Make It A September To Remember

kids in schoolyard
September is a great month to get your business involved in local schools.

 It’s September already (can you believe it?!) and maybe the schools in your neighborhood have been in session for a few weeks now or perhaps they’re just kicking off the new school year. No matter where you live it’s not too late to think about reaching out to a neighborhood school or school district to see how you can help out. Not only is it a great way to build a positive image of your agency, it’s a wonderful, cost-effective, subtle advertising technique that has the potential to reap so many benefits for your business’ reputation. The options are endless to make your community and clients remember your business this September and beyond.

Why Reach Out to Schools?

school supplies
A backpack drive is a great tool to increase your business’s visibility in the community.

Schools need support from everyone, not just teachers and parents. Businesses in the community are a great resource. You likely have assets that schools can benefit from and the payback may be the most valuable you’ll ever receive. Your public perception from an act of community goodwill will skyrocket. You’ll be reaching an untapped audience and will gain some loyal clients in the process.

Think Outside the Backpack

Of course a school isn’t going to turn down a check so if that’s all you have time or energy to commit to, don’t hesitate to fill one out and send it in. The recipients will be more than grateful and any amount large or small will be appreciated and a positive association to your agency will be made. But if you have some time to offer, try some of these creative ideas that can help you help the kids and schools in your community and leave a lasting impression and impact.

  • Sponsor a backpack drive. To get started, set up collection boxes in your lobby, design posters promoting it, and post on your social media accounts exactly what you’re collecting. Clients old and new can swing by and drop off their donations. Give a goal that you want to fill up X number of backpacks before school begins to distribute to children in the community. Once the deadline passes and you have your backpacks filled, you can distribute as you see fit. Contact the school’s principal if you’re not sure how or where to hand the backpacks out. Even if school is already in session, you can collect some supplies to distribute all year long.
  • Get branded supplies. Think about a cheap, customizable school supply that will be used constantly and then order within your budget. Be sure to order it with your logo or contact information prominently displayed so your name isn’t forgotten. There will always be a need for a pencil, pen, or highlighter so why not have potential clients (or their children) reach for one with your name on it?
  • Get in touch with the PTA. If you’re at a loss as to where to focus your efforts, ask the parents, particularly ones on the school’s PTA. They know what projects need the most attention and are most urgent. Maybe there’s an upcoming Teacher Appreciation Day that needs a lunch sponsored or the gym needs a new coat of paint. Foot the bill and get great exposure and word-of-mouth advertising for your agency.
  • Sponsor Back-To-School Night. It’s the one night a year where parents and teachers are running through the halls trying to get acclimated to their new normals. You can have a table with giveaways (don’t forget to display your business cards) or maybe some water bottles to quench the thirst of some chatty parents. Whatever it is you come up with you will have guaranteed foot traffic of potential clients that night.

Little Effort, Big Impact

little boy at school
Pull your company out of a marketing slump and get involved in a back-to-school campaign.

Back-to-school time is a golden opportunity for you and your business to get involved in your community or foster an already established relationship. It’s easy to get lost in a sea of other businesses so use this time to put you and your business back on potential clients’ radar. If you’re in a marketing slump, consider a September comeback and make it an annual giving event. You’re the best judge of the amount of time, money, and involvement you can afford so take a look and make a big (or small) move and make it a September to remember!

6 Tips to Mentally Prepare for This Year’s Back to School

Each year, as summer draws to a close and Labor Day approaches, parents and children across the country brace themselves for one big day: the first day of school. Mixed emotions hit everyone: excitement, anxiety, relief – there might even be some tears, whether they come from nervous little ones or parents overwhelmed with bittersweet emotion (or joy!). But this year, on top of all of this, we have to deal with something none of us have any roadmap for: returning to school after a worldwide pandemic shook up everything, including our education system, last year. Some children have already been back to in-person learning, and some haven’t, but all will probably need a reminder on how to mentally prepare for their big day this year. So how can you, as a parent, help your child get ready to climb those schoolhouse steps again?

1. Talk It Out

silhouette of a woman and a child talking on a bench
Talk with your child about the new school year and any anxiety they might have.

Normalizing open communication with your children is always a good idea, but is especially important when a big change or transition is coming up – and, for some children, a return to in-person learning (or the start of a full year back at school after a changeable pandemic year) will feel huge. Knowing that they have someone to talk to is critical for children (and teens, even if it seems like they’re just going to grunt in response!), so don’t be afraid to talk openly with them about their feelings. To get the lines of communication open:

  • Start with a family meeting well before the first day of school – Give your children a safe space to share what’s on their mind, as well as get in touch with and organize their own feelings about their return to school, well before school starts. Remember to keep it balanced, and ask about what they’re excited about and looking forward to, not just what they’re worried about. You might even find that the fears you think they have are more a reflection of how you’re feeling.
  • Keep communication going with daily check-ins – Quick, regular conversations that happen every day in the car, at the start of dinner, or before bed will help establish a consistent time for children to discuss what is going on in their lives, and will keep up the process of normalizing talking about their feelings. 
  • Don’t forget to take care of yourself – Remember, this past year has been stressful for the whole family – including you! – so you might need to talk to someone, too. You need to take care of your own mental health in order to be there for your children, so don’t hesitate to reach out to a parent support group or a therapist

2. Start a Routine Early

As chaotic as children can seem, they actually thrive on routine: it helps them feel like things are predictable, under control, and can even help foster a sense of responsibility in them if they are active parts of making their day run smoothly. For many children, last year was very disruptive to their normal routines, and it might take time for them to get back into the rhythm of things, especially if they will be returning to in-person learning for the first time this fall. But having a morning routine that starts the day in a peaceful way, as well as an afternoon routine that involves homework, activities, getting ready for the next day, and a reasonable bedtime, will be very important to get your children back on track, so start planning well before school begins and try:young caucasian kid sleeping in a bed

  • Focusing on sleep – Consider making bedtimes and wake-up times 10 minutes earlier each day as the first day of school approaches.
  • Trying things out – Have a trial run of your daily routine for a week before school begins, remembering that everyone might still be getting used to commuting and being where everyone needs to be at a set time!
  • Get the kiddos involved – Getting your children involved in helping with the daily routine can give them a feeling of ownership over it, which can also help ease their anxieties. For younger children, give them a chart with pictures and stickers to help them map out their day; for older children and teens, try to encourage independence by giving them their own calendar or daily planner, and asking them to prep each evening for the next day by picking out clothes, packing their lunch, or setting their own alarm, for example. 

3. Create a “New School Year Resolutions” List 

Last year was completely unprecedented for most people, which means that the goals and expectations that your children had for their school year (and that you had for them) might not have been met – and that’s ok! This past year and a half has been about getting by as best we can, and it will take time to get back into a relatively “normal” way of life, so don’t expect things to change overnight – routines, socializing, sleep cycles, everything will need to be adapted. 

What you can do is set realistic expectations, and allow your children to do the same, while still encouraging them to be excited about the year ahead and the upcoming chance to get back on track. To this end, you can ask them what their “new school year resolutions” list looks like: for example, they might want to introduce themselves to one new person this year or get weekly assignments done a day earlier than they used to. Just remember to keep it lighthearted and simple!

4. Get Practical

illustration of a woman with her hand on a boys head and the boy had a speech bubble with a virus in it
Talk to your children about what to expect in school with the Covid-19 virus, and the possibility of wearing a mask.

Just as having a predictable routine can be reassuring for children, knowing what to expect practically from everyday situations can also be helpful in easing anxiety and combating stress. Little things that might not seem that important to you, like knowing the layout of their school, or having their daily schedule broken down for them, can really give them a sense of grounding and familiarity that should make the transition a lot smoother. 

In addition, be frank with your children about the safety measures that they can expect to return to this year, especially if they haven’t experienced in-person learning in the time of Covid. Try to reframe any negativity surrounding these measures into a more positive light, reminding them that whatever your school district is doing (masking, distancing, putting up partitions, etc), just means that they school is helping them do what they need to do to keep themselves healthy and back in school where they belong! 

5. Be Proactive About Mental Health

Whether or not your child has already been back to in-person learning, they might still be feeling the effects of the pandemic on their mental health – after all, this was a collective trauma that we all experienced, and children have not been immune to the depression and anxiety that many of us have been suffering from. We still don’t know what the long-term psychological effects of this past year could be, so as your children head back to school this year, you’ll need to check them for more than just lice or signs that they’re being bullied. Look for signs and symptoms that something is not quite right, like:

  • Isolation
  • Irritability
  • Low mood or energy
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Lack of enjoyment in normal activities
  • Excessive concerns about safety
  • Lack of motivation

When in doubt, talk to someone about your concerns, whether it’s a school counselor or your pediatrician – it’s ok to have a low threshold for getting help right now, since we are in uncharted waters!

6. Be Positivecaucasian woman holding a young girl and kissing her head.

Being positive about the upcoming year is probably one of the best ways to get your children ready for back to school! We get it, keeping a sunny outlook is not always easy, but remember that your children will always be tuned into you and your reactions, and will follow your lead. Try to engage in self-care that will help you focus on the good things for the upcoming year, and share that positivity with your children. 

If your children are having trouble getting back into a routine, or are resistant to going back to school, remember that all of this has been tough on them, and they might also need more positive reinforcement. Praise them often for making good choices and fulfilling responsibilities, and build things into their lives that “reward” them for their hard work and give them a much needed break from any anxiety they’re feeling, like time at the park with you or other activities they enjoy. 

Last school year was like no other we’ve ever experienced, and we still don’t know exactly what this upcoming one will look like. What we do know is that things have been tough on everyone, including our children, so we all need to work a bit harder this year to make the transition back to school a little easier. But with the tactics above, and a sense of optimism and hope, we can all get our lives back on track and our children back to where they need to be!

Beat The Back To School Blues

As this unusual summer rapidly draws to a close, it can be hard to visualize how this school year is going to unfold. But whether you’re dropping the kids off at school, or setting up a kitchen classroom, the first few weeks of a new routine can be a drag. When summer vacation ends, it can feel like your family drifts apart as everyone dives back into school and work. Keep the family tight-knit and together with these school year strategies to support learning and quality time! 

Strategies For School Year Successcaucasian mom and daughter sitting outside on a bench talking

  • Have clear, open communication about everyone’s feelings. Children, parents, and teachers are likely all feeling strong emotions about the new school year: relief, concern, excitement, apprehension. Having an open conversation with your family can help create a space where they feel comfortable sharing how they’re feeling. Try also imagining with your children how teachers might be feeling, which will be a great lesson in empathy as well as a way to help children feel less alone in their emotions.
  • Develop a family schedule. Summers can be a free-for-all, but it’s time to tighten up the schedule to prepare for a productive school year. Education experts suggest getting a one-month headstart on a morning routine similar to that of the school year: wake up at a reasonable hour, do morning chores, and have a healthy breakfast before beginning the activities of the day.
  • Have consistent family dinners. Professionals across fields cannot stress the value of family dinnertime enough.  Family dinners strengthen the family bond, set an  expectation for conversation and catching up on the day, and work as great social learning opportunities for younger children. While it’s not possible for every family to have a home-cooked meal every night, having at least one night a week where the family collaborates to cook, serve, and enjoy a meal together is priceless. 
  • Designate learning spaces in the house. Whether your school year is in-person, virtual, or a hybrid of both, it’s important to have clearly defined learning spaces. It might be your child’s bedroom, a corner of the living room, or the kitchen table, but what matters is that it is free of clutter and distractions, so you can create a focused, productive environment.caucasian woman with child in the cobra position on the floor
  • Make time to move. With the return of the school year it’s easy for exercise to get put on the backburner. Movement is so critical for growing bodies and learning brains! When children have an opportunity to move, stretch, and run with freedom, they’re able to come back focused and ready to work
  • Prioritize self-care. Self care looks different for every family and for every stage of childhood development, but it is never too early to start this habit! If your child has a long, hard day of learning, encourage them to take a special break just for them. Maybe it’s a bubble bath, a cup of tea, or time with just you; anything that feels special and relaxing.
  • Build confidence. Returning to learning after an extended time out of the classroom might have some children feeling insecure. Take time everyday to celebrate their successes, talk through any struggles, and remind them how awesome they are! 

What Children Really Need

african american family in a huddle hugging.

Children need affection and emotional support, but what they truly crave are lovingly set boundaries. Boundaries allow children to feel safe and secure in their role within the family: predictability reduces anxiety and uncertainty, and allows children to be children rather than negotiators. So, when the school year starts up and your child balks at bedtime, it’s okay to reinforce the boundary you’ve set – it doesn’t make you a mean or unfair parent to uphold what you know to be best.

Children’s brains are still developing (new studies believe that the brain doesn’t fully develop until almost age 25!), and their prefrontal lobe, which controls executive function, logic, and decision making, is particularly underdeveloped. Children between the ages of 8 and 12 are in a stage of “concrete thinking”, which limits their ability to think in more abstract, nuanced terms. This is why concrete rules and boundaries are appropriate, and so helpful, for the school year. Their brains are literally unable to control impulsivity, decision making, and problem solving, so it is our job as parents to do that for them. 

As you head back to school – however it looks for you this year – try all of these strategies to get your kids on track and ready to learn, and don’t be afraid to set boundaries. As the school year progresses and the novelty wears off, it might become difficult to maintain these routines. But even if your children fight you, it’s important to persevere! Consistent, loving boundaries are the key to building a successful school year routine.

It’s Never Too Late To Go Back To School

Education is an important life goal; you can always go back to school! It doesn’t have to be age-specific. As long as you have a plan, and want to learn, you can return whenever you want. The benefits of a college or trade school education are the same for anyone: a better brain, exposure to social life, and opportunities to build your career.

college or university hallway
Walking the halls can be done at any age. Don’t let this intimidate you.

Do these sounds like things you want in your life? You should take a second look at a degree or licensing program if it’s true. However, questions may come up when you think about school again. Why should I go back? What will happen if I do? Where do I begin the search? Don’t worry too much about specifics. Start with your intentions.

Why Go Back to School?

Your initial “why” is the most important because school gets hard. You want to have a good motivator to fall back on. Despite popular opinion, higher education isn’t for everyone. We all have different intelligence types that need their own cultivation. If you’re interested in a trade, a technical or vocational school would be a wiser choice. You can hone your craft in a better environment, and the same goes for apprenticeships. All these choices will provide you with the benefits we talked about earlier. Choose one to focus on.

If it’s the brain benefits, you should probably focus on a low-cost or free school online. If it’s a social life, you could skip that altogether and focus on finding friends. A solid choice would be if you’re wanting a career where more training and knowledge is required. Taking career aptitude tests, personality quizzes, or even starting a journal for a few months as you explore salable skills will finetune your decision to return to education. 

What to Search For

If you’ve decided to further your education with college/university, the next step is to decide on your major. This should be directly relevant to your desired job type, or at least in the umbrella of your industry type. This way, your investment in education will place you as close as possible to the career path you want. 

After your major, look into which facility will support your dreams the best. This is where budget and location come into play.  The same goes for trade and vocational schools. While they don’t have the breadth of university education, their focus will speed you toward your goal, which makes it more important that you decide what you want before applying.

people who went back to school discussing a project
It’s going to take hard work but focus on the results. What’s your main goal?

Unfortunately, education is a business, which means money drives it forward. We live in a time where college debt is a staggering amount; Americans owe $1.53 trillion in student loan debt. You must make double sure that you’re willing to gamble with this career path.  With careful planning and scholarships, you can make smart decisions in managing your budget. The upside of this is that many community colleges offer budget solutions. They understand the college path is an expensive one, and often work with students when starting out. Check out a local community college and don’t be afraid to ask for advice. 

You may be fortunate enough to live within driving distance of a university. Research what they specialize in, their career advancement opportunities(such as internships), and what their values are as an organization. Colleges are mini-cities with their own personality, so make sure the one you choose aligns with what you think is important. Also, use this as an opportunity to grow your business network or make some new friends.

Another choice is online college. With technology’s advance, we can educate ourselves on our time at our pace. However, the disadvantage of online education is it can make communicating harder. If you’re used to having conversations, the slower email or chatting process can drag.

How to Apply 

The college application process is fairly straightforward. You’ll need your transcripts from previous schools, complete your FAFSA, check your selected university’s deadlines and requirements, then apply. 

people excited about graduating from college
This could be you! No matter where you go, decide to improve yourself!

Trade schools are much more accepting. There are usually no deadlines for applying, and most have an online application. More good news is that these schools don’t have stringent requirements like SAT scores or essays. 

Once accepted, you’ll be back in the academic setting. In contemporary times, we have so much support in the education structure. Depending on your institution, there will be counselors, success coaches, tutors, and career advisors all available to you to ease you along your path. Be sure to know your intention, that way, you will be mindful in asking for help.