Back to School Blues - How to transition from one year to the next

  • Written by Elizabeth McAninch, Language Arts Teacher, Dartmoor School

As backyard barbeques, family vacations and the long days of summer begin to wind down, families everywhere are preparing for the inevitable excitement and anxiety of returning to school.

For some, this means new supplies, new clothing and new possibilities for the year. For others, however, this means what has come to be known as "the back to school blues."

Parents scramble to get last minute items on their child’s school supply list, children begin to stress over new classes and new teachers, and everyone laments the finale of days of freedom and sleeping in.

While we often disregard this phenomenon, we should not take these feelings of anxiety lightly. According to APA psychologist Lynn Bufka, PhD, "The end of summer and the beginning of a new school year can be a stressful time for parents and children. While trying to manage work and the household, parents can sometimes overlook their children’s feelings of nervousness or anxiety as school begins."

Change is always a difficult thing, but there are some ways we can deal with this anxiety we may feel. Making the transition together can help. Setting up a routine that works smoothly can make busy mornings easier and put our body clocks back on a normal schedule. A routine can also help us to avoid exhaustion and disorganization. 

Organization can also help us transition with ease. Having a place for all of our anticipated materials from classes can enhance our focus as well as our productivity. An organized workplace at home can carry over into how we handle our school work and we can prepare by setting this workplace up prior to the beginning of school. If children have an organized place to work at home they will feel more confident about the work that is being given to them at school.  

If children are hesitant to return to school, discuss the positive aspects of school a child will appreciate, such as meeting new people and learning new things.

Lastly, reach out to your teacher before school and begin forming a positive relationship. Creating this comfortable environment will make returning to school fun and an event that we begin to anticipate.

The end of a fun, event-filled summer can create a sense of dread for the return of homework, difficult classes and new teachers but battling the back to school blues is simple if parents and children work together. Keeping communication open and organization essential will help to develop a routine to help us adjust with as much ease as possible.  

Art Can Give You And Your Child An Edge To Success

  • Written by Nicole Stremlow Monahan, Monahan Studio

The light-filled room is comfortable with soft music, quiet conversation and the scratch of pencils on paper. Students are observing colour, shapes, and the way the light actually hits trunks of the trees across the bubbling creek. Describing and analyzing it, then creating their interpretations on paper.

Occasionally someone may change their mind about how it is drawn, and tweak a few things to improve it. A bird may enter the view and add more inspiration and the student will then problem-solve how to get the new element in. This might spark conversation and collaboration on how it could be done.

For some, frustration sets in, but persistence takes over to find a way to make the creation of personal expression work in the end. It turns out beautiful and the student is so happy and proud they completed their work of art.

Art gives both children and adults an edge in this technology driven world because it helps to grow skills such as confidence, problem- solving skills, observation, persistence and creativity of personal expression, just to name a few of the necessary skills to succeed beyond typical learning in school.

Another important factor to consider is that the act of creating something actively engages the hands and mind, so that your body can relax and the stress of a busy life can melt away and refresh you, ready to take on more.

Here are some easy ways to bring art into your home and make it a part of your family’s path to success:

1. Designate an area that is just for creating your favorite form of art. Have it set up and tidy so that it is easy to jump in even for just a few moments. Even a small table and shelves in the kitchen area can work very well. Just have it ready to go and not in the way of other activities.

2. Celebrate your own work or your child’s work by hanging it up or showing to others.

3. Take pictures of the work and make a photo book of the art, this is particularly good for children’s work that may be odd sizes and hard to store. A book is easy to leave out to enjoy.

4. Visit an art gallery, go to the theatre, concert or museum. Even just walking around town looking at public art can be fun. Make a scavenger hunt of it.

5. Enroll in art classes: dance, painting, drawing, drama, pottery, the options are endless.

6. Keep a sketchbook handy to pass the time when waiting in line or when inspiration hits. Daily practice helps to keep the mind active, learning and calm.

So in your pursuit for happiness and success in life, don’t forget to balance your mind, expand your mind, and take your skills and talents to the next level with a little exercise in the arts.

Road trip tips to spice up summer

  • Written by BPT

18100836It’s the great American summer travel tradition: the road trip. Whether you stay close to home or take off for a coast-to-coast jaunt, there’s no better way to enjoy the experience of travel as much as the destinations you visit. But a truly great road trip doesn’t just happen - it takes careful planning and the right gear.

When you pull out the map to plot your route, start thinking of ways to make your road trip easier and more fun than any you’ve done before. Ensure everyone is involved in the planning stage, from mom and dad to the youngest kids, so that each family member feels that they’re contributing and putting their own spin on the trip.

Before the big departure day arrives, create some great playlists, buy on-the-go snacks and be sure to give the car a thorough inspection. That way, when you’re ready to hit the road, you’ll be doing it in style (and safely).

While planning will set the right tone for the trip, your on-the-road travel style can make your trip even more memorable. Keep these tips in mind to make your trip the ultimate road experience.

• Save smart: One of your biggest expenditures on a road trip will be gas, so keeping your budget in check means looking for the best deals at the pump. Luckily, you don’t have to drive to every gas station in town, or wait to see if the price is better at the next exit. Using the YP - Local Search & Gas Prices app, you can easily find the best gas prices nearby, along with directions for how to get there. Even if it’s a savings of a few cents per gallon, it can really add up - and leave more money for fun.

• Get local: One of the greatest things about visiting new places is getting a taste of the local culture. Whether that means digging into a slice of the famous pie at the best diner in town or picking up your morning java at the mom-and-pop coffee shop, you’ll enjoy the city like a local by trying out one-of-a-kind favorites. Use your smartphone and the YP app to discover all the favorite neighborhood spots.

• Find extra fun: You can’t plan for everything - and in fact, you shouldn’t. Leave some room for improvisation, adding some unexpected adventures to the itinerary along the way. In fact, flexibility in schedule and the ability to sightsee are the two most appealing benefits of driving over flying, according to a recent survey by YP. When you’re in uncharted territory, make the most of a smartphone by searching to discover local boutiques, gift shops, museums and more. The places you hadn’t planned on visiting might just end up being the most memorable part of your trip.

There’s nothing that captures the carefree spirit of summer quite like a road trip. Make plans in advance and travel smart and you’ll embark on a road trip journey that everyone will remember for years to come. For more great road trip inspiration, visit

Three unique ways to help kids embrace a blended family

  • Written by BPT

About 1,300 new stepfamilies form each day in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And of the 60 million American children younger than 13, half are currently living with one biological parent and that parent’s partner. As a result, couples are trying to find ways to include their stepchildren in the marriage ceremony and commemorate the union of all members of the new blended family.

Andy Netzel of Geneva, Ohio, turned to Things Remembered, the nation’s leading retailer of personalized gifts, to find something unique and meaningful to commemorate the special day he married his wife, Margie, and became stepfather to Emily, 4.

During the couple’s ceremony, instead of naming Andy and Margie husband and wife, Pastor Michael Meranda paused after the couple kissed and asked Emily to step forward. The couple hadn’t prepared the little girl for this moment. If she knew about it ahead of time, they knew she’d be anxious throughout the entire ceremony.

Andy took the microphone and told his stepdaughter-to-be that it wasn’t just he and Margie who were joined, but rather all three of them. He opened a jewelry box with a Things Remembered bracelet inside. It was engraved with "Mom, Emily, Andy."

"To me, this wasn’t just about Margie and I getting married. This was a lifelong commitment to our new family," he says. "Margie had a ring. I wanted Emily to have something she could remember this day by, even when she was getting married herself." It appears to have worked. Emily now refers to the wedding day as "the day we all got married."

Personalized treasures

More couples are turning to personalized gifts to commemorate the occasion, says Amy Myers, vice president of Creative Services at Things Remembered. The retailer has seen a steady increase in the number of couples coming in to commemorate the occasion.

"We began noticing couples using commemorative gifts about 10 years ago," Myers says. "Our store managers were the ones who pointed it out to us. We began including engraving suggestions for stepfamilies about five years ago. We have a lot of people come in, not knowing exactly what to say." Myers says the message seems to drive the gift. Once they find the right words, finding a gift is usually the easy part.

Community bricks

Many families have also purchased engraved "community bricks" to honor the day they became an official family. Bricks can be purchased through churches, schools, civic organizations or even to support a special landmark that is special to the family. Online retailer, Cut In Stone, specializes in engraved bricks of all shapes, sizes and materials.

The symbolism of creating a cornerstone to celebrate the day a blended family came together has a powerful impact, as does the permanence of placing the brick in a prominent part of the community.

Many families make a family event out of visiting the location of their brick on their anniversary. When purchasing a brick, families should inquire about purchasing a second one to keep in addition to the one that becomes part of the community landscape.

Handwritten letters

Some stepparents use the occasion to create a time capsule of sorts with a handwritten letter. In addition to writing a letter to the child about the formation of their family, stepparents can write about what this new family means to them and their hopes for their future together. This further emphasizes the transformation from a couple to an official family.

The letters are often stored in a special box with a few photos and other mementos from the wedding day. Even if the child is quite young on the wedding day, they’ll see the effort that went into making them a big part of that day - and the couple’s life.

Just as a first-time wedding is cause for celebration, the coming together of two people and their children to create a blended family is an extraordinarily special event.

By taking a moment to recognize and pay tribute to the children in a blended family, couples help children realize they are not losing a parent, but rather gaining another person or group of people to love and support them throughout their future.

Surviving summer vacation: 5 tips for an enjoyable season with family

  • Written by BPT

With summer ahead, parents are busy making plans for camps, sports and vacations. This time of year can be challenging, but there are ways to make it more enjoyable.

Learn to love this summer with your family using these five easy tips:

1. Eat foods that keep you going

Nutrition has a way of impacting almost everything we do. Not getting enough water? Expect to feel a little off. Not eating enough or eating the wrong kinds of foods can impact your energy levels. This summer, take advantage of the season’s offerings; focus on meals featuring nutritious foods like fresh vegetables, fruits and protein to keep everyone active throughout the day.

Keep convenient snacks on hand

When traveling or for busy days when there’s little time between activities, pack convenient, portion-controlled snacks like ZonePerfect nutrition bars. Featuring protein, and a variety of great tasting flavors to choose from –such as Chocolate Peanut Butter, Perfectly Simple Oatmeal Chocolate Chip and the newest additions Kidz ZonePerfect Yellow Cupcake and Greek Yogurt Vanilla Berry – these bars are a nutritious snack to keep the family fueled.

2. Communication is key

Keep a schedule on a large calendar that everyone can access. Write down all activities, times and locations. By organizing activities at the start of the week, you’ll save time and reduce misunderstandings.

3. Get everyone involved in housework

Summer activities are plentiful, which usually means that housework takes a backseat. Get the kids involved by having a designated space for each child to put their things and charge them with keeping it tidy and taking necessary items to their bedroom. This will eliminate clutter around the house and lessen your cleanup responsibilities.

4. Plan activities

While it may seem counterproductive to put more events on the schedule, it will help keep kids focused and entertained. Schedule activities that allow you to enjoy the season and provide an outlet for kids to release energy. Good options include a day at the pool or a trip to a local park or zoo.

5. Never turn down help

Take advantage of car pools and play dates, and make sure to return the favor. This could be the perfect time for you to enjoy a night out or start on that important project.

For more information on the full line of ZonePerfect Nutrition Bars, visit