Another milestone for our family is before us. Two milestones, actually. This fall, our oldest of four children will begin middle school and our youngest will start kindergarten.
While I join in their excitement for these new adventures, as a momma there is also a feeling of sadness. Let’s face it, my babies are growing up.
Also, I feel apprehension because sending them to school removes them from my constant watch. It requires me to loosen my grip and trust that God loves my children more than I do. I must let go and allow my children to put into practice what my husband and I have taught them at home. Here are a few specific ideas that the Holy Spirit led us to so that we could empower our children to have successful school years and to be missionaries in their schools.
1. Help Your Child Develop a Positive but Realistic Self-Image
People feel empowered when they know who they are in Christ. Children are no different. In our every-child-deserves-a-trophy society, empty praise can be defeating for a child because peers typically tell it like it is. If our children are hearing praise through a godly lens, they will be ready to combat what they hear outside our four walls. For example, instead of telling the child that their drawing is the best creation ever, focus on the amount of work the child put into the project and how the child persevered through the challenging spots. Instead of telling your daughter that she is the most beautiful girl in the world, help her see how God created her in His image, special and unique.
2. Provide a Tool Box
It is easy to jump into what I call a “No!” parenting style. This means that every time a child disobeys or gets into a tiff with a sibling, the parent shouts “No!”, “Don’t do that!”, or “Stop!”. We all get weary and can easily fall into the trap. The sad truth is that unless we provide the child with ways to replace the negative behavior with positive, we send them into the world with an empty tool box of ideas on how to handle various situations. For example, let’s imagine your child struggles with losing a game with grace. Instead of telling the child not to cry, teach the child how to politely congratulate his opponent. Or if your child is struggling with a friendship, instead of telling her to stay away from the classmate, provide her with a statement to say that allows her to stand up for herself in a loving manner.
3. Teach Them to Love
In Matthew 22, Jesus gave the disciples the greatest commandment: Love God. Jesus goes further to explain that the second greatest commandment is like the first: we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. Teaching our children to love may be one of the greatest ways to empower them. When our children love God and love others, every decision that they make will shine light into the darkness. One way to do this is to teach them what love is through I Corinthians 13:1-8. For example, encourage your child when you see her showing love by being patient with her sibling. Help your child find ways to handle anger in a loving way instead of yelling or hitting. By filling their tool box with ideas like these, the child will transfer loving their siblings to loving their peers.
4. Let Them Struggle
We’ve all heard the term “helicopter parent,” parents who hover so close to their children that you can almost hear the blades swirling around. They stay close to keep all harm or frustration from touching their children. While we would all love to place our children in a bubble and keep them safe, we know that this isn’t reality. Our job as parents is to help them persevere through struggles, grow through disappointments, and learn from mistakes. As challenges arise, we can lovingly guide our children towards godly responses. These lessons will stay with them and give them something to fall back on when new problems come up.
5. Find Them Godly Mentors
As our children grow, I see more and more how much power the words and actions of others have on them. This is why it is so important to surround them with godly men and women who will support what we are teaching at home and further empower our children to be witnesses of Jesus to those around them. Church can be a wonderful place to find mentors. As the busyness of the school year hits, be sure not to let church become a secondary priority.
6. Encourage Talents
God has given each child a unique personality and a handful of wonderful talents. One way to empower our children is to help them recognize and develop these gifts. It is easy to get into a rut of telling the child only what he is doing wrong, but we need to encourage each child to recognize the amazing gifts he has been given. Knowing where his strengths lie will also help the child find leadership roles at school. But, don’t forget that truth is the foundation of this encouragement (See #1). For example, we don’t want the child believing he is a wonderful drummer when he can’t keep a steady beat.
7. Make Home a Safe and Relaxing Place
Two of my boys have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). They work with all that is in them to keep it together at school. When they come home, they are spent and need a safe place to relax. I can help them by giving grace when they are tired, and by removing frustration and chaos in our home. This doesn’t mean that they are exempt from appropriate behavior or doing chores, but some small changes can help them be successful. I’ve found that by getting rid of excess in their rooms, they have less to keep up with making it easier to keep their rooms clean and find what they need. Also, structure and consistency in our mornings and evenings is key for them.
8. Lead the Child to the Source of Wisdom
One thing that I love about the elementary and middle school ages is that our kids want to know our opinion about the happenings at school. In the evenings, we are able to process through what they saw or heard and provide a Biblical world view. As we talk however, I am learning to not just give my opinion but support what I share with biblical wisdom. By example, as the kids are growing, they are learning to search the Scriptures themselves.
9. Help the Child Hide God’s Word
Psalm 119 is filled with verses explaining the power of God’s Word and the help that it provides us. Psalm 119:11 tells us to hide God’s Word in our hearts so that we can stand against the temptations of sin. Seeds Family Worship (available to watch on Minno) and Steve Green’s Hide ‘Em in Your Heart CDs are wonderful resources for teaching your child to have Scripture in their minds for those situations when they need wisdom, encouragement, and strength.
While each of these ideas can be helpful in preparing your child for a successful school year, they are in vain when not covered in prayer. In your daily quiet time and throughout the day lift your child in prayer. Also pray with your child that he will be a missionary to his teachers and friends because he may be the only Jesus they see.
None of us know what this next school year will hold. We look forward to the moments of success for which we will give God the glory. We also expect that there will be valleys of hurt and disappointment that will stretch our faith. But I have peace knowing that God be with us in all we face this school year and that alone will make it a success.
Looking for more back to school tips? Check out this blog with 20 back to school truths your kids can memorize – and a free lunchbox notes printable!