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Seasonal strategies 7 min read

Back-to-school stress-saving tips from CWB parents

Employee Represented Group brings working parents and caregivers together to share successes, challenges, and heartfelt support. 

Whether you’re caring for a youngster, a teen, or an elderly parent, being responsible for the health and well-being of a loved one brings with it an ocean’s depth of emotional waves and stresses.

Employee Represented Groups (ERGs) like CWB’s Parents and Caregivers – PAC for short – help members not only stay afloat, but also power through the currents.

“The unprecedented pressure of the pandemic was the driver for forming PAC and the group has continued to evolve from there,” says PAC co-chair and CWB Associate General Counsel Marek Warshawski, who has a 7-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter. “People were working from home and at the same time parenting and overseeing their kids’ virtual schooling. Or they were struggling to be there for their elderly parents amid quarantines and isolation. These days, employees are readjusting to being back at the office and returning to a rhythm of juggling schedules and taking kids or parents to appointments.”

An ERG to connect working parents and caregivers

PAC members support each other by lending an empathetic ear or a helping handful of learned life experiences, tried-and-true tips, and proven resources. The group’s three main goals are to provide a sense of community, to develop resources (include crowdsourcing from members), and to organize formal programming like information sessions, presentations, and activities.

PAC co-chair and CWB Learning and Development Manager Linda Hajjar explains members are often seeking advice and support for dealing with challenging situations. This can include how to engage their kids at home, get access to government resources, or broach difficult conversations like whether an elderly parent should still be driving.

“I think PAC particularly understands the challenges of being part of the ‘sandwich’ generation – people who are responsible for both raising their children and caring for their aging parents,” she says. “Part of my caregiver journey over the years has been filled with challenges, heartbreak and frustration. Each and every day is a new learning experience for me and PAC gives me an opportunity to share my findings with others and hopefully ease some of their own obstacles and frustrations.”

Teammates pay it forward

Members say this open dialogue described by Hajjar is what gives the group strength. PAC is a safe and welcoming space to ask for help and offer it.

“The older I get, the more responsibility I feel to pay it forward,” says PAC member and CWB AVP Learning and Development Kim Forseille, whose daughters are 18 and 20 years old.

“As a parent. I’m so proud of our daughters and how well they've navigated all aspects of their life – whether it was the pandemic or being a teenager. And so I try to share a lot of the parenting tactics I've used over the years. In contrast, I’m new in this space of supporting aging parents. It‘s been a challenging journey to transition from the role of daughter to almost having to parent parents. I’m grateful that I can lean on other PAC members who have experience in this area.”

For Warshawski and fellow PAC member Jamal Siddiqui, it was important to bring a father’s perspective to the group. “My wife and I are busy professionals – she's an architect and has a lot of stuff on the go in her own career, too. So we're both sharing duties and navigating work and parenting and all the stresses that come with that,” says Warshawski.

Siddiqui, whose kids are 10, 16, and 19, is AVP, Relationship Management & Client Services for CWB Trust Services. He says PAC has expanded his thinking and given him new approaches to try at home. “It offers a great opportunity to trade experiences and resources. We talk about things with people who have gone through– or are currently in – a similar situation. I also appreciate being able to connect with other fathers in the workplace.”

Giving and receiving support through ERGs like PAC helps to strengthen bonds and relationships both at work and at home, says Forseille.

“There were a few years for me that were really challenging to balance work and small children and a husband working shifts. I almost didn't think I could do it. Thankfully, I found the supports I needed to get me through,” she says. “I welcome the opportunity to share what I’ve learned and hopefully help someone else who might be in the same boat.”

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A member-made hub of tips and resources

PAC is hard at work creating member resources that capture actionable tips and advice for working parents. Here they share insights for successfully tackling the back-to-school season – paying it forward to help busy entrepreneurs and their families make the grade, too.

1. Hold kids accountable for tasks/chores.

Forseille suggests identifying what your children can be responsible for based on their age and ability. “Whether it’s packing lunches or snacks, bringing their permission slip to you to sign, or doing their own laundry – give them accountability,” she says. “Progress this as they get older, so by the time they’re out of their teenage years they’re confidently independent.”

Forseille offers these ideas to get you started:

  • Bring lunch kits into the kitchen and empty them.
  • Bring all paperwork from the teacher to the parent. (“I review this every Sunday morning – forms, fees, communications from the teacher.”)
  • Pack school snacks and lunches. (“Advance this every year until they’re responsible for everyday lunches. Bonus – it also helps them learn about balanced nutrition!”)
  • Layout clothes for the next day or the coming week.

2. Plan, prep, and don’t leave things until the morning!

Getting organized for the next day is especially important if you’re not a morning person, says Warshawski. “Lunches, clothes, homework, school projects – do it before bed so you’re not scrambling with your kids when you wake up. Morning isn’t the time to be signing that permission form or searching for that favourite pair of jeans your child wants to wear that day. Or getting gas!”

Hajjar is also a fan of doing as much as you can ahead of time and planning a few days in advance. “Cutting up your veggies for the week or packing a few lunches in an assembly line on the weekend can save time and it’s something you can do together as a family,” she says.

3. Establish a routine.

Doing the same activities at the same time every day ensures they get done, says Forseille. “The kids come home from school, the lunch kit comes out, the garbage goes in the garbage, the leftovers go back in the fridge. They then sit and do homework, or they read. Routine creates expectations and supports good habits.”

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4. Take advantage of school programs.

Pizza, hot dog, or healthy lunch day? Both Forseille and Warshawski agree the extra money can be worth the time savings. “Participating in school lunch programs means one less meal to prep and pack,” says Warshawski.

5. Share duties with your partner.

Dividing up the load with someone else – and, if possible, splitting tasks based on what you like to do – can help reduce stress, says Warshawski. “I have no patience for logging into different school portals with different user accounts and passwords just to receive information and communicate with the school. My wife has more patience and capacity for this, so she’ll handle all the apps and I’ll do other things like volunteering at the school.”

6. Take the time to have real conversations.

Emotions – both yours and your kids – can run high during hectic times. Sitting down to talk though issues honestly and authentically is not only productive, but it can also bring you closer.

“If there’s a decision to be made, involve everyone in the decision-making process who will be impacted,” says Warshawski. “Transparency and engagement builds trust no matter what age you are.”

In her house, they focus on discussing and learning from experiences rather than punishment or pointing fingers, says Forseille, digging objectively into what happened and why – and what they’d do differently next time.

7. Ask for help!

Identify what you need help with and reach out for support – whether that’s to your partner, friends, family, or another resource. Can you trade out-of-school care with another parent, can you talk to your employer about more flexible hours for school drop off and pick up? Can an older child take on more leadership at home? Is there an ERG at your workplace that you could join? It’s not easy to ask for help sometimes, but struggling on your own is so much harder.


Kim Forseille  Linda Hajjar


Jamal Siddiqui  Marek Warshawski


Pictured above, CWB PAC members:
Top row, left to right: Kim Forseille, Linda Hajjar
Bottom row, left to right: Jamal Siddiqui, Marek Warshawski