Overcoming the first month of “back to school”
GARDEN CITY – The clamor exuding from a passing school bus, last minute efforts to squeeze out the final drops of summer, and ah the smell of new school supplies (looking at you Crayola crayons!), the sights and sounds that punctuate this time of year have been defined through the years.
Back to School time can be equal parts exciting and daunting. Our family has four children whose ages range from 8 to 16. They have always attended our local public school. It is from that perspective that I offer some tips that have helped our family ease the transition that I hope can help you and your child/children as well.
Tip #1: Bathe the school year in prayer.
Pray before school begins. Do a prayer walk (or drive) around the schools your child is attending (or even all the schools in your neighborhood). Pray for the students and staff. Pray specifically for your child and their teacher and classmates.
When school starts, take time to pray for and with your children each day. For our family, praying on the way to school has been a long-established practice and the day doesn’t seem to be quite right if ever it is skipped. Inviting God into our day and turning our hearts and minds toward Him first thing helps us remember to Whom our days belong and Who will be with us to help and guide throughout our day.
Tip #2: See schooling, whatever type of schooling your kids do, as a mission.
If your children attend school outside of your home and they know Jesus, school is their mission field, and yours as well. Take frequent opportunities to show love and grace to each individual you encounter at their school and pray for opportunities to share the Gospel, especially for your kids.
I have been amazed to hear accounts from my kids and, sometimes, their teachers, of how they have shared Jesus in their classrooms, after-school activities, and even at the bus stop. I heard once that school is the biggest mission field in America. Let God use your family to shine His light in your kids’ school and take comfort in knowing God can and will use your child for His Kingdom while they attend school.
Tip #3: Remember that God will go with your children wherever they go.
The first place we ever had to leave our child was when our son (our firstborn) was in a host (foster care) home when he was two days old. God used Joshua 1:9 to comfort our broken hearts during that time and my husband and I clung to the truth that God was with our son when we could not be with him. It was the ONLY thing that gave us the strength to survive the time away from him. I often still have to rest in that truth when my kids are away from me, particularly when they are at school.
Tip #4: Give lots of grace as your children (and you) adapt to the new schedule that comes with the return to school.
For our family, September is not usually a “pretty” month. Our kids are tired from adjusting their sleep schedules and working to adjust to a new teacher, new classmates, and, perhaps, a new school.
Also, in our experience, there is often sickness that comes with the September package, as classmates reintroduce their germs to one another after the summer hiatus. Even if the changes to your home are minimal, it is likely there will be some changes. Give lots of love, patience, and support to make the transition as easy as possible. Also, if it appears your children need more “downtime” try to keep after school and weekend schedules to a minimum in this pivotal month.
Tip #5: If you want to hear about your child’s day in more detail than the classic one-word response of “fine,” ask more specific questions.
Instead of asking a generic, “How was your day?”, ask questions that require a more specific answer. You could ask, “Who did you sit by at lunch today?” or “Did anything funny happen today?” Specific questions may do a better job of rooting out more detail from your child.
Also, choose your conversation time wisely, based on your child. If your child needs some decompression time when they get home before they answer your questions, let them have it. If your children are like mine, though, it means the best time to get the most information is as soon as they get in the car after school. Try to time your inquiries when you are more likely to get an informed response, based on your child/children.
One final tip: Between me and my children, I am usually the one that feels the impending separation most keenly.
I simply don’t like my babies being away from me, but God has called our family to public school, so off they go each year. It has gotten a little easier as they have gotten older, but I still struggle watching them go into school those first few days.
I am determined; however, they will never know! I would never want to add unnecessary stress or fear onto them. Two things help me to “hide” my feelings: sunglasses, and (this is a trick I wish I would have known sooner) to stop yourself from tearing up, press your tongue firmly to the roof of your mouth-it works every time!
I pray some of these tips and those you receive from other sources help make back-to-school time in your house a little bit smoother. May God bless this school year for your children and your family.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jessica has been on staff as Minister to Children at Merriman Road Baptist Church, Garden City, Michigan since January 2003. She and her husband, Joe, have four kids, one son and three daughters.