It’s that time again. Boys and girls all across the state are headed back to school. Some are preschool and kindergarten youngsters and others are working on their college degrees, but it’s back to school time. For some parents it’s a happy, happy, happy time. Though the time off in the summer seems to get shorter and shorter, it’s still full of activities such as keeping the kids involved and entertained from sun up to sun down and just trying to ward off boredom in their little heads.
Children heading back to school are not quite so happy. I remember as a youngster when it seemed summer had passed so quickly and I was headed back to school. What I remember most about that time was how good and exciting it was. I always got one or two new pairs of blue jeans and that was good. In fact, everybody I knew was in the same process. When we all got to school the room just smelled like new blue jeans. The other thing I remember so clearly was the wonderful blessing of seeing friends again. In those days we would spend all summer and not see some of our friends, not talk to them on the phone, not text them, not e-mail them, not Instagram them. We had no contact. They might as well have been staying in Bangladesh, but now we were back together.
Beyond that I don’t remember anything good coming out of going back to school. I do recall some people having a sense of excitement about new courses we were going to be taking, and getting their books and tablets and pencils and pens and all the stuff associated with studying and learning. For me, that was not the biggest thing in the world. It was just a sideline to seeing my buddies and having a good time at recess.
With the kids going back to school, what can you and I do on behalf of our children to bless them throughout their educational process? Let me give you three words that I am just suggesting will be tremendously helpful in their lives and educational processes.
Word one is powerful, meaningful, and effective: “PRAY.” Pray for your children. This involves all of us. My children are grown and out of school, but their children are in school from kindergarten to college. We don’t know all they will be facing every day. You don’t need to know every little thing going on in their lives, but you can cover their day in prayer. You cannot go with them in every situation they are going to face. You cannot accompany them all day long but you can, by the power of God and your prayers, be with them at every challenge during the day. You can pray for them to do well, to learn to learn, to apply themselves meaningfully to do good work, to overcome the challenges that may be there when they falter and fail, to ask God to help them to achieve goals and rise above failures.
The one most significant thing for which I think you and I can pray are the uncertainties they may face day after day. Uncertainties like running into some bully at school. How will he or she deal with that? To be strong but not be a bully themselves, or maybe the uncertainty of how they will deal with some uncomfortable experience — uncomfortable because of the way the other children are acting or uncomfortable because of the way a teacher may seem to be unfair and playing favorites with other students and your child not being the favorite that day. They will face these and many other uncertainties that you may never hear about or know about. You can pray for them that the Spirit of God working in your child’s life will be there to strengthen them, lead them, bolster them, and at the same time keep them humble. Word one is pray.
Word two is, “weigh.” What do I mean by that? To help your child or any child or even a friend’s child evaluate what went on in their day positively. I had a wake-up moment with a friend of mine recently who was telling me about his children. Sometimes, the dad said, when he picked them up from school he would generally ask, “Well, how did your day go?” Like most kids, they would just kind of shrug and say, “OK,” sometimes tell something that went on, sometimes something that was not good. He and his wife were discussing that and thought, “You know, there’s a better way to go about this.” They began to turn from, “How did your day go?” to turn it around to a positive, uplifting thing for their children to express and expand. Questions like, “What did you do today to help someone else? Did you find a new friend in your class today? Did you go out of your way to do something to bless someone else?”
Not only did the turnaround become a better source of conversation, it expanded and encouraged their children to keep their eyes open and watch for opportunites to do something for someone else. What an incredible way to go about weighing and evaluating the day they’d had at school or anywhere else they might be. I want to encourage all of us to move from an approach that is simply to catalog the bumps and bruises and belly aches of the day, to helping kids grow up in an atmosphere of touching others, raising others’ spirits, helping with their difficulties, and engaging in the lives of folks we might be able to help.
Word three, as you send your children off to school, is the word, “nay.” About the only time you hear nay is when some formal vote is being taken: all in favor, say “yea;” all opposed say “nay.” Now, when I say you need to have nay as a part of your children’s educational experiences, let me clarify where I’m encouraging you to use nay, especially those of you who are parents. In the daily routine, at some points, say nay to the total consumption of your child’s life with things and people other than you. At least try to not go from taking your child to school, dropping them off into the hands of people who are going to teach them and care for them all day, and then picking them up and handing them off to TV or some digital device for them to play with and you being squeezed out of all of the engaging moments of their lives. Take the initiative to be interested, involved, and invested in your child’s life on a one-to-one, people-to-people basis. For a period of time, connect with them not by text or email or Instagram or some game that they’re playing or running around after Pokémon. As a mom or dad, as a person or friend, connect with them. Even talk with them and laugh with them. Their world is consumed enough by people other than you, by things other than you, and it’s possible for them to grow up, go to school, go off, and not even know you — or worse, you not know them.
The wise man of the Old Testament said, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Prov. 22:6). The wise man’s wisdom that came only from God has to do with us being engaged in and connected to those precious lives in ways that are both seen and unseen and to encourage them, help them, and bless them when they achieve and lift them up when they stumble. It’s back to school and for parents who are seeing their kids go off, it’s back to work at the essentials of life with them.
The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.