Friday, August 5, 2011

Before School Starts…

By Shelly Burke, Editor

Whether your child needs crayons or a graphing calculator for the new school year, the following suggestions will make the start of a new year easier.

1. A new routine. After the more relaxed summer routine, it’s time to get back into the school routine. Determine what bedtime and getting-up time should be, and gradually adjust your kids’ schedule to those times. If your kids will walk to and/or home from school (or to a babysitter’s house) practice those routes.

2. Update calendars. Write down early outs, vacation days, sports and activity dates, and when pictures will be taken. This makes it much easier to plan your schedule accordingly. Encourage your kids to write down and tell you of important dates as they are scheduled.

3. Meet the teacher. Much of the anxiety of the first day will be dispelled if your child has met his or her teacher before school starts. This also gives you a chance to meet the teacher and tell her a little bit about your child, especially if he has any medical issues the teacher needs to be aware of. Call ahead to make sure the teacher is in the classroom and not in a meeting. If your child is new to the school, ask for a tour or take a few minutes to walk around and find the restroom and lunchroom.

4. In sickness and in health…If your child will be taking any medications at school, ask for the form you’ll be required to fill out, and do so before school starts. Ask about school policy; can your child keep medications with him or do they need to be kept in the office or nurse’s office? Any medications—non-prescription as well as prescription--will need to be in a labeled bottle. Be sure your child is clear as to when he should take or request the medications. If your child is entering kindergarten or 7th grade, make sure his or her immunizations are up to date.

5. Prayers. Begin praying about school issues before school starts. If your child is anxious about a new teacher, new school, or new classes, pray together for him to feel God’s presence. Recite and write down reassuring verses like Philippians 4:5. Your child can keep the verses in a notebook or his backpack.

As well as praying with your children, pray for your children. Also pray for the teachers, administrators, and other students. If you have a close relationship with your child’s teacher, ask what he or she would like you to pray for. Consider joining, or starting, a prayer group to pray specifically for issues related to the school.
Back to School, or Back to the Poor House?

by Tawra Kellam

Back to school is a time when many moms witness their money sprout wings and take flight, finding their homes at retail stores across America. I know that consumer spending is good for the economy, but I don't take it upon myself to keep the entire US economy propped up, so when my first-grade son announced that he wanted a backpack with rollers, I saw this as a wonderful financial teaching moment. His school is small, and he doesn't walk to or from school. He didn't need rollers.

I told my son that I would give him $8 toward a backpack. I told him that if he wanted a fancier one, he could put up some of his allowance money for the difference. That's the rule at our house. Mom and Dad buy the basics and the kids buy the extras. It was amazing how my son's perception of the need for rollers changed when his allowance was on the line. Yes, he has concluded, a regular backpack will do the trick this year.

Use some of these money-saving tips from and you can happily send your kids to school and keep some of the cash for mom's back-to school celebration!

Wait for the list to come out and stick to it. Otherwise, you might buy things you don't need. Remember that the Bank of Mom doesn't pay for frills. Any extras the kids want will have to be funded from their own cash reserves. I do understand that it is nice for kids to have "hip" back-to-school supplies. I look at yard sales and thrift stores for brand name finds. For instance, I recently found a gently-used Barbie backpack and a Barbie lunch box and no one would know that I paid $1 each instead of the $32 that Becky Johnson's mom paid. Who says that stay-at-home moms don't make any money?

Don't buy back-to-school clothes. Children don't need an entirely new wardrobe every fall. If they need something like a new pair of shoes or new jeans then buy what they need, but don't just buy a new wardrobe because it's the thing to do.

• Use back-to-school sales to your advantage. If you know your kids go through a package of socks, underwear or jeans every six months, then stock up while they are on sale. The same is true of crayons, paper, notebooks, backpacks and lunch boxes. My son went through two backpacks and two lunch boxes last year, so this year we will buy two while they are on sale instead of waiting until the middle of the year when they are full price. However, don't be tempted to buy things that you wouldn't normally use just because they're on sale.

• Go through last year's school supplies to see which things are still usable. If my student has a working calculator, the Bank of Mom will not extend credit for a new one.

• Limit activities to one at a time. Activity fees can add up fast. One at a time is the rule at our house. If you can't afford the activity, it doesn't hurt for the kids to use their own money to pay for it. The best way to teach them money management is to let them manage their own money when they have nothing to lose, instead of after they have maxed out the credit cards someone persuaded then to sign up for in college.

For money-saving tips and recipes, visit
School Year Resolutions for You and Your Teenager

Mark Gregston, Heartlight Ministries

Like New Year's resolutions, the start of the school year is a perfect time for parents and teenagers to make resolutions together in regard to goals, responsibilities, and expectations.

Think about what you and your teen hope to accomplish and how you will interact this year. That starts by reviewing your household rules to make sure they are still age-appropriate. And be sure to develop concrete plans to shore up and maintain your relationship with your teen, even as they get busier with school and after-school activities.

Make one of your goals to meet with them regularly, at least once a week. Make it a requirement to get together at a restaurant or coffee shop; or better yet, go have some mutual fun together. You'll find that every time you meet with your teen you'll learn something new about them, and your relationship will blossom.

A number of things happen in the first few weeks of school so I recommend that you double up your one on one meetings during the first month. Listen to what your teen has to say about their new teachers, their schedule and their peers. Perhaps they are already being bullied by someone, so it could be that they need to be quickly moved or the school officials told about the bullying. Getting it right in the first few weeks is critical, since you can still make changes in their schedule or classes before they get too far into the semester, and before they become discouraged.

Communication Means Listening

When you get together, your teen may never have a long discussion with you; it may just be the "instant message" version. But listen carefully, because what is said will probably be short and you'll have to do some reading between the lines. Repeat back what you think they said, or ask a few quick questions to clarify what they meant. This will signify that you are really listening and wanting to understand them.

If your teen is a boy, keep in mind that boys will clam up if a parent expects them to look them in the eye when they talk. My friend Bill Ziegler, a middle school principal and frequent guest on our weekly radio program, says, "Boys communicate better when we're side by side, versus face to face." I find that boys also seem to process life while they are involved in an activity of some sort. You'll be most successful if you can find something fun to do together, all the while interjecting thought-provoking questions to keep the conversation going.

For girls, too, conversation naturally comes out of having fun together. Talking less during these activity times may be difficult for a parent, but when it comes to getting teenagers to open up to you, you can't shut up too much. And be sure to prevent distractions during your time together. Don't bring along friends or siblings. Don't go to their regular hangout, where they'll likely run into their friends. Don't allow iPods or cell phones. And by all means, don't announce the activity is for the purpose of having a talk. Just leave the space open and available while you are with them, to see what happens next. Then zip your lip, be quiet, and practice listening.

School Is More Stressful Today

School has become a much more demanding environment for our kids these days. The pressures are significant to perform for others; socially, academically or athletically. So, take care in reviewing your teenager's schedule. Don't allow them to over-commit their time to school or other extra-curricular activities, including those at church. Adults will recruit them to commit to every spare second in their day to sports, clubs, music, or youth group, if you allow them.

It's up to you to help your teen prioritize their schedule, while giving them permission to cut out some things if it appears they are taking on too much. If they are unwilling to confront the people who are pushing them into a state of being over-committed, ask your teen's permission to speak to them yourself.

Other kids will under-commit and avoid involvement in anything but what's required. So you may need to help them by asking them to at least try out for a sport or a club or other activity that will broaden their horizons, give them a new skill, or put them in the company of a positive peer group. Remember, one of the most important things you can do for your teenager is to help them find a positive peer group - so do whatever it takes.

Is Your Home a Place of Rest?

Finally, but no less important, be sure to take a close look at the environment in your home. Is it a place of rest for your teen, or does it just add to their stress? Having reasonable rules and chores won't cause stress; it is when there is poor communication, excessive lecturing, bickering, and fighting. So, pick your battles wisely and major on the majors. Set aside the minor issues, especially during the first few weeks of school. When your teen gets home after school, allow them some time to kick back and find some rest, even if it is just playing a video game or going for a walk. They need to unwind, just like you do when you've had a stressful day.

I hope you use this time near the beginning of a new school year to recharge and regroup. Watch for signs of problems with your teen, especially during these first few weeks. If they get off course, it will likely be now as they are dealing with new teachers, new or suddenly "grown-up" peers, new pressures, and possibly a transition to a new school.

From Parenting Today’s Teens by Mark Gregston. See more at Used with permission. © 2011.