Are you and your children
ready to go back to school?

Yes, that’s right, as parents we also need to be prepared for the new school year and wean ourselves off vacation mode along with our kids.

I am honored to be writing to parents for the third year, to encourage and empower you to take a renewed look at the back to school (BTS) process. Most of what I describe applies throughout the year.

It’s always good to plan, reflect on what went well and what did not in the prior year, what you may want to do differently, or new practices you may want to put into place for the coming year.

It’s often beneficial to shake things up, to try something new to improve your BTS process and stay ahead of the game.

As Jews, we have an additional factor to consider in getting ready for the new school year. Rosh Hashanah and the hagim often arrive right after school starts. On the surface, that certainly sounds like a lot more stress, especially for parents. Yet, we can also reframe our perspective, connecting and viewing the two milestones in a positive and inspiring light. Both the Jewish New Year and the new school year are about new beginnings, affording moms, dads, and children a chance to take a brand-new look at themselves. Isn’t that wonderful?

How can we communicate the multitude and breadth of available possibilities to our children and infuse them with a healthy dose of optimism and positive energy?

Hashem gave each of us a special spark of Gdliness, allowing us to start fresh every year, to reinvent ourselves and draw from our resources and reserves to make the New Year, both spiritually and academically, the best one ever! We have an incredible opportunity to renew our spirit and spark as we prepare for Rosh Hashanah.

Are you ready to jumpstart your New School Year and Rosh Hashanah? Here goes!

Let’s Get Positive, Grateful, and Optimistic

Approaching the school year and Rosh Hashanah with a positive and optimistic perspective and with gratitude can pave the way to a thriving and fulfilling year. Studies repeatedly confirm that having an optimistic and positive attitude and practicing gratitude can increase one’s happiness, improve one’s health and immune system, and can even prevent chronic disease.

You can begin to teach your children gratitude, optimism, and other life-enhancing tools at a very young age. After all, we learn Modeh Ani in pre-school. It’s the first thing as Jews that we do when we wake up. We say Modeh Ani to Hashem, thanking Him for the gift of life while we are still in bed. I sang it to my four-month-old grandson on my last visit out West.

Ask your children to articulate two or three things they are grateful for. Their responses may surprise and delight you! Please don’t forget to take time to jot down what you are grateful for before you head out to work or carpool, or before you go to sleep.

Be mindful and aware of modeling an optimistic approach with your children. Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill expressed the benefits of being optimistic perfectly. “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” His philosophy is beautifully aligned with Judaism’s teachings of viewing life with a positive and optimistic filter, a glass half-full approach versus half-empty. The significance of a positive outlook is woven into the Talmud and many of our precepts.

The power of a parent’s and sibling’s positive, optimistic, and grateful attitude can certainly be contagious, motivating your children and even Mom and Dad! We have all heard the saying “fake it till you make it.” There is evidence that “acting” a specific way and using fake it until you make it strategies helps your brain to “rehearse a new way of thinking… setting off a desired chain of events in the future.” Examples of these strategies include forcing yourself to smile, listening to happy music, and striking powerful poses. These methods also can increase self-confidence and self-esteem.

Prepare & Plan

Did everyone have a good summer? I hope you moms and dads enjoyed your break from carpooling and from helping with homework and other school related responsibilities. Did your children have fun in camp, spending time outdoors, working at summer jobs, or just relaxing?

To facilitate the transition back to early mornings and bedtimes, try to ease your kids and even yourselves into waking up and going to bed earlier before it’s time for your kids to go back to school. We all need to adjust to our new timetables and being well rested will support the entire family in getting back into the groove of school.

Is there something new happening this coming year? A change in carpool schedules, a new extracurricular activity, or even a new school? What about a new housekeeper or babysitter to train? Or a new work calendar or job for Mom or Dad?

Are you up to date with school requirements for supplies, uniforms, and gear?

Are you a list person? If you said yes, you might want to create a checklist of all the must-haves before school starts. Journal about what went well and what did not last year.

Are there new habits or practices you want to put into place? For example, do your children need to unwind a bit and have a healthy snack and drink before starting on their homework? Make sure your babysitter is on the same page as you. Give your children a head’s up on any new house rules.

Encourage, Engage, Empathize

Encourage your children to tell you what they consider to be fun about the new school year and what gives them the jitters.

Engage them in dialogue. Ask open-ended questions (vs. questions that can be answered with a yes or no) to spark and extend conversations. For example, “Tell me about the best teacher you ever had.” Once they start school, try, “What was the most interesting thing your teacher taught in class today?” versus asking, “Was Mrs. Katz nice?” It is recommended to ask positive and negative questions to allow children to voice their fears or concerns.

Express empathy and allow your children to share their feelings and validate them. A simple definition of empathy is “the ability to understand how someone else is feeling or to understand the situation they are in… to put yourself in ‘someone else’s shoes.’”

And please, listen. Listening has become a lost art. Learn how to actively listen to your child, listening to what they are saying and perhaps not saying (such as their unspoken feelings). How many times do we find ourselves distracted, preoccupied, and interrupting our children? My coaching professor taught me a fabulous acronym called WAIT, Why Am I Talking? Amanda Morin, a parent advocate and former teacher, recommends using the Platinum Rule instead of the Golden Rule with children. Treat your children the way they want and need to be treated, versus the way you would like them to
treat you.

With Rosh Hashanah just ten days away, can you talk to your children about choosing a new mitzvah to follow? Reinforce middot tovot, reminding them to be kind to other students, especially ones who are new to their school.

Converse with your children about the tie-in between the school year and Rosh Hashanah, and support them to discover their special spark, their talents, strengths, and passions.

Be mindful of your expectations of your children and of comparisons to their siblings or other children. Each child is unique and has his/her own gifts. Expose your sons and daughters to different activities and possibilities to allow them to find their special spark that Hashem has breathed into each of us!

Wishing you all a Shana Tova and an inspired school year!

Ellen Geller Kamaras, CPA/MBA, is an International Coach Federation (ICF) Associate Certified Coach. Her coaching specialties include life, career,
and dating coaching. Ellen can be contacted at