Back-to-School Briefs

* Being lost: "The thing that worries me most is if I will be able to find my room, and if I do ask somebody, if they are going to tell me the wrong directions."

--Kashonna, sixth grade

What to do: In a time of more serious concerns, parents should feel relieved to know that students worry most about getting lost. Tell your child that teachers are generally very tolerant the first few days as students adjust to their new school; some schools even offer orientations with "dry runs" of bell schedules and a practice round of opening lockers. If not, encourage your child to ask for help from a teacher, volunteer parent, or office staff person.

* Harassment and violence: "I worry that the big kids are going to pick on me, and I worry if somebody is going to beat me up. I also worry that kids might bring guns and knives to school with them."

--Darren, sixth grade

What to do: The media tends to overplay violent incidents and ignore the hundreds of days that pass without problems. Whether it's minor issues of hazing or the more serious issues of weapons and violence, students should look to adults for help. Encourage your child to create a "buddy" system with friends who can familiarize themselves with authority figures. Tell them that their concerns will be taken seriously.

* Harder teachers, classes, grades: "My mom is always saying that if I get really good grades, maybe I can get a scholarship. So I worry, 'What if the classes are really hard and I can't get good grades?'"

--Kristine, ninth grade

What to do: Find out if your school has a home hotline; many schools also offer free tutorial programs, often right after school, on the premises.

* Making new friends: "I just moved here from Maryland and I don't know anybody. I'm worried I won't have anybody to talk to."

--John, seventh grade

What to do: Any child in a new situation naturally feels worried about making friends. Some schools offer "buddy" programs that pair new students with old. In the absence of an organized overture, take advantage of youth programs and community classes offered by churches and community groups such as the YMCA. Or look into having your child join one of the many social, athletic, or academic clubs offered right at school.

* Drugs, alcohol, cigarettes: "I worry about the peer pressure to drink or do drugs. If you don't, older people might think you're just a goodie-goodie freshman."

--Kellye, ninth grade

What to do: While schools do address the issues of making positive choices, through drug-education curriculum and services for children having difficulties, the most important person they need to hear this from is you. Talk with your children and know their friends. Invite them to your home. Tell your child that you expect her to make positive choices and that you are available to help.

Talking with your preteen or teen won't eliminate all anxiety, but it may spawn some helpful solutions.

--Kim Ingram
(Source: Dallas Family Magazine)



The best of children's literature is celebrated in a new magazine based in the Twin Cities. Riverbank Review offers a lively discussion of children's literature by some of the nation's finest authors, critics, and educators.

The quarterly magazine, published in affiliation with the University of St. Thomas School of Education, features book reviews, essays, interviews, articles by writers and artists on writing and illustrating for children, and many other features of interest to parents, educators, and librarians, says editor Martha Davis Beck. Beck, the mother of two young readers, is the former children's book editor of the Hungry Mind Review.

Among Riverbank's regular features are "Bookmark," highlighting ten outstanding books on varying themes, and "One for the Shelf," which spotlights books appropriate for family reading. The publication is also the new home of the Children's Books of Distinction Awards, previously presented by the Hungry Mind Review.

Riverbank Review is available in bookstores and by subscription. Subscriptions are $20/year or $35/two years. For information, call (651) 962-4372. You can also check out their Web site at



Raise your hand if you count packing lunches as one of the most disdainful of your back-to-school duties. For all of you, help is here. Deidre Schipani, manager of culinary services for Lunds and Byerly's, offers these suggestions to liven up this thankless routine:

* As much as is reasonable, let kids select and pack their own lunches; they're more likely to eat what's inside.

* Compartmentalize. Kids like things in their own containers. Think Japanese bento boxes. Or fill plastic containers with cut-up fruits, vegetables, and cheese and crackers.

* Think small portion sizes.

* Think edible containers, such as a salad in a hollowed apple, pita pockets, cucumber stacks filled with peanut butter, tomatoes filled with salad.

* Wrap it up. Think tortillas or pitas.

* Cut sandwiches into fun shapes with cookie cutters.

--Gail Rosenblum

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