Back to School Tips & Helps

1608AlaskaParent It’s back to school time and the parenting magazines have plenty of good tips, information and inspiration for parents this month. I’ve rounded up some of my contributions to August issues that I think will make back to school better for you and your family.

If you’re looking for ways to improve your child’s academic performance this school year, you should check these out:

Help Improve Your Child’s Memory gives you 4 methods you can use with your child to improve his skill at memorization. They’re simple and sensible enough for any parent to put to work.

Exercise Smarts for Teen Brains offers strategies that teens can use to maximize the proven benefits of physical activity on brain performance. Have your teen try them out!

Studies say that families ought to sit down to dinner together, but how do you get the conversation rolling once you’re at the table? If your kids are anything like mine, they’re probably expert at giving one-word answers to questions about school, 1608PittsburghParenttheir day and what’s up with them and their friends. 21 Questions to Jump-Start Conversation gives you alternatives to “how was your day” that can enliven your dinnertime chats this school year. Like this one: “what part of your day do you wish could have lasted longer?”

Fall sports are ramping up, which means football for the boys and girls’ basketball – two sports known for concussion-producing collisions. Lest you think a concussion is merely a bump to the head followed by a headache, read the essay I wrote following the 9-month ordeal my daughter went through with post-concussion syndrome: Heartbreaking Moments for the Mother of a Concussed Teen.

My girls go back to school today. It’s the last First Day of School for me with my high school senior. I’ll be spending the day trying not to be weepy or sentimental. How about you?

Back to School Tips & Inspiration

The August parenting magazines are out. You’ll find lots of tips and inspiration for starting the school year off well. Here are some of the articles I  contributed to this month’s issues:

1408ParentingPlusBecome School Supply Savvy, Orlando Family
By now you’ve probably gotten your kids’ backpacks pretty well stocked. But in case you’re still on the hunt for that last item, you might want to read this. I share some uncommon sources for hard-to-find supplies (tell me: why is it that teachers/schools insist on specific brands and sizes that aren’t on any nearby store shelves?).

School Then & Now, Family Time
Things sure have changed since we moms and dads were in school. But exactly how have they changed? I list a number of tools and practices that are different in our children’s educational lives from when we last sat at a school desk.1408FamilyTimesFLCover

21 Questions to Jump-Start Conversation With Your Kids – Neapolitan Family
If you’re tired of hearing your kids answer “fine” when you ask how their school day went, then you might want to try a different angle. With twenty-one questions to select from, you have plenty of chances to get the dinner conversation humming. Just don’t forget to share your answers too.

Dinner By Design, Family Times
There’s nothing like needing to have dinner on the table while trying to keep the family taxi running on schedule. In this article I offer a method for putting together your own ongoing monthly meal planner.

1408PBParentingFirsthand Savings on Secondhand Goods, PB Parenting
Back to school expenses are among the highest of any outlays for families, so it helps to shop smart. And sometimes that means buying secondhand. I spoke with moms and experts to find out just what makes sense to buy used – and what to look out for when shopping for previously owned items.

Chores Make the GradeWashington Family
Plenty of moms skip having their kids help with housework, thinking it’s more important for them to just focus on schoolwork. But if that’s you, you may be missing out on opportunities to actually improve your child’s academic performance. I share expert insight on how doing chores can help with their scholastic skills. So get ready to hand over the mop and broom, mom!


8 Articles to Make This A Great School Year

If you aren’t aware, I’m a parenting journalist and my articles appear every month in parenting publications around the U.S. and Canada. This month you can bridge the back-to-school transition and overcome a variety of school year issues thanks to the hints and tips I’ve gathered from experts in these eight articles:

By now you probably have your kids’ backpacks all stocked. But if you’re still hunting down that one last illusive school supply, check out my article: “School Supplies: Hard to Find? Where to Look” in the August issue of Volusia Parent.

Having a hard time getting kids dressed and out the door because of wardrobe issues? Read “Good Kids, Bad Outfits” in MetroKids.

And if those issues (or others) stem from a bit of fastidiousness on the part of your child, learn how to bring out the best and stem off the challenges of this personality trait in “Parenting a Perfectionist” in Valley Parent.

Once school gets out for the day what are your kids up to? Still struggling to find an after school activity that suits your offspring, then you might want to read, “It’s a Match” found in Genessee Valley Parent.

And then there’s the topic of homework. Before you start pulling your hair out during long drawn out study sessions, see what moms and experts advise in “Halt the Homework Hassles”, courtesy of Birmingham Parent.1308BirminghamParent

Oh, and when you’re finally sitting down to dinner together – after all the schlepping to and from activities and wrangling of homework – before you ask the standard, “How was your day at school?” you might want to dip into my “Get the Words Flowing” article offering 21 alternative questions for dinnertime conversation in Space Coast Parent.

Stressing out about sports and your kids’ future in athletics? I offer a bit of perspective in my essay, “Good Enough is Good Enough” on page 10 of Family Times Magazine.

Lastly, and just for grins, do some reminiscing while you compare and contrast your school days with those of your kids as I share the differences in “School Then and Now” in August’s issue of The Parent Notebook.

Happy School Year 2013! Make this the best one yet. And make the most of each and every day!


Turn Back-to-School Blues into a Promise For the Future

It’s school time again. I find that among the moms I talk to there are two sharply contrasting reactions to the start of the school year: glee and sadness. And frankly I think many moms, whether they’re anticipating sending the kids off to school or dreading it, feel a mixture of both.
School Buses by Alex StarrIf you’re sad to see summer come to an end because you were enjoying the downtime and had so many things left that you wanted to do, I have a tip for you: you can turn that disappointment into excitement by capturing what you’re feeling and why right now.

Here’s how it works: as moms we know from experience that summer presents a unique opportunity to get out and show our kids the world and enjoy special times together. Often our school years can be filled to overflowing with activities, which makes the down time of summer so precious. And we’ve also seen how opportunities missed in summer seem to disappear completely. But I’ll tell you a secret: they’re not really gone. They’re just forgotten. And each one remembered becomes a promise for the future. Because there will be more summers. And before then there will be bits of downtime and quiet evenings and weekends, even if they are few and far between.

So here’s what I want you to do: I want you to create for yourself a reminder of why you were sad to see summer end this year. What had you hoped to do but didn’t? What did you most enjoy that you wanted to keep going?

Write it down. Grab a journal and pour out your emotions about this particular summer coming to an end (or if you’re visual, go through your summer photos and make a collage). Those memories will be precious for you and your kids. Then once you’ve written the long version of it, I want you to go back and distill each reason for your disappointment into one sentence.

Like this: I’m sad that my kids never got to have a picnic lunch out on Grandma & Grandpa’s boat. Or even shorter (without the emotion): Have a picnic lunch on Grandma & Grandpa’s boat.

Guess what that is? It’s an entry for my Family Bucket List (and also an uncompleted item from our Summer Bucket List.) If you also created a Summer Family Bucket List – good for you. Now it’s time to move some of those uncompleted items over to your long-term plan that spans the duration of your kids’ childhoods (and beyond).

Turn your back-to-school blues into promises for the future by adding them to your Family Bucket List.

Don’t have a Family Bucket List yet? You need to check out my new e-book Family Bucket Lists: Bring More Fun, Adventure, & Camaraderie Into Every Day which provides unique prompts for creating your individual and shared lists, along with tips for troubleshooting and documenting your adventures. Click to learn more.

Now leave a comment and tell us: what will you miss from this summer? What unfinished summer dreams will you put on your long-term list of family plans?


  • Try this back-to-school exercise to defeat your end-of-summer blues. – Click to Tweet
  • It’s time to move uncompleted summer bucket list items to your long-term plan.   – Click to Tweet
  • Turn your back-to-school blues into promises for the future by adding them to your Family Bucket List. – Click to Tweet

Photo credit: School Buses by “Twix”/Alex Starr on Flickr via CC License

Junior High “Graduation” and Post-Achievement Depression

I find myself holding my breath often this past week, choking back tears. At times a wave of sadness will roll up from the depths of my stomach into my chest and across my lungs, constricting them. I want to weep.

GraduationOn Thursday my husband and I joined the other eighth-grade parents in the school gymnasium for an appropriately named “Moving On” ceremony. There my daughter gathered for one of a few final times with her classmates – the ones she’s teased and joked with, ones she’s pulled pranks on teachers with, ones she’s cajoled to join the track team and the school newspaper. Kids whose names were unfamiliar three years ago, yet now stand out as well-known characters in the drama of junior high life.

Eric* who shared the editor-in-chief title with my daughter and annoyed her with his big plans and small work. Jessica who hollered my child’s name jubilantly whenever she first entered a room. Stacy who faithfully walked to school with her every day and joined her to help file music for the band director during lunchtime. Greg and Allen whose table she snuck over to at lunch to try to beat at card games. And a cast of others whose names reappeared in tellings of Spanish class tricks and science lab mishaps.

These kids, who as of today officially become high school freshmen, are why I descended frequently to moroseness recently. I am going to miss hearing about them and seeing them bring out the best and brightest in my girl. I had not realized how much I’d come to enjoy those dinnertime tales and the goofy junior high antics.

But because my daughter embraced so fully the privileges of being “top dog” in her school, she had what I think was one of the best years ever. Because this year had been about more than just the lessons in the classroom – it had been about lessons in life and living out loud.

And so despite her warning that it would be sad to leave junior high and stop being one of the big shots, I’ve been blindsided by this transition. I hadn’t expected myself to react this way to my daughter finishing junior high.

Yet what I’m going through is what many others experience at the reaching of a goal (even if it wasn’t mine and even if it was inevitable): post-achievement depression. Marathoners and Olympians go through it. PhD’s face it when they receive their degree and title. And apparently moms of junior high kids can succumb to it.

So when you go after that bucket list (on your own or as a family or in support of a family member who’s tackling a life goal) know that it may be coming – this feeling of sadness. Remind yourself that the day after you accomplish that bucket list dream you may feel a bit hollow. You may find waves of sorrow welling up from your stomach. You may want to weep. And that’s normal. Go ahead and weep for a day.

And then dry off those tears and get ready for the next dream. Junior high is over, but high school is coming.

Photo credit: Graduation by James Almond on Flickr via CC License

*Names changed so my daughter isn’t annoyed at me.