Category Archives: New to Canada

Dedicated to Charitable Causes

By Erum Zehra

Charitable causes

Those who (in charity) spend of their goods by night and by day, in secret and in public, have their reward with their Lord: on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.

[2: Al-Baqara-274]

Allah undoubtedly rewards those who generously give to the needy and help with cash and kind. There are innumerable organizations performing commendable deeds in Canada and all over the world that need our assistance. We have compiled a list of some charitable organizations based in Canada as “Charity begins at home”. All of the following are working for worthy causes that can benefit greatly from your patronage.

Nisa Homes

Nisa Homes, a project of National Zakat Foundation, is the first group of transitional homes for Muslim women and children in Canada. They offer shelter, food, medical help, spiritual aid, therapists, counselors, and financial aid to women from all backgrounds and different walks of life. Many of their residents are survivors of domestic violence. They have two homes, one in Mississauga, Ontario and one in Vancouver, British Columbia. They need donations to provide food and other facilities to their residents on a regular basis. Please visit the following for more information.

315 NISA

Muslim Women’s Helpline is the first and largest Muslim women’s helpline in North America. They answer over 2,400 calls every year and due to their limited resources, they still end up missing calls. Their counselors are available twelve hours a day and can help with virtually any issue that women might be facing.  Please donate to help them serve even more women. Please visit the following for more information:

Maryam Home

Maryam Home, a project of ICNA Relief Canada, is a temporary shelter home for women experiencing abuse.  Maryam Home will be open to all women but mainly seeks to help single, Muslim women who find themselves in abusive domestic situations in and around the GTA. The home will provide women with shelter, halal food and counseling to help them return to living normal lives and regain their confidence. ICNA Relief has already purchased a suitable property in Mississauga and requires 1 million dollars to renovate, furnish, staff the facility and begin operations soon. Please click here to donate:

Plan Canada

Plan Canada gives you the opportunity to sponsor a girl and transform her life for only $39 per month. You can choose the region where you want to sponsor the child. As part of your sponsorship you can exchange letters and photos and visit your sponsored child. When you sponsor a child, your donations are pooled to support a wide range of programs in your sponsored child’s community. This means you are helping to improve the life of your sponsored child and the lives of all those in the community.

Children of Hope

Children of Hope is a volunteer organization that works to help orphans and destitute children around the world. They raise funds to meet the basic needs of these children to ease their suffering irrespective of race, religion or creed. They also help to educate these children so that they can lead respectable lives and have a bright future. Please visit for more information.


Help Orphans and Promote Education (H.O.P.E) Foundation has been helping orphaned children, youth and their families for more than three years. They’re proud of their heritage of cultivating community building, supporting academic readiness, and embracing diversity. Beyond caste, color, creed, religion or nationality. H.O.P.E is here to bring attention to the orphans of the world, the less fortunate among us, who seek such refuge, shelter and care. Please visit for more information.

The Noble Call Of Teaching

By Aruj Sipra

The noble call of teaching

Teaching is one of the oldest and noblest services to the society in any culture. It’s also a process to prepare the next generation of skilled professionals and workers like engineers, doctors, educators, legislators and good citizens.

Being a teacher myself, I can say that teaching enlightens both parties, student as well as the teacher. Not only the students learn but the teacher also learns the lessons of life from students.

I started my teaching career right after graduating, as a way to start earning and the thought of getting my paycheque kept me going though I would say, it was not an easy ride. I was and still am fond of little children but at a distance so having a class of 20 children under the ages of three years old was pretty hard especially when you are young and naive yourself. There were many cries, grunting and kicking and to make matters worse, at times, I was the only teacher in the classroom. I survived against all odds because I had in me, one of the most important powerful teaching tool, patience.  A teacher’s patience is the heart of students’ long-term learning and skills.

Teaching isn’t for everyone, but if you love being around children, then it’s one of the noblest professions. You should have patience and to make it easier, have a pretty good sense of humour. Many times I have noticed children say the funniest things and I laugh with them. I feel much better because my students see me as a happy person.

Pre-school is also one of the most rewarding and fun grades to teach. Everything is new and exciting to these students. They love to sing and play games and really can learn to work together and treat each other with a great deal of kindness.

A positive feedback, simple words like“good job” or  “excellent” may not mean much to us but they mean the whole world to students. Publicly praise positive behaviour and show your students that you are celebrating their achievements as well.

The hardest part of being in this position is when parents don’t back you. If you have kids throwing punches, you simply can’t have it. And the parents will sometimes come in and make a hundred excuses; it’s not their child, it’s not their fault. When you don’t get support to correct problems, it’s disappointing.

I am often asked by the parents, “What are the best ways parents can help teachers and that teachers can help parents?” My answer, The Child-Parent-Teacher Triangle method which was developed by Dr Maria Montessori.

The three best ways parents can help teachers:

  1. Be involved in your child’s education – show them that you care and create a positive ‘triangle’ relationship between yourself, your child and your child’s teacher.
  2. Educate yourself on the current trends in education – how is your child’s teacher educating your child. Times change and so does the way we teach. As a parent it is your job to come to grips with the new ways of learning, to best support and guide your child through their learning journey.
  3. Send them to school happy – give your child a hug before they walk out the door and you head off to work. Look them in the eye and tell them how much you love them, how proud of them you are and boost their confidence every day. They will be more secure and ready to start a positive day of learning.

The three best ways teachers can help parents:

  1. Communicate – it is the key to success and keeping parents involved in their child’s education is critical. Don’t wait until parent conferences to let them know that their child is falling behind. Email them, call them or talk to them at the gate – keep them involved!
  2. Educate them – bring them in for professional development – teach them how you teach Math or English – support their learning as it is just as important as their child’s. They have to support learning at home.
  3. Be positive – send a note home or an email to let them know the amazing things their child is doing. Make no exceptions, do this for EVERY child. The smallest thing, can make the biggest difference!

There is always a leg-up personality in every successful person’s life. In most of the cases you will find, it is either one of their teacher or one of the grandparent that helped them how to ride and control reins of life. Aristotle said, “Those who educate the children are more to be honoured than they who produce them; for these only gave them life, those the art of living well.”

About the author:

Aruj Sipra is the community manager at, a teacher who absolutely loves her job and derives true joy from interacting with little ones.


Nisa Homes – Dedicated To Helping Women

By Erum Zehra

Nisa Homes talks to Zena Chaudhry about Nisa Homes and how the organization, with its transitional homes for women and their children, has been instrumental in helping these victims of abuse get their lives back on track. 

Can you please share with us stories of some women who are housed in Nisa Homes so that we can get an idea of their plight?

Due to confidentiality and safety issues, we cannot share entire stories, however there is one story which always sticks out for me. We got a call from an older woman one night whose abusive husband had Islamically divorced her. That same night, we picked her up from the closest GO station and brought her to Nisa Homes. From there, we learned that she had been trying to complete her Master’s degree but was having great difficulty due to the domestic abuse. Nisa Homes became a safe space for her where she could focus on herself and we were there for her to help her get her life back on track. Three months later, she graduated with her Master’s degree, got an apartment, and a job. She embodies what we hope and wish for all of our residents. Our goal is to support them in realizing their potential and truly believing just how strong and courageous they are.

It’s also interesting to note the statistics of the major reason why women and children come to Nisa Homes. 38.6% of the residents come due to domestic abuse, 36.5% come due to poverty, 13.6% come because they are refugees or immigrants without support, and 11.3% come for various other reasons. All of these women and children need our support, so our house operators and volunteers are trained to understand and work with women from all different walks of life.

Who are the people behind Nisa Homes. What is its history and when was it created?

The idea behind Nisa Homes was brought up in 2014 within National Zakat Foundation. They set out to determine whether there was a need for transitional homes or shelters for Muslim women and children in Canada. Their preliminary report indicated that there was indeed a demand and they set out to open the first transitional home for Muslim women and children soon after. In 2015, the homes began filling up and we began to see a clear need across Canada for these homes. At the moment, there are two homes – one in Mississauga, ON and one in Surrey, BC. Nisa Homes is run by two individuals – me and Yasmine Youssef. However, we do have the support and backing of National Zakat Foundation, as well. Zubair Qasim and Zaid Mirza are our two advisors and National Zakat Foundation, as a whole, is our financial backer.

How common is domestic abuse in a country like Canada?

Domestic abuse exists in every nation and state around the world and Canada is not an exception. Every six days, a Canadian woman is killed by an intimate partner – if that statistic isn’t alarming, 1 in 4 women have also experienced some sort of abuse in their lifetime. Additionally, 67% of all Canadians say that they personally know at least one woman who has been sexually or physically assaulted.

Further, it is important for us to recognize that the Muslim community is not immune to this either. There is domestic abuse in Muslim communities too but this doesn’t mean that our rates are statistically higher or lower than those of the rest of Canadians. We need to understand that people from all cultural, religious, and ethnic backgrounds can be abused. When people talk about “honour killings” what they don’t understand and take into account is the fact that any domestic abuse-related murder is an honour killing, regardless of the religious background of the perpetrator.

Nisa Homes 3

What kind of laws are in place to protect victims from domestic abuse?

Unfortunately, there are no specific laws about family violence, however many of the laws currently in place can work to protect women and men from an abuser. These laws can be found at:

Does the government provide any kind of support to such victims?

Yes, there are some services provided by the government for survivors of domestic violence. There are victim services offices in every major region of Canada, shelters, helplines, and survivors of domestic abuse and violence are also put on the priority list for subsidized housing.

If yes, then why was there a need to establish a facility like Nisa Homes?

Nisa Homes was created due to a need in the Muslim community. We have no statistics or information about the number of Muslim women and children who are abused and this is, in part, due to the Muslim community being unwilling to talk about these topics. Domestic abuse and homelessness are seen as taboo topics in the Muslim community so it is important for us to bring these issues to the forefront because they will not go away if we refuse to address them. We should not deny the existence of abuse in our community but we should instead work to provide education and social services to create a safe environment for Muslim women and children.

Islam honours women greatly, so why haven’t there been strides made to protect them? We, as a Muslim community, have a responsibility to protect and honour women so how can we do that without having specific services for them?

Additionally, Nisa Homes is not just a group of transitional homes. We offer shelter, food, counseling, behavioural therapists for children, referral services, education and employment services, safety and sustainability planning, and financial assistance.

Through working at Nisa Homes, we have discovered that Muslim women often returned to abusive and unsafe homes to avoid staying at shelters due to stigma within the Muslim community as well as the community at large that often further exacerbates the problem by putting the onus on Islam. Additionally, mainstream shelters portrayed a lack of cultural and religious sensitivity from both the other residents as well as shelter workers at times, which results in women not being able to practice their religion, heal through spirituality or be prosecuted for their religious choices by, for example, being turned away from shelters, not being allowed to have iftar if the time did not coincide with dinner, or mocked for praying or making wudu (ablution).

Nisa Homes 4

How are the operations and the facilities funded?

All of our funding comes from private donors – we don’t get any funding from the government. Thus, the majority of our funds come from zakat, sadaqah, and donations. The rest of it is all sadaqah and general donations. Whenever Nisa Homes cannot make ends meet, National Zakat Foundation assists in covering our expenses. However, it is our goal to be self-sufficient within this year, insh’Allah. In order to do that, we need to build a strong donor base which goes out and actively fundraises for Nisa Homes along with donating themselves. Donations can be made at

How can the community help Nisa Homes?

The three most important ways that the community can help Nisa Homes are: spreading the word about Nisa Homes, donating funds or items, and donating your time and effort. Don’t shy away from talking about domestic abuse and violence in the Muslim community – let’s address this issue and help the women and children who fact this abuse.
For in-kind donations, you can always email to see what items we are looking for at a certain time. We always welcome toiletries and non-perishable food items which can be dropped off at our office.

Saving for the Education of Your Child Made Easy

By Erum Zehra

South Asian-WinWin-Banner-300x250-v3 Final

As mothers, the education of our children is one of our primary concerns. We aspire to give them the best education possible. Fortunately, living in a country like Canada has made this task easy where free education is provided in public schools until high school. After graduating from high school, our children want to join colleges or universities for higher education. This can prove to be very expensive for low income families. Most families with school going children start saving for their college education quite early, to ensure they have enough money to equip their children with higher education.


Government of Canada provides assistance in saving for higher education of your children through RESP (Registered Education Savings Plans) and CLB (Canada Learning Bond). An RESP is an educations savings account registered with the Government of Canada. You need to open an account with a bank or credit union, or through a certified financial planner or a group plan dealer. These institutions, planners and dealers are known as “RESP providers.” For more information on RESP please visit:

The Canada Learning Bond consists of an initial amount of $500 offered by the Government of Canada to help you start saving for your child’s education after high school. Your child could get $100 every year until he or she turns 15 years old to a maximum of $2,000. Your child is eligible for the Canada Learning Bond if:

• he or she was born after December 31, 2003; and

• you receive the National Child Benefit Supplement under the Canada Child Tax Benefit (also known as the family allowance).

For More information on CLB please visit:


SmartSAVER at is a non profit community project which makes it easier for you to learn about RESPs and to get the Canada Learning Bond. They have teamed up with RESP providers across Canada that will help you get an RESP started for FREE: no enrolment fee, no annual fee and no contribution required.

How to Apply?

You can use their online application, Start My RESP, and apply for the Canada Learning Bond. Apply before Decemeber 31st for a chance to win $1000! A new winner is being selected every week, so the earlrlier you apply, the better your chances are of winning.



Documentation Evaluation

By Tabinda Siddiqui


New comers to Canada need to get their documents evaluated as an important step of settlement process. To me, getting your documents evaluated means ” helping Canada embrace and understand your academic and non academic qualifications obtained outside of Canada”.

One can start the assessment process before coming to Canada. This may take time and cost money but truly saves you from lots of last minute hassle.

You need your documents assessed if you are:

a. Immigrating to Canada as skilled worker

b. Arriving to Canada to work in specific trades or professions

c. Planning on studying in Canada

Keep in mind that some educational institutions and regulatory bodies have their own academic assessment processes. Some use the services of a Credential Assessment agencies. Always do your homework before you apply to a professional regulatory body for licensure or certification; check with them about their requirements and how they evaluate academic documents.

For work related documents assessment, check with potential employers to see if they have a preferred credential assessment agency.

Your documents can be academic or non academic. Assessment agencies evaluate whether your qualifications are equal to standards set for Canadian workers or if you need more training or education.


Academic documents / credentials may include:

  • Secondary (high) school diploma

  • College diploma

  • Bachelor’s degree

  • Master’s degree

  • PhD or Doctorate degree

  • Professional school degree (for example, for law, medicine, teaching)


Occupational or Professional Documents /Credentials include:

  • Professional licences

  • Memberships in professional associations

  • Apprenticeships

  • Trade certificates

  • Work experience

Credential Assessment Agencies

World Education Services – Canada (WES-Canada)
2 Carlton Street, Suite 1400
Toronto, ON M5B 1J3
Telephone: 416-972-0070
Toll Free: 1-866-343-0070
Fax: 416-972-9004

WES-Canada converts foreign secondary and post-secondary educational qualifications into their Ontario equivalents. Document-by-document, course-by-course or customized reports are available for educational, immigration, licensing or employment purposes. Services and assessment reports are available in English and French.

Comparative Education Service
University of Toronto, School of Continuing Studies
158 St. George Street
Toronto, Ontario M5S 2V8
Telephone: 416-978-2400 ext. 3
Fax: 416-978-2185

The Comparative Education Service (CES) of the University of Toronto provides assessments of international academic qualifications and compares them to those offered in Canada, which helps employers to better understand its clients’ credentials. Evaluates credentials for employment purposes. Services are available in French, but assessment reports are available in English only.

ICAS of Canada
Ontario AgriCentre,
100 Stone Road West, Suite 303
Guelph, ON N1G 5L3
Telephone: 519-763-7282
Toll Free (in Canada): 1-800-321-6021
Fax: 519-763-6964

The International Credential Assessment Service (ICAS) of Canada evaluates all documents at any educational level for assistance with employment, educational or career planning. General, detailed and customized reports are available to meet all needs. Reports are available in English and French.

Other Resources

The Alliance of Credential Evaluation Services of Canada (ACESC)– provides a list of recognized evaluation services in Canada.

The Canadian Information Centre for International Credential (CICIC) – assists and informs you about foreign credential recognition and the assessment of diplomas and qualification in Canada.

The Foreign Credentials Referral Office – provides internationally trained individuals with the information, path-finding and referral services to have their credentials assessed and recognized. The FCRO is also responsible for guiding and monitoring the implementation of pre-arrival services.

Evaluate My Credentials – This section of, a public website for newcomers to Ontario, provides you with information on credentials assessment.

World Education Profiles – This World Education Services Canada database provides you with profiles of worldwide educational systems and their Ontario equivalents.

Assessment and recognition of credentials for the purpose of employment in Canada – This fact sheet answers the most frequently asked questions to help individuals learn more about how to obtain assessment and recognition of their qualifications.



 About the Author:

Tabinda Nayyar Siddiqui is a Human Resources Professional, specializing in HRIS Data Analytics, Reporting, Data Conversion, Implementation and Maintenance.

Loneliness in a New Country; How to Cope Happily

By Saman Sayed


“It’s too cold here, life is hard, I miss my family, I want to move back” , are the cries of most women when they first move to Canada. The change in culture, climate and lifestyle is hard to accept when you’re doing it alone.  Luckily Canada is home to people from all walks of life, so you’re bound to find the “comfortable fit”  of friends. Of course missing family and friends back home is inevitable, and certainly they cannot be replaced, but now it’s time to make new memories with some new friends. Here are a few ways for you to be the new social bug in town.

  • Take your little ones to the government funded mommy and toddler programs, like those held at the Public Libraries, Readiness and Early Childhood centers. You are sure to find a group of mommies who face the same daily struggles you do with kids.

  • Volunteer at your children’s school, the nearby mosque, hospital, or women’s center.

  • Join an activity , or register your kids for the amazing recreational sports programs offered at the community center. There are many mom n’ tot programs too.

  • Facebook has it all – from groups of Muslim mommies, to strong Muslim entrepreneur sisters

  • If the time is right, register at an educational institute for further education. No better place to make friends than school!

  • Attend to local community festivities such as the Eid dinners, masjid potlucks, or block parties.

  • Share your own culture and traditions with your community. Also, encourage your children to tell their friends and classmates about their favourite memories of their home country.

  • Keep in touch with friends and family back home. We have so many ways to make those thousands of kilometers feel much smaller. No matter the time difference you can find a few moments a day or week to send a message, a quick video or have a short chat with the ones you miss most.

There are many ways to cope with the sudden loneliness if you are willing. Canada is full of beautiful places to visit, go out, explore with your new friends and send some pictures of your new memories back home to loved ones!

About the Author

Saman Sayed is a mother of two kids. She also blogs about traveling with kids:

Ed’s Notes: A Whole New World


Canada is a beautiful multi-cultural country and this month we are dedicating the website to everything Immigration. Immigrants come to Canada with their cultures, traditions, food, clothing, languages and make Canada that much more colorful, tasty and amazing!

Everyone comes to Canada for their own reasons. Some come for new experiences. Others come to provide their children with a better life. Perhaps some are forced out of their homes.  For some, marriage and starting a new family brings them to this foreign land. Although their journeys and stories may differ, there are some things that all immigrants have in common. New home, new people, new experiences and unfortunately new struggles. We will be exploring the joys and the struggles of being a new immigrant in Canada.

This month you will be able to get tips on document evaluations. This is very important as this is the first step towards your immigration.  Also, it can be confusing in a new place to get basic necessities such as a driver’s license or medical care.

Family is so important and it can be a struggle to be away from our loved ones. We are happy to give great tips for dealing with loneliness. Also, children of immigrants have their own struggles and one of our moms will be sharing her own experience with us.  Further, we have some insightful tips on what resources are available for families with children with special needs.

So many fantastic topics to explore! Wishing all our new immigrant Muslim moms a great start to their new life. Remember you are never alone. There is always a Muslim Mom just a click away!

Children with Special Needs; Finding the Support You Need

By Nadia Ali


Immigrating to a new country can be a tough experience and more so when considering the needs of children with physical and developmental delays or disabilities. There are numerous programs and sources of funding available to improve the quality of life of disabled children however it is a tough experience to find all the resources available.

The first step would be to select a family doctor and get the child registered. Provide all past records and reports to the doctor. Depending on the disability / delay your child is experiencing, your doctor will refer you to a specialist for detailed testing and diagnosis. School-aged children with learning disabilities, speech impairment, ADHD, dyslexia, etc. who have had no diagnosis earlier, are identified by teachers when they struggle academically and referred to the school speech therapist or school psychologist for diagnosis.  

Funding programs vary between provinces; each province has different programs geared towards helping parents who have one or more children with disabilities. For example; in Ontario, the provincial programs are Assistance for Children with Severe Disabilities (ACSD), Special Services at Home (SSAH) and Provincial Assistive Devices Program (ADP). Application forms can be downloaded from the Ministry of Children and Youth Services website.


Children with delays / disabilities are also eligible to receive a monthly benefit in addition to Canada Child Tax Benefit (CCTB) amount that parents receive for every child. In order to quality, a medical practitioner must certify on the prescribed form: Form 2201 – Disability Tax Credit Certificate (available on the CRA website) that the child has a severe and prolonged impairment in physical or mental functions. Ask your doctor to fill the form and send the completed signed form to your tax centre. CRA will determine whether or not you are eligible to receive the disability tax credit and the Child Disability Benefit. Both, physical as well as developmental, disabilities and delays are eligible. For July 2015 to June 2016, the CDB is approximately $2,695 per year ($224.58 per month) for each child who is eligible for the disability amount. This payment will come to you with your CCTB amount as a single check.


The Disability Amount Tax Credit (or the ‘Disability Amount’) is a non-refundable tax credit that can be transferred to a family member, who supplies some or all of the basic necessities of life such as food, shelter and clothing to the person. This credit provides tax relief for individuals who have a severe and prolonged impairment in physical or mental functions by providing a credit against payable.  This amount is not a physical payment, like the CDB, but is a tax credit that can be used to reduce your tax / increase your refund at the time of filing taxes.

The list of medical expenses you can claim at the time of filing taxes is very long and extensive, and also includes amounts you have spent for speech therapy, physical therapy, tutoring services, talking textbooks, devices or software to help your child’s learning, etc. Please keep all receipts and submit them to your the person who will be preparing your taxes at the time of filing  to determine which ones you can claim. For financial assistance with treatment and therapy as well as costs of assistive devices, there are several agencies that help parents who may find it difficult to make ends meet. President’s Choice Children’s Charity, Jennifer Ashleigh Children charity, Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy, Easter Seals, etc. are all agencies that will provide funding for those in need to help with the cost of therapies. Proof of income and cost of therapy needs to be submitted along with application. Finally be sure to reach out to other mothers whom are in similar situations as you. There are many support groups for mothers. There are many activities and programs which can help get you out meeting new families and making new friends.

About the Author

Proud mom to a six year old boy, Nadia Ali has earlier worked with Ernst & Young as an auditor. She is now a tax professional at H&R Block and is looking forward to another busy tax season.

Back To School – A Survivor’s Guide

By Muneezah Jawad

Back To School - A Survivor’s Guide

With school starting in less than a week, we really hope most of us are done with their back to school shopping already. For those who still have to tackle this task, we put together a quick guide to make it a (relatively) stress-free process.

Shop for supplies

From Kindergarten to Grade 8, every class requires different supplies and the best way to know what you need is to look at the school website which usually publishes a supply list by grade. Sometimes more specific things are needed intermittently during the school year and the teacher usually sends out a note letting you know what that is.

The list does get longer as the grades get higher. Kindergarten requires very little, just some tissue boxes, glue and perhaps crayons. Grade 8’s usually require calculators, folders, dictionaries and more.

It’s always a good idea to have an English and French dictionary at home as well as some encyclopedias and if you are like me and like the kids to do a little bit extra at home, you can get a grade specific activity/curriculum book. They have great deals at Costco.

Bag some bags

It’s a good idea to recycle whatever can be used from last year especially backpacks and lunch bags unless the condition is really run down. I usually get new backpacks every 2 years so that the children’s desire to have the latest design is fulfilled and it does not break the bank.

Lunchboxes are trickier and if they are the soft ones they can smell a bit funky after a while and so I replace them every year.  Get something that suits your child’s style of eating. Small children need something with many compartments so that they can have tiny portions of their favourite things. A bento style box or little Tupperware containers work great. I don’t spend too much on these things as they do frequently get lost. Make sure all containers are BPA free.

Lunch Ideas

As there are usually 2 nutrition breaks you need to make sure you separate the food. I usually pack a main meal such as a sandwich or nuggets, some fruit, a granola bar, cheese and crackers and sometimes a treat altogether and the kids pick what to eat when. Please remember that most schools have a peanut free policy. I also have a thermos style box into which I sometimes pack a hot meal. A water bottle that is easy to open and closes firmly is very important otherwise often you will find a flood in your lunchbox.

What’ll they wear?

Unless your children go to a school where uniforms are required you are going to need plenty of clothes. The first step is to go through closets and see what can be reused or passed on to siblings and then make your wardrobe checklist.  September is not a terribly hot month and by October it’s getting chilly in the mornings so it’s a good idea to buy some track pants and fleece for the in-between weather. Layering clothing is the best option as kids can add or remove layers as they need.

If you find a great sale stock up on shoes as kids need a pair of indoor shoes and outdoor shoes. I know that my kids go through several pairs through-out the school year. Velcro shoes are great for the little ones.

I don’t do much back to school shopping. I pretty much avail the sales throughout out the whole year especially at Christmas time.  They are always losing something on the other. Make sure you have plenty of winter gear especially gloves, hats, socks, thermals as kids frequently lose them and then they are sold out of the stores by February but it stays cold sometimes well into April. Going to the States to shop used to be a great idea but with the current downward trend of the Canadian dollar against the US it’s not worth it anymore.

Ease into routine

Slowly returning to a regular routine will also make life easier. We have been sleeping past midnight and waking up late, eating at odd times and generally just chilling. Try pulling back bedtime by an hour every few days until school starts. The American Association of Pediatrics recommends that toddlers 1-3 years need 12-14 hours of sleep, children 3-5 years of age should average about 11-13 hours, School-aged children need 10-11 hours and teenagers need at least 9 hours.

Time their time

Studies also show that students lose 2-3 months’ worth of learning over the summer. That means that even though your child went to school from September to June it would be like they went to school September to March.  So it’s time to curb their device usage. Start limiting their screen time. There are many great apps such as ‘Screen Time’ which can actually lock a child out after a certain set period of time of usage. I use this with my daughter and it works really well. It’s set for an hour a day then it locks her out for everything except phone calls.

Make sure they study 20 minutes daily. More if they are older. This will get them ready to concentrate on their work and in ‘school mode’. A good idea would be to have them write about their summer holidays. It will get them thinking and spelling. Go over their multiplication tables by holding skittle contests. A skittle for whoever gets the answer right.  This would be a great time to go over those activity books that we discussed above. You could do the ones from last year. I never let my kids write in the books but they worked on paper as I have 2 kids close in age and wanted them to be able to reuse the book. You can also find worksheets online. It doesn’t have to be much and the holiday is not over but a little will go a long way. This is actually something they should do all year round.

Put meal times and the socialising on a time table too.  Start talking to them about expectations about the coming year. If it’s an EQAO year, or new high school it’s good to talk those things out. I am constantly telling my daughter to brace herself from an onslaught of work and other temptations as she enters high school. Talk to them about school and morning routines. Laying clothes out the night before, how they will be getting to and from school and who with. If you car pool or use the bus make sure you have the scheduling all planned out well ahead of time. If you have been helping little ones in the toilet over the summer now would be the time to have them start going independently again.

Don’t stress yourself. The first day of school is always a fun and exciting one. If you didn’t get everything done or didn’t have a change to buy something it’s alright. There is nothing that the kids can’t do without initially. Slowly you can fill in the gaps of what you need to do.

About the author:

Muneezah Jawad is the social media manager at and a veteran back to school survivor for the past many years.

Tell us how you have gotten your family ready for September. Do you have any tips for us? Do let us know how your first day went. Most importantly don’t forget to breathe a sigh or relief and lay back with a cup of coffee and enjoy your first day of school morning.

50 Shades Of Immigration

By Farzana Nur

We must congratulate couples who take the initiative to migrate to Canada in order to have a better and more progressive life. But also keep in mind that immigration is one of the most stressful events in life. Canada is a land of opportunity for sure, and perhaps in the beginning we might not be able to perceive this wonderful place as we have been dreaming of it for so long since ‘Living with the familiar is one of the greatest needs of mankind.’

Starting with the detachment crisis to unfamiliar faces and a new environment,  one could easily be engulfed under the darker clouds of depression and anxiety.

There are few things that new immigrants should start as soon as they land. First and foremost they should let go of their old life. Next,  make a list of the things that to be taken care of immediately: accommodation and school, if you have children.

Second comes job search, this can include voluntary job as well. Also a short course or training in the preferred profession could benefit a lot for personal independent growth.  If needed or required, a course in English language can also be very beneficial. All these steps will help to raise one’s confidence and emotional stability – a much needed asset in a foreign land.

On emotional level, husband and wife should spend as much time together as they can. Both the parties should make an effort to stabilize and restructure the bond necessary in a new environment. At every step check each other to maintain a positive outlook, particularly about the things that are difficult, and try to to find a positive solution to problems together.

Do one thing of interest together as regularly as possible, a walk or even shopping for grocery together can help maintain a stronger bond.

In order to integrate and feel at home, get to know your living area, like take a daily walk, discover the local markets. Make new friends, foreign and local, in order to get a closer feel of the culture and society. Never ever alienate yourself.

One must look after one’s own health and of the family too. A healthy body helps keep a healthy mind. Expect the fact that situation is stressful but neither of the partners are to be blamed.

Laugh more often. Daily contact with the family back home could be a comforting source in times of loneliness. But be aware of getting into a nostalgic slumber, as absence always makes the heart grow fonder. Remember the reason why you moved in the first place…chance for adventure, good living and better opportunities for the family … so and so forth.

Show tolerance to each other’s reaction. Men and women react to stress in a very different manner. As women would like to have a shoulder to cry their heart out, men would often like to go into their cave or rather be left alone and watch a game .

Stay connected with your partner irrespective of the fact how emotionally drained you feel. Once in a while a warm touch or hug is worth a thousand words.

Keep your expectations simple and realistic. Living through the day and achieving small goals could be a great booster for the future as well.

And last but not the least, as Goethe put it:

Things which matter most 
Must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.

About the author:

Farzana Nur is a qualified clinical psychologist and a family counselor in downtown Toronto.