Getting Your Kids Ready to Go Back to School
by Becky Harling
It’s almost that time again. School openings are right around the corner. In just a few short weeks, kiddos will be heading back. I’ve seen all the moms and dads in Target and Walmart, buying school supplies with lists in hand.
Beyond school supplies and getting them the clothes and shoes they need, how do you get your kids ready to face a new school year? Especially after the last year and a half with the challenges of COVID, many kids are feeling anxious. Researchers tell us that anxiety, fear, and depression are on the rise in kids. They may be wondering, “Will I have to wear a mask? Will school stay open, or will it go virtual again? Will I get quarantined?” There are so many unknowns, and as a result, many kids might be feeling uncertain. How do you prepare them?
Here are just a few suggestions:
Invite Them to Share Their Feelings about Going Back. While for some kids there’s excitement in the air, for others there are feelings of anxiety, worry, and even dread. Create the space to listen. Spend time asking gentle but probing questions to figure out what your child is feeling about heading back to school. If there are multiple children in a family, take each child out for an individual date before school and invite him to share how he feels about going back. Take the time to draw out any worries or fears they have about going back. For many kids, they may be struggling with separation anxiety after spending the last year and a half at home with parents. For others, they may be struggling with social anxiety and wondering if they’ll be able to make friends. Listening to your child’s fears without minimizing them allows your child to get those anxieties out. Be present. Allow them to dump.
Offer Empathy and Understanding. When your kids do share their feelings, don’t correct them. Instead, offer empathy. The wise writer of Proverbs wrote, “The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out” (Proverbs 20:5). The Apostle Paul wrote, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). Paul was describing empathy, which tells your child that his feelings make sense to you. Children who are offered empathy will feel more connected to their parents and will also feel more empowered to handle their emotions. By offering empathy, you are assuring your children that you understand, and you will support them in any way they need.
Establish Routine. Most kids feel safer with a routine. Have a family meeting before the start of school and discuss together what type of routine your family might need in order to assure a sense of calm. For example, maybe everyone will agree to lay out their clothes the night before. Maybe for your family, the kids will do their homework right after school. Or maybe for some, it will work better for homework to be done after dinner. Decide how many activities each person may participate in considering schedules and cost. Allow your kids to share their thoughts and ideas on what might help mornings and evenings be calm in your house.
Empower Them by Giving Them a Scripture to Memorize. I am a strong believer in empowering kids by helping them memorize a verse or two that they can access quickly in their minds in case they feel fearful. One of my favorites is Joshua 1:9, “Be strong and courageous, do not be discouraged, do not be afraid, for the LORD your God goes with you wherever you go.” Make it fun. I remember when our son, JJ, was little and he was afraid to ride the school bus. I remember teaching him that verse, and at 6 years old, he would strut around the house, showing his muscles and quoting Joshua 1:9. JJ is now a dad of two boys himself. He has taught both boys that verse. Why? So that when they feel afraid or uncertain, they remember they can be strong in the Lord because the Lord is with them wherever they go…even to school.
Prepare Them Socially. Kids might be feeling nervous if they haven’t seen their friends for a while. In the weeks leading up to school re-opening, be intentional about inviting their friends over. For grade school kids, initiate playdates. For older tweens or teens, allow them to invite friends for pizza and a movie. Have conversations about the types of friendships that are helpful. The book of Proverbs instructs us that “A sweet friendship refreshes the soul” (Proverbs 27:9 The Passion Translation). Jesus instructed us to love our friends and even lay down our lives for them (John 15:13). As parents, one of the wisest choices you can make is to model healthy friendships and then encourage your kids toward healthy friendships.
Pray with Them and for Them. Here’s what I know for sure: your children, whether in kindergarten or high school, need prayer. Spend some time each morning and evening praying for your children. Choose verses of Scripture that you will pray specifically for them. You might pray through the blessing found in Ephesians 3:14-21, or through the armor of God for them (Ephesians 6:10-18). Perhaps, you’ll pray through Psalm 46 or Psalm 91 for them. Whatever you choose, you’ll be placing a shield of prayer around your children’s heart. God honors it when we pray Scripture.
Friend, as you get ready to start the new school year, spend time praying for your children. Invite them to share their feelings, offer understanding and empathy, establish a routine, empower them by giving them a Scripture to commit to memory, prepare them socially and pray Scripture over them. God is cheering for you as you raise your kids to love Him and be light in a dark world.
Becky Harling is a best-selling author, popular speaker at conferences, retreats and other events. She is the author of 11 books including, How to Listen So Your Kids Will Talk, Psalms for the Anxious Heart and The Extraordinary Power of Praise. Becky is a certified coach with the John Maxwell Team and offers parent coaching. You can connect with Becky at www.beckyharling.com, www.harlingleadership.com, Facebook https://www.facebook.com/beckyharlingministries, Twitter, @beckyharling, or on Instagram at @BeckyHarling
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