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Our 14 Best Back to School Tips

August 2, 2016

By Jessica Vician

Our writers and program author have over 150 years of education and parenting experience combined. From all of that expertise, we’ve gathered our best 14 back to school tips and put them in one place—right here!—so you don’t need to look any further. From starting a new school to saving money on school supplies to sending your (no longer a) baby off to college, we have you covered.

Our 14 Best Back to School Tips | From starting a new school to saving money on school supplies to sending your (no longer a) baby off to college, we have you covered. | An elementary school student chooses a pack of pencils for her back to school supplies.

Starting a New School

Starting preschool, kindergarten, high school, or a new school system altogether can be stressful for some children. As parents, we must ease that transition so that their first experience in each school setting is one of comfort and excitement instead of fear and anxiety.

Here’s how you can prepare your child, depending on what new school he or she is starting:

Our 14 Best Back to School Tips | "Back to School" is written on an illustrated chalkboard with paint, rulers, and assorted school supplies in the image.

Back to School Tips

For kids returning to the same school, there are a few basic things you must do before they can start, including:

Once you have checked those activities off the list, relieve some of the anticipation and pressure of the first day of school.

Our 14 Best Back to School Tips | Going Away to College | A father watches his son grab his dorm supplies from the car.

Going Away to College

For teenagers heading off to college, it’s an exciting time. But for many parents and the siblings still at home, the first time a child goes off to college can be challenging. Learn how to prepare your family with these articles.

Whatever your child’s age, when you prepare him or her for school physically, emotionally, and socially, he or she will settle more easily into a successful academic routine. Use these activities to bond as a family before the transition and you’ll create happy memories before the school year begins. 

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How to Emotionally Prepare Your Teen for High School

July 26, 2016

By Jessica Vician

How to Emotionally Prepare Your Teen for High School | How your teen handles this new adventure will have a big impact on his or her academic success, so use these five points to guide your support. | A group of teens preparing for high school pose in front of their lockers.

When it comes to preparing for high school, academics seem like the easy part. After all, starting high school means multiple middle schools merging, old friends meeting new friends, teenage emotions and hormones clashing, navigating the delicate dance of high school dating, and finding out what makes everyone tick.

While you will want to establish academic expectations, study habits, and routines with your teenager before high school starts, you will also want to help him or her prepare emotionally and socially. How your teen handles this new adventure will have a big impact on his or her academic success, so use these five points to guide your support.

Encourage them to find themselves.
Your teen can get a sense of the school before he or she starts by attending plays, concerts, and sports games at the high school. He or she can evaluate which of these activities, if any, interests him or her and can plan to audition, try out, or join clubs or groups associated with the activities.

In addition to finding his or her interests, your teenager should prioritize finding friends who promote happiness and even some who challenge your teen to be a better person. Encourage your teen to make friends who make him or her happy instead of being popular. While popularity is usually important to teenagers, his or her happiness is more important.

Use orientation to reduce first-day jitters.
Your teenager should attend orientation to get a better understanding of his or her new school in preparation for a smooth first day.

To make it more fun, encourage your teen to attend with a good friend from middle school. Let them figure out their locker combinations, find the fastest route from class to class, and learn where their friends’ lockers are.

Be friendly and avoid gossip.
PBS Kids has a great explanation of rumors and gossip and how both can be used to hurt others. Familiarize yourself with these scenarios so you can discourage your teen from gossiping.

At the same time, you can encourage your child to look at high school as a fresh start. While he or she will keep some or many friends from middle school, eliminating previous animosities toward other classmates and giving everyone a clean slate will help your teen make new friends and stay on good terms with as many people as possible.

Give them more independence.
As teens form stronger friendships, start dating, and move into adulthood, they will distance themselves from their parents and families. That’s okay in moderation. Just as you let your child start feeding him or herself as a toddler, you can let your teenager work out problems and manage his or her life with little guidance.

Ensure your teen knows you are always available to talk, and make sure he or she spends enough time on homework, eats healthy when at home, etc., but give your teen time to spend with friends, join clubs and sports teams, and more. Part of high school is preparing to live independently in college, so teens need to earn gradual independence from their families at this time.

Pay attention to their friends.
Just because you encourage your teenager to spend time with his or her friends doesn’t mean that you don’t have to keep an eye on those friends. Invite them over for pizza and offer to drive them to the movies or the mall. By spending even a little bit of time with your teen’s friends, you will learn more about them and identify potential bad influences. You will also be relieved if your teen’s friends are great kids who make your teen happy.

Starting high school can be stressful for teenagers and their parents, but by practicing these support tips, you both will be better prepared.

Has your teenager already entered high school? How did you help him or her prepare? Share in the comments below.

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5 Ways to Prepare Your Child for Preschool

July 5, 2016

By Nikki Cecala

5 Ways to Prepare Your Child for Preschool | Start preparing your child for preschool about a month before the first day of school. Keep these five tips in mind to ensure you and your child are ready for the big day. | An empty preschool classroom is filled with small tables, colorful plastic chairs, and artwork taped to the walls.

They say time flies when you’re having fun. Parents know that time flies faster once you have a child. Whether you are transitioning from daycare or from home, preschool marks a new beginning in both the child and parents’ lives.

Start preparing your child for preschool about a month before the first day of school. Keep these five tips in mind to ensure you and your child are ready for the big day.

1. Establish a routine.
A new schedule or routine may take a few days or weeks to truly stick, as transitions in a child’s life take time. Create a bedtime routine and a morning routine so your child knows what to expect every night and day.

Be patient and stick to the routine you establish, no matter how difficult it seems at first. Your child will adjust and soon come to expect and need that routine.

2. Visit the school.
In the weeks leading up to the first day of preschool, visit the school with your child and meet the teacher(s) who will be involved in his or her schedule. Becoming familiar with your child’s new classroom will reduce his or her anxiety in the weeks leading up to school.

3. Read books.
There are so many children’s books about starting school. Read a variety of these books together so your child can learn what to expect in the first few days and months. He or she will also start to look forward to the fun activities and new friends illustrated in the books.

4. Get organized.
Nothing excited me more as a child than getting new clothes and school supplies. Get your child excited to start preschool by letting him or her choose a special backpack and new clothes. Check with the preschool for a list of other classroom supplies your child might need.

5. Talk with your child.
It’s normal for your child to be nervous before starting something new like preschool. Talk with him or her about the school, the fun activities, and the new friends your child will make. Ask questions, like how your child feels about starting preschool or what he or she is most excited about or scared of.

By learning how your child feels about starting preschool, you can figure out how to best address any fears, answer questions, and prepare him or her for a structured classroom environment. Establish school-year routines in advance and the whole family will be ready to go on Day One!

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4 Ways to Manage Your Child’s Anger

May 24, 2016

By Nikki Cecala

4 Ways to Manage Your Child’s Anger | Teach your child to manage his or her anger and channel it toward a productive outlet.

Dealing with an angry child is one of the most frustrating and difficult parts of parenting, but you can teach your child to manage his or her anger and channel it toward a productive outlet.

After all, anger turns into aggression, which can lead to harmful behavior such as hurting someone or destroying property. According to one study, one in seven kids who show signs of aggression early in life have a higher risk of school failure, adult unemployment, physical violence, and mental illness.

Help your child manage his or her anger by communicating that anger is a normal emotion. Accept your child’s anger—do not deny or repress his or her emotions. Then, try a combination of these four suggestions.

  1. Let it out
    Communication is one of the best ways to understand what is really going on. Let your child vent and vocalize his or her anger or frustration. Listen to your child for a few minutes before responding, as it will help you understand the problem and decide what to do next.
  2. Bring in reinforcements
    Ask a close friend or family member to come over or speak with your child by phone. Ask someone your child trusts, like a godparent, aunt, uncle, close family friend, or even a favorite babysitter. If your child won’t talk to you about the problem, he or she might talk to another trusted adult.
  3. Provide physical outlets at home and at school
    Encourage your child to journal, exercise, meditate, talk to someone, listen to music, or take a walk. Depending on the situation, your child might need 10 minutes alone to collect his or her thoughts and calm down. Teaching these coping mechanisms now will help your child manage his or her anger later in life, too.
  4. Always model positive behavior
    Children observe how their parents react to situations. Parents must be aware of the powerful influence their actions have on a child’s behavior. If you curse or even punch a wall when you’re angry, don’t be surprised when your child does it. Children mirror our behavior, so always set a good example and deal with your anger the way you want your child to.

One of the most important things you can do as a parent is to help your child grow and respect him or herself. This vital process takes years of patience but pays off in the long run, as it helps your child become a happy adult. The earlier in life you teach your child how to manage anger and share his or her feelings, the more outbursts you can help prevent.

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5 Fixes for Your Toddler’s Temper Tantrum

May 17, 2016

By Nikki Cecala

5 Fixes for Your Toddler’s Temper Tantrum | Tantrums are a normal part of a child's development, but that doesn't mean they're fun. Here are 5 ways to deal with them.

According to my mother, my 3-year-old son is exactly like me when I was a toddler. She doesn’t say this with pure joy in her voice—it’s more of a warning. I was a climber, a talker, and had a whirlwind of temper tantrums growing up (and can still throw some minor fits).

Despite the term, "terrible twos," temper tantrums can start as early as 12 months and continue beyond age four, though they occur most often during a child’s second year. While not fun, tantrums are a normal part of a child’s development. Through the process, they learn to cope with frustration.

When encountering a tantrum, first rule out the basics. Is your child:

  • bored? 
  • uncomfortable? 
  • hungry?
  • over-stimulated?

If it’s one of the above, then address that problem immediately.

Otherwise, take a moment to look at the bigger picture of what is causing your child to throw a tantrum. Get creative and find a tactic that works for you and your child when entering Tantrum Town.

  1. Calm down
    When my son gets hysterical, I tell him as calmly as possible that he needs to calm down before we move forward with anything. I ask him to breath slowly and hold my hands. There will be times when you think you can’t keep your composure, but it’s critical when telling someone else to calm down. Yelling solves nothing.
  2. Give them your undivided attention
    One morning, I was driving my son to daycare in bumper-to-bumper traffic. We were running late and I was listening to the traffic report on the radio. Suddenly, my son started making an angry whining sound. Already short-tempered, I asked him what was wrong. He was angry that I wasn’t hearing him point out all the things he was seeing out the window.

    I quickly realized that he was trying to share things that were exciting to him while I was busy stressing out. When you notice a tantrum starting, get out of your head and take a moment to appreciate what your child is trying to share with you. Sometimes they just need a little attention.
  3. Check yourself
    Are you having a rough day and taking it out on your child? We try not to, but sometimes it happens. Kids can pick up on those negative vibes and will poke at it until they share the same unhappy feelings. Leave the drama from work, relationships, or anything else at the front door. If you bring it home, you’re asking for a tantrum.
  4. Ignore them
    During certain situations (e.g. a tantrum in line at the grocery store) you need to remain strong. We’ve all tried bribing them with candy or toys just to get them to be quiet, but that only lasts for so long.

    Instead, explain that their behavior in public is unacceptable. If your child is still not listening, ignore them and wait until you get outside to have a more personal conversation about the behavior.
  5. Communication is key 
    It’s a simple concept: talk to your child and pinpoint what the problem is. My son has excellent verbal skills, so when he starts whining and making noises I ask him to use his words so I can understand why he is upset and fix the problem.

    It’s easy to think you are already listening to your child, but if the TV is on or you’re texting someone, you aren’t 100 percent listening, are you? Give your child the same respect you desire and get to the cause of the tantrum. The more you practice, the easier it will be for both of you to settle down, cope with your child’s emotions, and move on.

What are some ways you address your child’s tantrums?

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