It doesn’t seem too long ago that we were celebrating the end of the school year and looking forward to endless pool days and ice cream with friends, beach trips, and maybe even a lazy day or two; and suddenly we are seeing a few rogue leaves falling and school notices coming in the mail. Despite our best efforts to keep summer going even a little bit longer, the school season is upon us. With that, it’s a good time to prepare our kids for returning back to school, whether it’s homeschool, public school, or something in between, this is a season of transition back to schedules and homework. If you are anything like me, this is going to require some preparation for us as parents as well, not only our physical schedules but also our own hearts.
For some students, school brings a sense of normalcy and routine back to their lives, they get to see friends every day and interact with others in a way that summer does not always allow. For other students, the return to school brings about feelings of being overwhelmed, nervous, or even in despair. As parents, it can be heartbreaking to watch our students struggle with these types of feelings. The following tips will be helpful in establishing a strong relationship with your student, but should not be the only source of help if your child or teen is desperately struggling.
One thing that is enormously helpful, is to connect with your child’s teacher either before school starts or at the very beginning of the school year. You know your student better than anyone, and you will be able to provide valuable insight to the teacher since they will be with your child for upwards of 8+ hours each day. Conversely, it will be helpful for you to receive feedback from them also. They will be able to tell you whether they notice things in the school day that you may never be able to see such as friendships, bullying, or academic struggles. Most teachers want to work together in a partnership to see the children succeed, and like any good partnership, there have to be contributions from everyone involved. This does not mean that you inundate your child’s teacher(s), a healthy respect goes a long way, and also sometimes the benefit of the doubt.
If we, as adults, come to our kids/teens with a heart of genuine curiosity and wanting to be involved in their lives, without fear of judgment or condemnation, they are much more likely to open up to us.
When our kiddos get home from school, it’s easy to ask, “How was your day?” And nine times out of ten, you will hear, “Fine.” I recommend asking leading questions, such as, “How do you feel like you did on your math test today, I know you were studying really hard for it.” This does a few things. In order to ask questions like this, you need to be involved in your child’s schedule, like knowing when the math test is happening. This also lets your child know that you care enough to be involved (without being overly involved) and allows you to ask relevant questions to hear what is really happening in their days, and often what is happening in their hearts and minds. The true key to this is to stay attuned to our students, it’s not asking a question (even a good one) while tapping away on your phone or computer, it’s with every fiber of our being, paying attention to them in a way that they know that we care about what they have to say, even if they are at inopportune times.
Don’t be afraid to ask hard questions, trust the Lord to give you the wisdom to know when and how to ask about friendships or struggles, or simply about topics we would rather not talk to our kids about. If we, as adults, come to our kids/teens with a heart of genuine curiosity and wanting to be involved in their lives, without fear of judgment or condemnation, they are much more likely to open up to us.
Finally, reach out to professionals if you or your child is struggling. Romans 12:4-5 says, “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not have all the same function, we, though many are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.” Nobody has to do this alone, there are many resources, Foundations Christian Counseling Services, obviously being one of them, that you can reach out to for Godly wisdom and counsel for how to best help your individual child. The greatest connections that our students have are with us as their parents. It is important to remember but not be paralyzed by the responsibility that we have to ensure a strong relationship with them. They may not always see the value, but the rewards are eternal.
- Jessica Meade, MA