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Managing Work & Family:
Helping Parents Prepare for “Back to School”

Other “Back to School” stresses working parents may face

As kids head back to school, they are often confronted with tough situations and pressures. These experiences can be a significant source of stress for both child and parent. Increasing demands at work and at home can make it difficult to pull together resources and time to help children through these challenges.

Support working parents by offering them resources on topics that may affect them throughout the school year. Below are resources on three issues that parents may face: bullying, smoking, and drugs and alcohol. Providing working parents with information that can help address the pressures and issues arising from “back to school” can contribute to a positive work environment by easing work-life stress and conflict.

Talking to Kids about Smoking

It is important for children20% of Canadian teens are current smokers (Ministry of Health) to learn about smoking at an early age 90,000 Ontarian teens become smokers each year and most of them begin smoking at 12 years of age (The Lung Association). If a child understands the effects of smoking, they can make an informed decision. As a parent, it is important to help your child develop the ability to make healthy choices and to prepare them for peer pressures70% of Canadian teens say that friends or peer pressure are the number one reason for starting to smoke (The Lung Association) they may encounter. But how can parents approach the topic of smoking without sounding overbearing? Here are a few tips:

Be a role model

If you smoke, avoid smoking in front of your children. Also, do not leave cigarette packs lying around in visible areas.

Talk about your personal experiences with tobacco

Discuss how tobacco has affected you, family members, friends or relatives.

Point out examples of smoking in Hollywood

Point out that movies sometimes show celebrities smoking in an attempt to trick teens into thinking that it’s ‘cool and glamorous’ while conveniently leaving out the negative health effects.

The cost behind it all

The reality is that teens can spend approximately $100/month on cigarettes which accumulates to over $1000/year. Mention that this is equivalent to buying two movie tickets or a CD each week.


Talking to Kids about Drugs and Alcohol

Parents are extremely influential61% of kids considered parents to be the most trusted source for drug information (Pacific Community Resources [ PDF, 5 of 40] in educating their children about substance use. Being unsure about what to say or having limited knowledge of the topic often prevents parents from talking to their kids. However, it is critical that you, as a parent, discuss these issuesTeenagers who were taught the dangers of drug use at home were found to be less likely to use drugs than teenagers who were not told about the dangers of drugs at home (Gordon SM, 2000 [PDF, 23 of 41]) with your children so that they can make better choices. What can you do to prevent your kids from using drugs and alcohol? Here are three tips:

Educate yourself about drugs

Learn about the risks and effects of drug and alcohol use so you can talk honestly with your kids. Knowing the facts, the warning signs of use, as well as what’s out there will help you feel more confident. Resources such as talkaboutdrugs.ca can provide the information and advice you need to move to the next step: talking with your teen.

Talk to your kids

When it comes to difficult subjects like drinking and drug use, a five minute “chat” is not sufficient. Create an ongoing dialogueStudents with high levels of connectedness to family and school are less likely to engage in early sexual activity, smoking, alcohol and substance use, drinking and driving and other risky behaviours (The McCreary Centre Society [PDF, 3 of 4]) and build on the conversation as your child matures. If your youth brings up the topic or there are incidents in the news or on popular TV shows, use it as a discussion starter. Ask questions such as: Why do you think people use drugs? Do you think the effects are worth it?

Role-play with your kids

Role-play ways to say “no”. It’s easier to stand up to peer pressure if you practice your response in a supportive environment. Responses can include:

  • Blame it on your parents – “My parents don’t allow me to”
  • Excuses – “I have to get up really early tomorrow” or “I’m on antibiotics”
  • I don’t like it – “I tried it once and ended up vomiting”
  • "Broken record" technique - keep repeating a reason for not drinking over and over such as “Thanks, I’m not interested” until persuasion attempts cease


Talking to Kids about Bullying

Bullying is a serious issue among school-aged children66% of youth are teased at least once a month (Families and Work Institute [PDF, 4 of 19]). It can impact your child’s safety, sense of securityBullying creates a climate of fear and disrespect in schools and has a negative impact on student learning (NEA1, 2003 [PDF, 9 of 19]) and self esteemChildren and youth who are bullied are more likely than other children to be depressed, lonely, anxious, have low self-esteem, feel unwell, and think about suicide (Limber, 2002; Olweus, 1993 [PDF, 9 of 19]). Bullying occurs when a person is deliberately mean to someone in order to hurt them. Problem solving skills can quickly dissolve tough situations like bullying. Educate your child on how to deal with bullies in a positive way using the tips below:

Wait and Cool Off

This gives everyone time to cool down and think clearly. For example: “We can’t agree right now. Why don’t we talk about this later?”

Make a Deal

Find something you both agree on. Agreeing helps open communication. For example: “I like what you suggested. Maybe we could do it your way first and then my way next.”


Admit when you are wrong. Saying you’re sorry is sometimes all it takes to end a conflict. Say it with meaning and be honest. For example: “I just wasn’t thinking. I’m sorry.”

Walk Away

Try to talk about the situation. If you can’t find a way to solve the conflict encourage the student to walk away with you and find something else to do.

Talk it Out

Speak slowly and calmly: do not blame others. For example: “I think I can see what happened here…”

Ask an Adult for Help

If the above problem solving approaches have not changed the situation, ask an adult for help to get the situation under control quickly.


Additional Resources


Alcohol & Drugs



Other Topics

Revised: July 04, 2014


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