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  • school-bus-600270_1280Moving for both adults and children can be a very exciting time, but it can also be very stressful for a child who is switching schools. Schools will be back in session soon, and students will be flooding the hallways, optimism floating in the air for the new year ahead. If you have recently moved, and you have a child switching schools, this time, can be both thrilling and anxiety ridden.

    I had to switch schools twice when I was a kid when my family moved. The first time, I started third grade at a new elementary school. It wasn’t as big of a deal because the school was in the same county as my previous one and in third grade, I adjusted quickly – I say this only because I don’t recall any terrible moments about starting at a new school.  The second time was a very different experience; I started eighth grade at a new middle school in a new county.

    My experience the second time was not nearly as smooth as the first. Middle school is an awkward phase for most kids, and I felt unnerved walking through the doors on my first day of eighth grade. I didn’t know anyone, and as I observed the students around me hugging their friends and catching up on their summer vacations, I felt an immense longing for my old friends. I also was behind on the curriculum; I remember the first day of math class, the teacher gave a refresher of what they had learned the previous year and my old school had only briefly touched on the subject. I vividly remember on my first day, I had gotten lost trying to find my class and was late getting to the welcome back assembly. Once I did get there, I had to walk in front of all my new classmates to find a seat on the bleachers; I was so embarrassed about getting lost and being late that once I sat, I just started to cry.

    The good news is I survived – it was difficult, but I think moving helped me to become more confident in new situations. So parents what can you do to ensure this transition is a win/win for everyone? Using a list written by GreatSchools Staff, I pulled the tips I thought to be the most helpful.

    1. Take a Trial Run. When you’re in elementary, a lot of schools, have a meet the teacher day before school starting. However, once students get older many schools stop doing this; therefore, speak to the office and see if you can arrange a tour of the school and a meeting with your child’s teacher. By doing this, your child will get a feel for their surroundings and what to expect which can reduce the child’s anxiety.
    2. Encourage School Involvement“. I support this because it wasn’t something I did. When I switched schools the second time, I was deeply unhappy about the move and resentful of my parents. Therefore, I recoiled from student activities and limited my social interactions with my classmates at my new school. Instead, I spent just about every weekend at my best friend’s house where I use to live which restricted my ability to meet and make new friends.
    3. Keep a positive focus“. It is crucial that you have an open dialogue with your child about what they are thinking and feeling about starting at a new school. The more specific, the better, that way you can work with them to generate solutions to ensure they have a positive experience.

    My last tip is one I thought of myself that I wish I had had the second time around.

    1. Get a buddy. Reach out to the new school and inquire about a buddy system or a particular student who could show your child the ropes on the first day. Walking into a new school was scary, and I think if I had had a someone to walk with me I wouldn’t have been as scared.

    Have a good weekend,

    Abigail R.C. McManus


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  • cc0 public domain pokemon go cellAs referenced in the Wall Street Journal article by Sarah Needleman entitled “’Pokémon™ Go’ Craze Raises Safety Issues”, the cell phone app game called “Pokémon™ Go” has caused concern on many levels. These concerns are due to the nature of the game, which involves on-foot travel to capture specific characters and collect them to battle others who play the game. According to Needleman’s article, Don Boyes, a geography professor at the University of Toronto maintains the game itself “could be potentially leading people into areas where they don’t belong.” This safety concern is because the Pokéstops™ (places where you can collect Pokemon™ characters) are sites where people can get hurt when they are not paying attention, such as construction sites and abandoned properties. Not only is the game posing concerns around physical safety, but the game also may raise concerns for parents who have children going back to school.

    In the CNN article entitled “A parents’ guide to Pokémon™ Go”, author Christopher Dawson notes concerns related to how much time children spend looking at the screen and playing.  While he cites the benefits of exercise, he also notes that parents should be aware that children are simultaneously walking and playing the game and not paying attention to their surroundings. As a result, children are prone to injuries such as getting hit by cars, walking on rough terrain and getting robbed by thieves. In addition to physical safety and inattention, many parents, and even I see another concern, and that is the game can be very addictive.  Students, in general, are already addicted to their Smart phones texting, calling and using social media. It is hard not to stay constantly plugged in for most young people.  For teachers, one of their main concerns is keeping students focused in class without the need to compete for their attention. Even though I am not a parent, I too struggle in balancing my time with technology and the expectations of time spent with family.   For example, my family does not care about using phones at the table or while talking to one another. The expectation is to focus our communication on each other.

    Here are some tips to consider how you might help raise awareness, guide and manage your kids’ game play.

    1)  Set a time limit for young kids. Give your children time limits and restrictions including when they can play their app games. Follow through with consequences including the possibility of uninstalling the app from their phone. On the other hand, reward them with gameplay when they do well in school.

    2)  For older students, expose them to the news stories on the dangers and consequences of Pokémon™ Go. Hopefully, they can see how far is too far with this game. Follow up with a simple talk and raise awareness of the dangerous addiction to the game.

    3)  If you are a parent or teacher, research the actual game and become familiarized with the various components of the game. Even if you are totally turned off towards the idea of the game, the kids may be more inclined to listen to your guidance if you know simply how fun this can be to them.

    Here are two additional strategies for teaching kids safety while playing Pokémon™ Go, as cited by blog article “Ground rules for catching ’em all” by Brittany Morgan.

    1)  Teach children to “look up” as Brittany states so that they are aware of their surroundings.

    2)  Encourage children to play the game in “teams” so they are not alone while catching their characters. This team concept allows safety in numbers.

    With kids returning to school, it is my sincere hope that these tips are helpful to you by raising awareness that your children can have a healthy balance of fun and safety while enjoying the game Pokémon™ Go.



    Ann Margaret Zelenka

    Graduate Student Intern

    University of Baltimore

    Negotiations and Conflict Management Program

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  • the-eleventh-hour-1254207_1920Have you ever waited until the last minute to complete a task?  Do you recall a moment where you were rushing to finish a project, paper, etc. the night before it was due?  You may be a procrastinator.

    Merriam- Webster defines procrastinate as ” to be slow or late about doing something that should be done: to delay doing something until a later time because you do not want to do it because you are lazy, etc.

    I always said back in my school days that I procrastinated because I worked best under pressure. I have heard many other fellow procrastinators say the same thing; however, if I examined why I delayed the inevitable I believe it boils down to two main reasons.

    1. I’m scared of failing.
    2. I don’t know where to begin.

    If I fear failure, as I often have my entire life I limit myself from trying altogether. Back when I was in school, I would push off a paper because I feared I would get a poor grade on the assignment, especially if that mark would make up a huge chunk of my final grade. Hindsight is always 20/20- I recognized putting off a paper or project out of fear of getting a poor grade was correlating to me getting a poor grade. If I had jumped into the paper or project, I could have had more time to work on it which would have only assisted in getting me a better mark.

    The second reason I would put off school projects or papers was that I wouldn’t know where to begin. The biggest issue with waiting until the last minute because I didn’t know where to start, is that I couldn’t ask for help without the teacher knowing I had waited until the last minute. I could have asked for help if I had begun earlier, and the teacher would have been able to assist me if I was struggling with a starting point.

    Procrastination may work out sometimes; I won’t pretend like it doesn’t; however, maintaining that approach may one day bite you in the butt. Therefore, how can procrastinators correct this bad habit, so it doesn’t cost you in the long run?

    1. Plan and Chunk: The best advice I ever received was to plan out your projects/papers/ etc. and break it into pieces. One issue procrastinators have (myself included) is they look at the big picture instead of all the little details and therefore, the task looks unmanageable. If you break the big picture down into small chunks, you then find yourself completing smaller more manageable tasks.
    2. List it out: Number One and Number Two go together. Once you have planned and chunked your project, write it all down so as you complete it you can check it or cross it off your list. I have found it to be the best feeling in the world when you can cross an item off your list and visibly see your list getting smaller.
    3. Turn off distractions: I remember when I was writing my Master’s thesis, I would put my phone on “Do Not Disturb” mode so no one could text or call me. While it was a challenge, it helped me to stay focused. Procrastinators need to remove any and all distractions. By doing so they will be able to stay more focused.
    4. Treat Yourself: Give yourself an incentive to complete the task, whether at different milestones or when it is all done. It will make doing the work more enjoyable and gives you something to look forward to as you complete the project/paper/etc.

    Procrastinators delay completing tasks for different reasons, take a moment and examine why you procrastinate? I challenge you to figure out what works best for you to complete your tasks. Don’t make procrastination a bad habit you can’t shake!


    Have a great week,

    Abigail R. C. McManus M.S Negotiation and Conflict Management


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