety felt by both parents and children. They’ve been there before, and know how to support your child in feeling comfortable, safe and ultimately excited about being in school. By the end of the day, they’ll have stories to tell, artwork to show you and introductions to their new friends (to you!) to make.

2) Tears Are Normal - Yes, they may flow at the prospect of leaving you. Take that as a given. Also realize that the tears will stop as soon as your child enters the classroom and sees the whole new world that is opened up to them at school. Art, reading, writing and toys await and you will be but a distant memory (in a good way of course) while your child ventures into the (relatively) grown-up world of Kindergarten.

3) A Blankie or Teddy Goes a Long Way - Yes, you’ve been your child’s security blanket for so long but when they start school, they’ll need something to keep them going during the day. Don’t underestimate the importance of your child having their favourite special item, whether it’s a blanket, sleep toy or doll. Having such an item with them during their first venture into the school environment will make their day so much easier.

4) Independence is a Good Thing - This is a first step for your child towards independence. And while it may be a difficult one for both of you, it’s an important and positive milestone in their life. Being able to separate from their parents is key to gaining a strong sense of ability as well as self-confidence. And as much as it may be difficult to push them out of the proverbial nest, it’s ultimately in their best interest. Today, Kindergarten, tomorrow - the world!

5) Get Educated - Fear of the unknown often adds to our stress and anxiety and sending our kids off into “The Great Unknown” - in this case, school - is no different. Assuage your fears about the first day of school through your own education of what will occur. Just as your child will be learning in the classroom, you too can learn everything you need to know about your child’s curriculum before they begin the formal learning process. Where possible, contact the school, meet and/or speak with your child’s new teacher(s) and familiarize yourself with the class schedule. You’l feel better and more confident about your child’s new adventure once you have all of your questions answered.

Are you feeling stressed about sending your child to school for the first time? Or, do you have any additional tips that can make the transition smoother? Tell me about them in the comments section below.

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Okay, so now that we’ve gotten past the “first day of school” jitters and “back to school shopping” it’s time to pull up our bootstraps, buckle down and get going with the school year. Your child has settled into some semblance of a routine even if you haven’t, and it’s quite likely that they’re now tackling another reality of the school year: homework.

Yup, that’s right folks - homework, that dirty little word is being foisted upon our precious babies earlier and earlier each year, it seems. No longer the domain of the upper grades, parents of kids in grades one, two and three have been surprised with the handouts and take-home assignments that have been given to their children. The topic of homework for the younger kids is a whole other topic that I may tackle at a later date. For now, let’s focus on the task at hand - getting your child to complete his or her homework on time, regardless of their grade. Having a plan of action early in the school year will guarantee less stress for both parent and child, and greater overall success for the returning student.

Following are 6 Tips to Help You Get Your Child to Do Their Homework

1) Provide Them With Tools - First things first: make sure that your child has everything that they need to make their homework experience a good one. There’s nothing more frustrating or stressful for a child than not having the right tools to get the job done. Accordingly, it’s important that your child feels confident that they can complete their assignments without having to worry about not having the items required to complete the task. Parents can assure that their child is ready to go by checking the course outline and/or speaking to their child’s teacher about the class requirements at the start of the school year. Then, a decision about getting the right tools, including any books (required or at-home support texts) technology (will they require use of a computer or tablet?), notebooks and more can be made. Having these items at hand will make it easier for your child to feel confident and engaged that they can complete the task at hand.

2) Make it Fun - Homework doesn’t have to be a dirty word. By making it an engaging activity, your child will be more likely to be motivated and to excel in their studies. Consider some engagement during your child’s homework time that will motivate them to exceed. For example, why not make some of their learning a game, a la “20 Questions?” Or consider doing some math games with your child to keep them interested and focused.

3) A Dedicated Place - Knowing that your child has a designated spot in your home to complete their work will help them succeed. Make sure to carve out a a specific workspace for them so that they know that you’re in full support in helping them achieve. Whether it’s in their bedroom, at the kitchen or dining room table, or in another central location, having their own little nook will show them that you are behind them all the way in helping them excel.

4) Help Them - There will be times during the school year when it’s not all smooth sailing. When it comes to homework, your child will need your support and guidance in understanding and completing the tasks at hand. Children can often become anxious and unfocused if they feel that certain assignments are beyond their comprehension. Always be available to help them through their homework by being close by and accessible when they’re completing their work. As well, if financially viable, consider hiring a tutor and/or providing additional coursework supports to give your child additional help.

5) Know What They’re Doing - It’s critical that you know what your child is doing in class to be able to follow along with the provided assignments that are given at the end of each day. Make sure that you’re “in the know” about what your child is learning in school so that you’re better able to help them when they come to you for answers or help. A discussion with your child’s teacher and a regular review of the course outline will keep you ahead of the game and better prepared to assist when required.

6) Get Into The Routine - There’s a time and a place for everything and homework is no different. From the outset, kids should know that you take their success in completing their work as seriously as they should. Showing them this means that you’ve carved out a routine that focuses on a specific time and place for homework completion. It may be after school before they sit down in front of the TV or play games; it could be after dinner and before bathtime. You, as the parent know your child and family routine best and accordingly can plan when your child would be most efficient and effective in getting their work done. Remember - kids thrive on routine, so apply this fact to their homework completion as well.

So there you have it - some simple tips to help your kids along the route to educational success. By employing these simple tools, you’ll likely see a happier and more engaged student as well as stellar marks when report cards are sent home.

For more discussion about how to inspire your kids to do their homework, check out my appearance on Global News Morning Show on the topic.

VIDEO: How to Get Your Child to Do Their Homework

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Summer’s over and parents everywhere are stressing about “Back-to-School” shopping. With the pressures that retailers, marketers and children put on parents, is it any wonder that we’re feeling a bit anxious? Second only to the holidays, this time of year is one where moms and dads around the world feel a collective draining of their bank accounts as they give in to the whims and demands of their kids. Fortunately, this doesn’t have to be the case every August. There are ways of making sure that your children are outfitted with all of the items that they need to make their school year successful, without having to break the bank.

Following are the Top 10 Tips for Back-to-School Shopping on a Budget

1) Hold off - Our natural reaction as parents is to get our kids everything they are perceived to need, as soon as possible. This is particularly the case curing the hectic “Back-to-School” season. While it may seem prudent to buy all of your child’s items up front, before the school year starts, did you know that you might actually save money and be ahead of the game by waiting for a bit? Retailers are well aware of the anxieties that parents feel about this time of year and it’s no surprise that clothing and school supplies are prominently placed in most stores and malls. Hold off on your urge to get everything for your child at once, selecting only a few items of clothes and supplies before the first day back. By waiting until a month or two after school has begun, you will not only save money on discounted clothing, but will have a better grip on what your child wants, needs and likes as well.

2) Something Old, Something New - Don’t underestimate the value of thrift stores. You’d be surprised at some of the items that you can find for your kids wardrobes at retailers that specialize in second-hand and vintage clothing. With some careful planning, a list of items you’re looking for and perhaps a bit of elbow grease, you can come away with some great finds at incredible prices.

3) A Dollar For Your Thoughts - One of the best developments of the past 20 years is the growth of “dollar stores.” Before you venture into the bigger retailers for back-to-school items, make a stop at your local dollar store for staples such as pens, paper, markers, highlighters, etc. These days, many of the dollar stores stock name-brand items at reduced prices, so do your research and save money before school starts.

4) Put a Limit on Spending - While it’s tempting to get caught up in the frenzy of the back-to-school season, keep a level head about the situation. Before any money is spent, sit down and go through what needs to be purchased and set a strict budget for back-to-school purchases. This way, it will be easier to work within your means and not be tempted by items that don’t fit into your financial plan.

5) Buy off Season - It may just be September but your kids will still need snow pants in January. Buy them now and save. Ditto for any other items that may be off season and on sale. In August, for example, there are many sales of summer inventory such as t-shirts, shorts, sandals, bathing suits and more. Stock up - your kids will need shorts and t-shirts for gym class as well as spring next year. Conversely, purchase winter clothes at the end of the season - early spring. You’ll save and be prepared for the next school year.

6) Bulk Up - Buying in bulk isn’t always the best way to go, depending on what you’re looking for, but it can provide you with huge savings if you do your research. Some of the big-box bulk stores sell many items in larger quantities that are perfect for the back-to-school shopper. Items that are sold in bulk are often cheaper than single unit priced items; just make sure to do your comparison shopping and check the unit price of the items before purchasing.

7) Don’t Discount Outlets - The malls, department stores and well-known office supplies stores consider back-to-school time only second to Christmas when it comes to spending. Don’t get sucked into feeling like you have to purchase your kids new items at these locations. Now’s a good time to consider the outlet malls that often feature the same name-brand stores but with inventory that is discounted by anywhere from 30 per cent upwards. These outlets are also great places to get off-season clothes and other items that your children may need in the months to come.

8) Click Here - Or there. Technology is your friend and there is a wealth of information and items up for grabs online. Do your research and check online options for school supplies and related items. Online shopping staples such as Ebay, and Craigslist, are some go-to online sites that can help you save money on clothing, electronic devices, supplies and more.

9) Coupons -Many back to school flyers have coupons. Scour and research the stores where you want to shop and clip to save. Don’t forget online coupons as well. You can also sign up for e-newsletters for many of your favourite stores and have the savings and discounts delivered right to your inbox.

10) Cooperate With Friends - A clothing co-op is a great way of saving money and doing your part for the environment. Before school starts, organize a clothes swap party or gathering with parents and kids of similar ages where you all bring together items that may be of use to each other. You’ll be surprised at what you’re able to exchange, and how much you can save by sharing with like-minded parents.

Here are some more Back-to-School shopping tips that I provided for an article in the Toronto Star:

Back to School Shopping on a Budget

I also provided some tips on getting inexpensive back-to-school supplies by shopping at Dollarama. Check out this video for some of the tips and items that can be purchased there:


What other back-to-school shopping tips do you have?


VIDEO: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off - Twist & Shout

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Make the morning rush smoother with these five simple tactics

Depending on your kids and your schedule, you’ve likely dealt with the dreaded “morning meltdown” by your child or children. You’ve also likely pulled out your hair trying to figure out how to get your kids to eat breakfast. When it comes to having their kids eat a balanced meal before heading out the door, many parents are stressed - and rightly so. Health experts have long maintained that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so seeing your child leave for school without a full tummy can be more than a little nerve-wracking for parents. The good news is that there are some simple strategies that can be used to get the kids to eat before leaving for the day.

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Following are the Top 5 Tips For Getting Your Kids to Eat Breakfast

1) Make it Simple - First thing in the morning, kids are often tired, cranky and not in the best of moods. Same goes for the parents much of the time. Now’s not the time to consider a culinary masterpiece to serve to your child. Make it easy on yourself and your kids will follow suit. For breakfast, consider some easy staples such as oatmeal, toast and scrambled eggs and other comfort foods. Slather everything with butter. Your kids will thank you for it and they’ll likely clean their plates.

2) Give them Options - Kids often turn up their noses at whatever mom or dad puts in front of them. This is often their way of exhibiting some form of control over their environment. To get around this, provide them with options when you’re presenting the breakfast menu. So instead of saying “I made oatmeal for breakfast this morning,” how about “would you like oatmeal or eggs for breakfast today? Which one would you prefer?” You will be more likely to get the buy-in for at least one of these options when you give kids a choice. It works every time 😉

3) The Fast and the Furious - Time is of the essence both mornings so make sure that whatever you choose, it’s fast. Weekday mornings are usually not the time to create a huge spread of food, so don’t sweat it! Give the kids food that both packs a nutritional punch but is easy and quick to prepare as well. These include boiled eggs, peanut butter on whole grain bagels or bread and a healthy granola with yogurt.

4) Make it Fun - Kids can be very particular about what they eat, especially the younger set. If you want to avoid the trauma of trying to get them to eat a full breakfast in the morning then make it fun! A few minutes of creativity can go a long way in getting the kids to chow down and leave the house with a full belly. Consider cutting toast into various shapes, use colourful fruits and foods to make their meal appealing.

5) Hide and Seek - Worrying about whether your kids have left the house with enough nutrition in their bellies is a stress for many parents. How about making sure that they eat something healthy by hiding the healthy stuff in their food? You an make simple oatmeal muffins and add some flax seed, carrot or zucchini; cheesy scrambled eggs can pack a protein punch first thing in the morning, and a fruit smoothie with added peanut butter, yogurt, pureed carrots and more is a great option for kids on the go.

So there you have it. Hopefully these tips will help you get your day started without too much stress. Do you have any additional tips for getting the kids to eat their breakfast? Tell me about it in the comments below.

VIDEO: How to Get Kids to Eat Their Breakfast

VIDEO: How to Deal With Picky Eaters

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Top 10 Back To School Survival Tips

August 11, 2011

Summertime and the livin’ ain’t easy. Not if you’ve been trying to juggle swimming and sleepovers, play dates and parties. Let’s face it: being a parent isn’t easy, whether it’s summertime or not. Adding to this is the fact that September is creeping up on us, folks, and guess what: that means it’s “Back to […]

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