Back to school guest post: Nicole Blades

August 30, 2017

We asked some of our favorite parenting bloggers about their back-to-school routines. This week we’re thrilled to feature novelist, freelance journalist, and mom, Nicole Blades.

What has historically been your biggest challenge with getting your children ready for the school year? We’ve noticed that our son has a little anxiousness mixed in with his excitement to start school. So a day or two before the First Day of School, he may start saying how he wishes he didn’t have to go or how he’s not looking forward to anything or that “it’s going to be boring.”

What one or two things did you discover that made that challenge easier? We’ve figured out our best way of dealing with this splash of nervousness he goes through is to talk it out with him. Just casual, during bath time or storytime or over breakfast–never making anything a big deal we gently remind him how much fun he had last year or at camp or any other situation where it was new and he had to settle in. Once we get talking about all the “good,” it tends to quiet the nervousness that is starting to bubble up inside. We also talk up all the positives (new backpack, new fun teacher, seeing buddies again) and highlight those things for him.

What are you most dreading about this school year? Honestly? Making lunch every day. Our son will sometimes go through “no sandwiches” stints and we’re left scrambling trying to figure out what to pack for him instead.

What about this school year are you most excited about? I’m excited about seeing the new things this kid will learn. In third grade the children are introduced to a second language; they’ll be learning Spanish. Third grade was a wonderful year for me as a child, and I’m hoping he will have a wonderful experience too.

What do you think is the most overblown aspect of back to school that gets more press than it deserves? Maybe the “hottest back-to-school gear” stories are a bit much sometimes. After all, they are basically the same supplies from the last five or 10 years ago!

What is your best back-to-school shopping hack? Have my kid help pick out his backpack, lunch bag, school supplies, and shoes, etc. It helps add a bit of excitement for them, and they have a bit of polished-up pride about their new gear. I also wait for the tax-free shopping week to buy at least TWO pairs of shoes for my kid–with one of them being a half-size larger for a mid-year replacement of beat-up running shoes.

What is your best back-to-school hack at home? We talk about when we (his mom and dad) were heading back to school. We tell him about some of his favorite things of that school year, things we played at recess, etc. He likes hearing that we were just like him once. It seems to set him at ease with anything he might be feeling nervous about. I also like to have his new bag and supplies all labeled, washed, folded, packed up, and ready a week before school starts. It sends him a message about being organized and prepared and it also kind of plants that seed of excitement.

What's the one thing you’d caution all parents to avoid doing? Talking about things that didn’t go so well last year. If the child faced challenges with homework or spelling or grasping a new concept in math last year, bringing it back up before the new year kicks off is not the best move. Try to start with a clean page and help children bring their focus forward; send them the message that they will always, always have another opportunity to try again and improve without the weight of “the past” weighing on their backs.

What's the one thing you’d suggest every parent do? Start getting them “back to regular bedtime” two weeks before school starts. They may have had a lot of relaxed rules for the summer when it comes to bedtime, but it’s so important that these kids get the right amount of good sleep during the school year. Two weeks gives you enough time to get back into the flow of things and avoid night-before “can’t sleep” excitement getting in the way.

What is your biggest accomplishment around back to school you want to brag about? I can’t think of anything! Ha. Can I think about this?

For more back to school tips, tools and strategies, check out these posts:

Nicole Blades is a novelist and freelance journalist who has been putting her stories on paper since the third grade. Born and raised in Montreal, Nicole moved to New York City and launched her journalism career working at Essence magazine. She later co-founded the online magazine SheNetworks and worked as an editor at ESPN and Women's Health. Nicole’s work has appeared in The New York Times, Cosmopolitan, Women's Health, Good Housekeeping,,, SELF, Health, and BuzzFeed. Her next book, HAVE YOU MET NORA?, will be released on October 31, 2017, and her latest novel, THE THUNDER BENEATH US, is available now.

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