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Back to School

More likely than not your kids are counting down the days until the start of summer 2015 already. But parents are ready to welcome the new school year (and the earlier bedtimes that come with it) with open arms.

Like a giant puzzle, there are lots of pieces that need to be sorted and put in place to make the transition into a new school year and (for incoming middle and high schoolers) a new school as seamless as possible.

Supply Runs
You may have noticed that school shopping lists have progressively gotten longer and longer since the good old days of bringing paper, pencil and a bag lunch to the classroom. So much so that in 2013 shoppers spent an estimated $71 billion or $634.78 per shopper. With parents shelling out that kind of cash, it’s no wonder the back to school is the second biggest consumer-spending season of the year, according to the National Retail Federation.

When I spoke with local mom Lisa-Marie Leihy, she explained that back to school isn’t just an opportunity to save money on supplies. It’s another chance to engage her child in teachable moments. “When shopping for school supplies, I look for recycled materials,” says the mom of soon-to-be-third-grader Sarina. Some parents go further, investing in book bags, lunch boxes and pencil cases made almost entirely of repurposed materials. Not only do you save money by purchasing items like this at online retailers like TerraCycle, you engage kids in what it means to reuse, reduce and recycle.

She adds about her daughter’s school’s green efforts. “Our school encourages families to donate gently used school uniforms for use by families needing extra assistance. This green initiative helps kids contribute to the good of the school and the planet.”

Including the kids in back-to-school shopping also can be a great lesson in early finances and honing decision-making skills, says Bridget Mouchon of the University of Wisconsin. “Even if you need to reduce back-to-school spending, use the experience as an opportunity. Involving children and youth in spending decisions can help your kids become wise consumers,” Mouchon says. Work with your kids to break down their shopping lists and assign each a budget. Once you’ve removed all the items you plan to reuse in the coming year, head to the store with the kiddos.

See more money-saving tips at

Transitioning Students
This time of year gives kids the opportunity to start a new academic year with a clean slate. As part of the age-old rite, many students will transition into new schools, making it an especially nerve-wracking August.

For the little ones heading from day care to prekindergarten or kindergarten, parents should be prepared for excitement, anticipation, anxiety and apprehension. One of the best ways to help your 4-, 5- or 6-year-old adjust is to let him know what to expect. Visiting the school to tour the grounds, meet the teacher and even try out the playground can ease the fear and anxiety of the unknown.

Children entering the elementary and middle school transition year will definitely feel daunted in the coming weeks. These students typically face a larger campus with more students. Additionally, middle schoolers will encounter different teachers for each subject putting their organizational skills to the test.

As your tween navigates a new world of academics and social interactions, she also is experiencing the physical and emotional changes that occur with puberty. As a parent, you might feel just as lost as your tween in dealing with this time of significant change, but you can help her muddle through the middle. Offer compassion and support as your child moves through this uncharted territory (at least for him or her).

The students who ruled the middle are now the new kids on the block – freshmen. By now, most have some experience with transitions, although they are likely to continue to feel some combination of excitement and anxiety.

Remember that your teen is straddling the line between childhood and young adulthood and it is important to create a structured routine at the start of the school year. Parents should learn school rules and policies as well as homework expectations and discuss them with their child. It’s still important for parents to remain involved in school events, volunteering and attending functions. Knowing your child’s friends and teachers also is key to a child’s successful management of these challenging years.


Love it or hate it, homework is a part of school. To help kids get back into the scholastic swing, recommends parents follow these simple guidelines.

  • Make sure is a quiet place that is free of distractions.
  • Don’t let kids watch TV when doing homework or studying. Set rules for when homework and studying need to be done and TV limits. The less TV the better, especially on school nights.
  • If your kids are involved in social media, be sure to limit the time spent on these activities.
  • Keep text messaging to a minimum to avoid frequent interruptions.
  • Never do their homework or projects yourself. Instead, make it clear that you’re always available to help and answer questions.
  • Review homework assignments nightly, not necessarily to check up, but to make sure they understand everything.

Transitioning Books

Llama Llama Tampa Bay Parenting August 2014
Llama Llama Misses Mama
Perfect for kids 3 and older who are having trouble dealing with separation, the book reinforces that mama always comes back for the little llama and all the fun that can be had at preschool.



First Grade Stinks Tampa Bay Parenting August 2014
First Grade Stinks
Kindergarten is very different than first grade and no one knows it more than Hayley. Your child will love the young heroine of this book as she experiences her first day of first grade and learns that it really doesn’t stink that much.



First Day Jitters Tampa Bay Parenting August 2014
First Day Jitters
The book follows Sarah Jane Hartwell as she experiences a new school for the first time. She doesn’t know anybody, and nobody knows her. It will be awful. She just knows it. She is quickly befriended by Mrs. Burton, who helps smooth her jittery transition. This charming and familiar story will delight readers with its surprise ending.



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