Tag Archives: back to school

A Simple Life


My Back-To-School Intent is to Keep It Simple.

For these last two weeks of summer, I have been in major organizing mode.

School supplies and uniforms, after-school activities, work strategy and planning, setting up speaking engagements and travel (which means coordination with my husband and mom!), cleaning closets, organizing finances, logistics galore of managing work, home, and getting my kids where they need to be from now through February!

I was laughing this morning as I read a Facebook post by my friend, Dani Modisett, author of Take My Spouse Please, about how her 2-day trip to NYC required a thesis of detailed instructions for her sitter. It’s so true! The only way for me to function sanely, while trying to work and professionally/intellectually keep growing, is to be super-organized and plan ahead.

I’ll admit my meditation practice these last two weeks has been sporadic, but when I am meditating one word seems to be popping up over and over again: Continue reading

Mallika Chopra: Summer with Kids – Sleepaway Camp, Study or Just Relax?

What stinks?

By Mallika Chopra

Summer is past the midway point for many of us, and I can admit I am happily anticipating a return to school in a month. Don’t get me wrong, I love spending time with my kids. But entertaining them for 2 1/2 months is not so easy.

In fact, I’ve had quite a few conversations lately with parents about what to do with kids over the summer.

Our friend circle is has the whole range of activities – many kids have gone to sleep away camp, some are studying, others are doing sports camp and Junior Lifeguard training (we live in Santa Monica by the beach!), and then there are the art, drama, science, cooking camps. You name the activity and there is something for the kids to do!

The NY Times has a great editorial series/debate on “Should Kids Go To Sleepaway Camp?” that presents a variety of opinions on what kids should be doing over summer. The range of opinions includes:

“Yes, it is a great way to build confidence and independence.”

“No, kids need to just relax and learn to entertain themselves.”

“Actually, kids need year round school.”

I found the opinions in these editorials thought-provoking. One editorial, in particular, challenged my parenting philosophy. Michael Thompson says:

Parents assume that their presence always adds value to a child’s growth. I disagree. I think parents can sometimes seriously impede their children’s development.

As a parent there are many things you cannot do for you children. You cannot give your child confidence, you cannot pick or manage his or her friendships, you cannot always be his or her advocate/agent/manager/coach. Most parents cannot get their children to turn off electronics, especially in the summer, and most important, parents have a hard time urging their children to take psychological risks.

I couldn’t disagree more. I strongly believe parents build our children’s confidence and should mentor their kids through the difficult times. Parents need to be responsible to make sure their kids get off the electronics, not shift the responsibility to someone else!

Many of my daughter’s friends are away for 2-4 weeks away at sleepaway camp this summer. And, most of their parents are some of the most conscious parents I know who are guiding their children every day to be more confident, adding value to their children’s growth. (Again, I disagree with Mr. Thompson’s statement above.)  My friends rationale for sending their kids to camp includes:

“They have the most amazing time. They love it and always want to return.”

“They make deep friendships that last a lifetime.”

“Its great. They learn to be independent.”

Many of these parents went to summer camp when they were young and are excited for their kids to experience the magic they did.

While I respect their reasons, what unnerves me is that at many of the summer camps, the parents can’t speak with their children. The parents can email and write to their kids, and the children can write letters, but it’s not immediate communication like a text message, call, or email. So when the kids express stress or loneliness, my friends are struggling to stay strong. I understand the rationale that the kids are most vulnerable when they connect with their parents so the limited communication diminishes homesickness. But, I can’t overcome my feeling that a child should always have the security that they can turn to their parents for support.

I realize the notion of “independence” at such a young age doesn’t really resonate with my upbringing. Independence is not a core value for my Indian family. (As I point out to some of my friends, many of our friends in India live in joint families with their parents, siblings, and their families! Leaving home and being independent isn’t necessarily what culturally we set out to teach our children from an early age.)

When I was 16 years old, I spent a summer in the Dominican Republic working for Amigos De Las Americas – a Peace Corps of sorts for teenagers. I clearly remember fighting with my parents about going – they thought I was too young to be away home. They ultimately agreed, and it was my first taste of independence. The year after, I spent a summer in Cambridge, England – an ocean away from my parents in Boston. Those two summers were transformative for me. But I was 16 years old, not 9.

One of the editorials in the NY Times argues for continued education in the summer. And admittedly, my kids have a continued math and English program this summer, along with a series of science/robotics camps for my younger daughter, Leela. (Tara has done a theater program.) On the summer activities spectrum, I am a combination of continued education and relaxation!

Last but not least, I am a big believer in travel as the best education and my husband and I try to expose our kids to different parts of the world whenever we can. And, while I realize not everyone can travel to the extent that we do, I was inspired by my friend, who decided to discover LA, our own city, with her kids this summer. They hiked, went to museums, spent time on the beach, ate different ethnic foods, and visited different parts of the city. There is so much to learn where each of us live, and summer can be a great time to do that.

As parents we intuitively know that each of our children are unique, and what may be right for one child may not be right for another. That said, I find opinions on summer activities come with strong points of view. I’m curious, what do you think kids should be doing over the summer?

6 Green Tips: How to Save Money and Energy for Going Back to School and Work

All across the country and the world, countless people are heading back to school and work for the Fall. Consider this new season of transition as an opportunity to change your daily habits to save more money and energy when you go about your productive day.

1. Bring a Bento Box For Lunch. Making your own lunch will save you tons of money every week. Eating your food from your bento box will give you discipine in portion control. Get inspired from this New York Times article detailing the rise of bento box usage among Americans which also contains a handy list of bento-related blogs at the very end.

2. Use a Reusable Bottle, Tumbler or Mug For Your Drinks. Addicted to your coffee and tea? Can’t go anywhere without staying hydrated? Instead of wasting all that trash on styrafoam cups, plastic water bottles and aluminum cans, go completely green with a reusable drink container when you are on the go.

3. Recycle and Reuse Office Supplies As Much as Possible. Before you go spend-happy with shiny and cool office supplies, explore other options that can easily be done for much cheaper without wasting more limited resources. For starters, Craigslist and Facebook usuallly contain many notices from people trying to sell their used printers, scanners, computers, desks and other work-related equipment for much cheaper than the store price. Also, you can print on scratch paper for printing paper documents that aren’t that important (such as map directions, rough drafts of papers, or testing the color ink on digital photos.)

4. Remember to Shut Down Your Computer and Unplug Other Electronic Appliances. Use a power strip for all your electronic appliances, and don’t forget to turn it off when you are not using the appliances or going to sleep. You will save money on your electricity bill, and also decrease energy consumption on this planet.

5. Do a Fashion and Make-Up Swap With Friends to Update Your Fall Wardrobe. You probably have several wardrobe items that you’ve only worn twice and probably won’t wear again. Chances are your friends do, too. Swap clothes, accessories, shoes, make-up with your friends, and it will save you a tidy bundle of money that might have gone for another expensive wardrobe indulgence that might not be used much after all.

6. Go Paperless For Paying All Your Bills. We are living in an age where the paperless option exists for pretty much any service that requires paying your bills. Spare the planet all the energy and time that goes into printing envelopes and delivering mail across long distances, and save yourself the time of having to seal envelopes and lick stamps.

photo by: I Love Egg

#30DaysLearning: If You Could Have Anyone Teach You A Skill, Who Would It Be & What Would They Teach You?

Our 30 Days of Learning Intents is still going strong! Many community members are still participating in our month-long challenge to post one new learning-related intent every day for the entire month of September to celebrate going back to school and back to work. Please continue to share your learning intents with the community, and don’t forget to tag your intents #30dayslearning.

Last week, we asked our intent community members: 

If you could have anyone teach you a skill, who would it be & what would they teach you?

Here is how our community answered: 

Looking forward to reading more of your learning-inspired intents this week! Keep up the momentum, and thank you all of you for your active participation in our community! 

(If you want to participate in our community answers, simply like our Intent.com Facebook group and stay tuned for upcoming questions from the Intent Team.)


The Intent Team

Read Our Community Answers For #30dayslearning: What Skill Would You Want To Teach Another Person?

Sometimes the best way to learn something is to teach it to another person. In celebration of posting one learning-related intent every single day for the month of September, Intent.com asked the community: 

What skill of yours would you want to teach to another person?

Here is how our community responded on our Facebook and Twitter: 

What skills of yours would you want to teach to another person? Share your answers on our Facebook page or respond to @intentdotcom on Twitter, or share your comments below! 

Don’t forget to continue posting every single day on Intent.com what you want to learn this month and tag your intents #30dayslearning.

8 Tips To Get In Touch With Your Inner Superstar Student This Back-To-School Season

You know it’s back-to-school season when notebooks and pencils are suddenly dirt-cheap everywhere you look. Students across the nation are trekking back to school with new backpacks, classes and classmates. Are you eager to get back into the learning groove, too?

Fortunately, you don’t have to be enrolled as a full-time student at an official school if you want to be a passionate student of life. All of us–regardless of our age, income or time availability–can be passionate learners every single day for the rest of our lives in any subject matter we are interested in, whether it is as specific as learning how to knit or as broad as becoming a more informed global citizen. Here are 8 general tips to really get yourself into the learning groove in the school of life this season.

1. Always have a reading book in hand no matter where you go. Reading stimulates creativity, critical thinking, and opens the horizons of your imagination. Even if it is only for ten minutes a day, those ten minutes make a world of a difference. 

2. Surround yourself with mentor figures who are extremely skilled in the areas you want to be skilled at. When you are around hard-working and creative people who are good at what they do, they will always continue to inspire you to keep pushing your own potential.

3. Subscribe to a magazine that keeps you up-to-date in the intellectual field you are most interested in. Though many of us do subscribe to blogs, I really believe having to read a physical magazine article is far more focused than skimming one blog post in one of many multiple tabs on the internet. (I absolutely recommend subscribing to the magazine Utne Reader for your regular dosage of relevant and engaging news, essays and articles.) 

4. Attend regular meet-ups with people who are interested in the same hobbies and interests as you. There is power in numbers, and finding your "tribe" can spark many exciting possibilities, collaborations and projects. Plus, being connected with many people who are eager to learn the same things as you simply means you are connected to many more resources you wouldn’t have found by yourself. Find a local group via meetup.com or make it as simple as a monthly reading club with your immediate circle of friends.

5. Know what’s going on in your city. Does your city have free concerts? Lectures at universities open to the public? Free seminars at local museums and community centers? Stay in the know with what your neighborhood has to offer for some free learning.

6. Read the blogs that spark your intellectual curiosity. But use them sparingly, as it is easy to get sucked into a vortex of useless information-surfing when you can be doing something more constructive with your time. Check out this handy list of blogs that make for good brain food.

7. Teach another person what you know. Here is the best way to learn something: teach it to another person who wants to learn the same skill that you have. When you know how to teach it effectively, you are essentially teaching yourself how to improve your expertise and knowledge in that skill as well.

8. Be humble; we are all students, and we all have so much more to learn. The best students are constantly passionate, curious and eager to improve their skills to the next level no matter how skilled they are in their field. The worst students are the ones that stop trying and become self-satisfied with their current skill level. No matter how many years you have been learning a certain skill or expertise, keep asking questions and be open to learn even more.

PHOTO (cc): Flickr / Claudia Snell

Back To School, Yogis


My pal and marathon training partner Cara (right) and I love to read.  Here we are with some of our favorite books.  Post your most inspirational reads below!

Few months of the year hold the same anticipation and excitement as September, largely because of its association with going back to school.  Right now, pencils are being sharpened, new clothes selected, notebooks organized, and class schedules reviewed.  College roommates are getting acquainted, study partners scouted, and attendance policies surveyed. 

Even those of us who aren’t hitting the books often wish we were.  As an admitted nerd and one-time English teacher, I can’t help feeling a tad envious when Boston crawls with co-eds, again.  I get wistful at the sight of a bookstore window freshly arranged to display curriculum classics like "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn."  And don’t think for a moment that I’m not jumping on the knee sock fashion trend this fall.  Who says you have to enroll somewhere to dress schoolyard chic? 

Likewise, who says you have to enroll somewhere to be a student?  We’re all students in some capacity, right?  Some of us are students of yoga.  Others study favorite sports or hobbies or strangers in coffee shops.  Many of us, at any given time are learning a new chapter of life, such as a relationship, business venture, marriage, or parenting.  As we age, too, studies show that minds that continue to learn new skills later in life stay more agile, longer.  For yogis, svadhyaya (study) is a key principle of the practice, cited as one of the niyamas within the 8-limbed yoga path of the Yoga Sutras

All of this school year nostalgia got me thinking about my favorite books for spiritual education– literary companions that have bailed me out, lifted me up, or awakened me to some new insight or duh-how-could-I-forget-that! wisdom.  Here are a few of them organized to correspond with a school curriculum.  In other words, depending on which subjects you liked best in school, you might enjoy the corresponding book that pertains to yoga, wellness, or spirituality.  Happy reading! 

The OmGal.com Syllabus: Fall 2010 Semester*


  • Yoga Anatomy, Leslie Kaminoff: If you enjoy sitting your gluteus maximus down and analyzing the architecture of the body in colorful illustrations of muscles and bones, you’ll love this yoga-oriented anatomy book.  It’s a helpful text for teachers.  


  • Creative Visualization, Shakti Gawain: Truthfully, this book is an excellent resource for anyone willing to tap into their imagination to "create what you want in your life;" however, creative types might find it particularly inspiring.  I did.     


  • New and Selected Poems: Volume One, Mary Oliver: With the exception of "The Buddha’s Last Instruction," this book isn’t outwardly about spirituality, but it is, nonetheless, a marvel for the soul, especially one that loves nature.  

The following books are among the most referenced and revisited in my yoga library.

  • Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, various translations
  • Yoga: The Path to Holistic Health, B.K.S. Iyengar
  • Living Your Yoga, Judith Lasater

Home Ec.:

  • Care of the Soul, Thomas Moore: This "guide for cultivating depth and sacredness in everyday life" encouraged me to think more carefully about how I arrange my home, work, and relationships to evoke happiness rather than happenstance.  

Phys. Ed.

  • Mastering Your Metabolism, Jillian Michaels: Confession?  I just dig Jillian and her no-nonsense, tough-love, tackle-life-with-abandon approach, so she made the list.  The book is good, too, and will seriously cause you to reconsider the chemicals and habits that hinder your overall wellness, not just your weight.  


  • Seat of the Soul, Gary Zukav: Zukav is said to have a "scientist’s eye and philosopher’s heart."  If you can relate to either, you’ll enjoy this book.  It’s one of my most heavily underlined and highlighted (a true sign I want to remember its contents).    

Political Science: 

  • Bhagavad Gita, various translations: This ancient text about a warrior prince headed into battle provides a literary scavenger hunt.  Each time one reads it, there are new insights to uncover.  It inspired the likes of some of my favorite American writers of the transcendentalist era, including Henry David Thoreau.  New Age quips and contemporary sound bytes seem to pale in comparison to this essential resource from the first century.  How’s this for a timeless tidbit: "Your own duty done imperfectly is better than another man’s done well."  Gets me every time . . .


  • Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, Deepak Chopra: These laws set people free rather than imprison them.  Reading this book might enhance your life for a maximum sentence.   


  • The Eloquence of Living, Vimala Thakar: If you’re pre-med, you don’t have time to read.  Ergo, I prescribe a little 109-page dose of peace.  You can pick up and put down this tiny treasure at your own pace, and each vignette stands alone, as a poem.  No elaborate plots or heady dissertations–just a sweet, small book filled with "freshness, fearlessness, and compassion."  


  • The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck: I’m pretty sure this book shepherded me through a sh*t break-up years ago, and judging from its status as a bestseller for more than two decades, I guess I’m not alone.  You’ll love it.  Promise.      



  • When Things Fall Apart, Pema Chodron: I cannot say enough about this book by Buddhist nun Pema Chodron for its ability to provide people with peace during difficult times.  You will treasure it.  

All books available on Amazon.com.  


Mallika Chopra: 30 Days Of Learning Intents This Month — What Is Your Learning Intent?

Today marks our first-ever launch of 30 Days of Learning Intents. In celebration of going back to school and getting back into the full swing of work, what are your intentions related to learning, education, developing new skills and being a passionate student of life?

Whether you are a student going back to school or somebody who wants to pick up a new hobby or musical instrument in her free time, all of us never stop learning in the university of planet Earth. 

It may be a challenge to think of a learning-related intent every single day for the next 30 days. But we want to push all of you to think hard about what you are curious about, what subject matters give you passion, and what you have always wanted to do but have always been scared of doing. After writing down the ones you are immediately eager to learn about, you may be surprised at the other goals, classes and subjects you have been itching to learn about in the coming weeks.

So what is your learning intent of the moment? Maybe your intent is to start taking night classes in a skill you’ve always wanted to learn. Or maybe you want to learn how to start your own business. Or maybe you simply want to recommit your dedication in learning how to be a better parent, better listener, better friend and better citizen of the world.

Start posting your intents today (please tag them #30dayslearning), and feel free to also share in the comments below. Looking forward to reading what all of you are interested in learning more about in the coming days and weeks.



PHOTO (cc): Flickr / jaythebooknerd

Back To School Tips: Cool School Lunch Ideas For Kids

As you know by now, all parents have a different idea of what is healthy food and what is not. For years, you have had the opportunity to hand select and monitor what your child eats for lunch. Now it is time to test their ability. It is only natural for your child’s eyes to wander and notice, and be envious of, what the other kids are eating. Here are a few tips that may help your child’s lunch be healthy, fun and get noticed by the other kids.
The lunchbox: It is important to have the right gear and the lunchbox is an important asset. Consider letting your child pick out his own lunchbox or purchase one and let him decorate it with paint or markers. Make sure your child’s name is on it with a permanent marker or paint. Most schools will not provide a refrigerator to store lunchboxes, so you should select an insulated one with a re-usable freezer pack to keep the lunch fresh. Or, instead of using a freezer pack, you can freeze a bottle of water, and add it to the lunch box. It will keep the lunch cold and fresh during morning classes and by lunch time it will have thawed and be ready to drink.
More gear – containers: Those gimmicky, salt, fat and sugar-filled, "Lunchables" trays are very popular with kids. Not because they taste so good, but because look so cool. There is no reason a homemade lunch needs to look dull and unappetizing. Buy colorful containers in different shapes to pack your child’s lunch. They are better than plastic bags and less wasteful too. If your child is drawn to characters, buy some stickers and decorate the containers. Put your child’s name on the containers, but it is inevitable that some containers may not make their way home. Another option is to purchase inexpensive or "semi" disposable containers that will not disappoint you if they accidentally end up in the trash.
Offer plenty of choices: Provide small servings and many choices — variety is a key to healthy eating. Providing your child with plenty of variety is not hard or time consuming. Many lunch foods can be prepared, in advance, in large quantities. Each morning, simply fill up small containers with different foods. Quick lunchbox food suggestions include:
  • Dried fruit
  • Nuts
  • Fresh fruit pieces or a piece of whole fruit
  • Applesauce (no sugar added)
  • Celery sticks filled with cream cheese and raisins, or white bean dip
  • Sugar snap peas with Ranch dressing for dipping
  • Yogurt or a smoothie
  • Lunch meat roll-ups with cream cheese and an asparagus in the middle
  • Hard boiled egg
  • Cheese cubes or string cheese logs
  • Peanut butter (or sunflower butter) and apple slices or crackers
  • White bean dip or hummus with carrots and mini pita breads
  • Whole grain crackers or pretzels
  • Trail mix made from cereal, nuts and dried fruit
Talk to your child about lunchtime: Don’t assume that your child’s uneaten lunch is sign that he did not like the food. If you ask a few questions, you may find that your child does not have enough time to eat lunch or that he is spending more time socializing with his friends than actually chewing. Asking questions will give you the opportunity to help him learn other important skills such as managing his time and selecting times to socialize.
Simple lunch box recipes:
Pineapple Kabobs
Ingredients: Makes 4 mini-kabobs
  • 4 Fresh Pineapple Chunks (1/2-inch pieces)
  • 2 ounces Colby Jack Marble cheese cubes (½ inch pieces)
  • 2 ounces deli ham (1/4 inch slice, cut into 1-inch squares
  • Toothpicks
Using toothpicks, assemble the mini-kabobs on a toothpick in the following manner: 1 ham square, 1 pineapple chunk, 1 ham square, and a cheese cube.
Per Serving: 66 Cal (17% from Fat, 16% from Protein, 67% from Carb); 3 g Protein; 1 g Tot Fat; 12 g Carb; 1 g Fiber; 9 g Sugar; 14 mg Calcium; 0 mg Iron; 131 mg Potassium; 48 IU Vit A; 0 mg ATE Vit E; 48 mg Vit C
Veggie version: Substitute teriyaki-flavored baked tofu for the ham/cheese. Baked tofu can easily be sliced into small cubes and is very tasty with the pineapple.
Per Serving: 54 Cal (11% from Fat, 11% from Protein, 79% from Carb); 2 g Protein; 1 g Tot Fat; 12 g Carb; 1 g Fiber; 9 g Sugar; 34 mg Calcium; 0 mg Iron; 116 mg Potassium; 48 IU Vit A; 0 mg ATE Vit E; 47 mg Vit C
Trail Mix
Combine any or all of these ingredients in an airtight container and toss gently to mix. Store airtight. Lasts for weeks.
Dry snacks: cereal (low in sugar – under 5g per serving), small pretzels, graham cracker or rice cake pieces, or animal crackers.
Dried fruits: Cherries, apricots, raisins, mangoes or coconut flakes (Tip: big pieces of dried fruit can be cut up easily using kitchen shears).
Nuts and seeds: sliced almonds, pecan pieces, cashew pieces, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds or peanut pieces.
Kiwi Wraps or rolls
These wraps can be served as a traditional wrap sandwich or slice it into pieces (like a sushi roll) for bite sized treats.
1 tablespoon peanut butter or sunflower butter
1 tablespoon cream cheese
1/2 kiwi
Tortilla — whole wheat or plain (squared)
Remove the skin from the kiwi and slice it into thin rounds. Spread peanut butter over half the wrap and cream cheese on the other half of the wrap. Arrange the kiwi slices evenly over the cream cheese. Beginning on the cream cheese end, gently roll up the tortilla forming a log shape. The peanut butter will act as the glue to keep it together. Serve.
Per Serving: 323 Cal (46% from Fat, 12% from Protein, 43% from Carb); 10 g Protein; 17 g Tot Fat; 35 g Carb; 4 g Fiber; 5 g Sugar; 92 mg Calcium; 2 mg Iron; 308 mg Potassium; 235 IU Vit A; 52 mg ATE Vit E; 42 mg Vit C
About the author: Cheryl Tallman is the co-founder of Fresh Baby, creators of the award-winning So Easy Baby Food Kit, and author of the So Easy Baby Food Basics: Homemade Baby Food in Less Than 30 Minutes Per Week and So Easy Toddler Food: Survival Tips and Simple Recipes for the Toddler Years. Visit Cheryl online at www.FreshBaby.com for more delicious tips.


Back to School Tips for Parents

 Although most of the country is still sweltering in the throes of summer heat, young people across the nation are thinking about new school supplies and what to wear on that anticipated first day of classes.

A new year means a new start and here are some strengths tips that will make the transition back to school easier for you and your child.


Start the year off right by getting to know your child’s teachers. One way to begin to foster positive relationships with teachers is to sit down with your elementary or middle school child and together write your teachers a letter of introduction. In this letter you can include personal information about your family, your child and your hopes for the school year. For example, you may wish to introduce yourself with an anecdote about your most memorable learning experience. Follow this up with a few lines about your greatest hopes for your child’s school year. Introduce your sons or daughters to the teacher by explaining little known facts such as how you chose your child’s name or their favorite books, colors or funniest memory. Do this with your child, so the introduction includes both your voices. By offering little known facts in this manner, the teacher will get to know you and your child in a more a personal way from the start and you will signal that you desire a positive relationship.

Let the teacher know your child’s strengths. List two or three things that your child loves to do and ask the teacher to consider this when interacting with your child. Is your child organized? Talkative? Inquisitive? Every child has strengths they bring to the classroom. When you alert these to the teacher from the get-go, your child and the teacher have a foundation to build on.

Finish your letter by inviting the teacher to write back. Ask the teacher similar questions: what is your favorite book? What was your best learning experience? When did you know you wanted to become a teacher? It is even better if you have the time to have this conversation in person. However, teachers are extremely busy at the start of the year and might welcome the letter instead. Teachers also like to save things about their students and chances are a letter of this kind will become a cherished part of a teacher’s memory folder.


It is estimated that children spend more than 75 percent of their time in school focused on social interactions. More often than not, the quality of your child’s friendships will be a significant influence in their success in school. You can’t choose your child’s friends, but there are several things you can do to help. Children function best socially when they are open to diversity in their relationships. The idea of a BFF (best friend forever) is an attractive and alluring idea that is often a highway to unhappiness. Because conflict is an inevitable part of new relationships, those children who limit their relationships by declaring BFFs too soon, or latching onto a clique are often isolated as soon as the conflicts occur.

Before school begins, sit with your child and make a list of their strengths. List everything they feel energized by whether it is a sport, a certain subject or an activity such as collecting coins or stickers. Encourage your child to find a different person who shares each one of the strengths. When young people are associated with others around shared interests, there is more opportunity for uninhibited self-expression. The focus of the relationships becomes less about popularity and more about sharing interests. Remind your child often of the importance of connecting with different kinds of children, even if they don’t consider them friends.


Start the year off right by preparing the environment for home study. All children do not study in the same way. You can help your child by determining in advance where and when your child will study at home. Some people can study in the bedroom while others are more focused at the dining room table. Some people can concentrate with music, while others prefer silence. Room temperature can play a part in a child’s ability to focus. Is your child someone who likes it cool or warm? Does the study space accommodate this? Don’t assume that the way you study is the same as your child. Each person learns in a different way.

How do you get your child to focus on homework and not on social networking or computer games? Hopefully the homework they bring home will be engaging, active and involve others but you can’t count on that. Making deals or contracts about computer use in relationship to studying or homework can be effective. Rather than disallowing all computer use until the homework is finished, try breaking the study time up between school tasks and free time. Agree that a half hour of study may be followed by a half hour of computer or television. When you make deals and not only demands, young people tend to be more cooperative.


Listen carefully to your child. Adults have a tendency to want to give advice rather than listen to a child’s experience. If you can do one thing to foster your children’s successes it will be to listen to their experiences. Rather than asking your child what he learned in school that day, ask him to tell you a story of the funniest thing that happened, what surprised him most or to describe the best interaction with someone. The quality of the questions parents ask their children will determine the level of response. Young people tend to open up when they believe adults are genuinely interested in their experiences. Don’t judge what your child tells you. Instead, follow up with more questions and comments as to what they said. Listen for your child’s uniqueness and individual experience with learning and school. When these interactions become regularly integrated into your daily routine, your child will see you are truly invested in his or her learning rather than simply wanting them to get good grades. Good grades are never as important as true engagement in learning.


The more you seek out what is unique about your child and begin to see these individual qualities as strengths to be shared, the more successful your child will be socially and in school. If you begin the year on a proactive note, showing your child and your child’s teachers that you are part of the learning relationship– then the chances increase for your child’s success in school.


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