By Sabrina Schlesinger
It’s that time of year again when moms all over the country are getting ready to gain a little bit of their sanity back! Back-to-school season is always fun, in my opinion. It is a time of new beginnings and fresh starts. It is a great excuse to spend lots of time at office supply stores…which I have a minor obsession with. The inner admin in me squeals with glee when I smell scotch tape (maybe that was too much info about me!) But really…take a good whiff of that stuff, it smells soooooo good!
Ok, enough about that, let’s get to why you are reading this post. Here are 5 important topics and coversations every parent should have with their kids before heading back to school. Enjoy!
1. Respect and protect boundaries.
This is a two-sided coin really, we need to teach our kids to respect other people’s boundaries, even if they are different then our own, and we need to teach them to be bold enough to protect their personal boundaries. Let me break these down for you.
We live in an interesting day, one filled with cyber-bullying, YouTube videos gone viral, and social media overexposure. In our house we have some rules. One of them being, we don’t post pictures or videos of others without their permission. We need to teach our kids that no means no, even if we think it is funny. We need to teach our kids how to pick up on social cues and non-verbal language, both from their peers and the adults in their world. Let’s get back to teaching our kids that we MUST respect other people’s boundaries and privacy.
Our kids also need to know that it is okay to protect their own boundaries. My kids are in public school. There are all sorts of things taught that go against what we believe as a family and in our faith. Most of these things are great teaching points for us to talk about, but there are times that our kids need to stand up for things that cross their personal convictions. It may be something being taught, said or shown that makes them feel uncomfortable, or it may be a peer or adult asking them to do something that crosses the line of appropriate. I have one child entering Kindergarten all the way to one entering 10th grade. It is my job to give my kids the permission to speak up when something is wrong, and at the same time teaching them to be respectful to the authorities in their lives. I could go into every possible scenario on this, but I think you get the jest of it. We can raise assertive kids without raising rude and disrespectful kids. Have the talks with your kids on appropriate touch (often) and what to do if anyone, young or old, attempts to do that. Teach and empower them on these personal boundaries they must protect and that in special circumstances, they don’t have to be polite. This isn’t the end of this conversation with your kids, but one you should definitely have before going back to school.
2. Words matter.
One conversation we have with our kids continually is there is power in their words. With it they can speak life, and with it they can speak death. They must learn that not everything they think should be said. The Bible talks a lot about putting a guard over our mouth, how the tongue is incredibly hard to tame, and that with it they can bless or curse.
We talk about what they speak to or say about their teachers when they are frustrated, we talk about what they speak to or say about their friends or classmates, and we talk about what they speak to or say about themselves. Statements like, “Mrs. So & So is so mean” may feel like a true statement to them, but it isn’t something that needs to be spoken to anyone but mom and dad. Words like, “Did you see what Billy Bob was wearing today? It is sooooo 2010!” May be what they are thinking, but what does it produce and how does it make them look to the people they are saying it too. And especially statements like, “I’m so dumb,” really does take a toll and should be replaced with truth such as, “This subject is hard for me and I may not understand it, but if I try my hardest, that is all that matters.”
So teach your kids that their words matter. What they sow with their mouth, they will reap.
3. Life isn’t fair.
I sure wish it was….but alas…it is not. Teachers are going to have favorites, others are going to be picked before them, they may not get the part they wanted in that play or might not make the team. I remember when I was little having my name written on the board (they did that back then…a looooong time ago). I was humiliated and embarrassed and to this day, I still don’t think I deserved it (forgive and let go, Sabrina), but regardless of whether or not I deserved the discipline or correction, it was my response to it that really mattered.
Let’s help our kids respond correctly. There are times I will run to my kids rescue, but these are extreme cases. Most of the time, I am coaching my kids on how they can approach the teacher if they felt they were wronged. I am teaching my kids how to process disappointment and releasing forgiveness when they get hurt or have the opportunity to get offended.
If I get personally involved EVERY SINGLE TIME they get upset, hurt or wronged, then am I really preparing them for adulthood? When they go to college, and something doesn’t go their way, am I going to walk into their classroom and request a meeting with their professor? Or when they have their first job, am I going to set up a time to confront their employer? I hope the answer is “NO” in all of those scenarios. It is my job to start preparing them now on how to handle life when it doesn’t go their way, how to approach people when they want to make an appeal, and how to let it go when the answer isn’t what they wanted or expected.
When the stakes aren’t high, when they are little, this is the BEST time to teach them these basic coping and communication skills. (Read 4 Tips to Help You When Your Kids Fight for some practical lessons in art of communication.)
4. Help the Hurting, Defend the Weak & Love the Unloveables.
On our way to school, we have a number of different mantras we say as a family. This is one of them. I ask them, “What kind of person are you going to be?” And they answer, “We will help the hurting, defend the weak and love the unloveables.” I want my kids to have hearts of compassion and eyes to see people beyond the outer shell and behavior.
I love the movie, Bridge to Terabithia. (If you haven’t watched it yet, get your tissues out and prepare to cry). This is a great family movie too, by the way. One of my favorite messages in this movie (and there are many) revolves around this girl who is the bully of the school. At first they are all figuring out ways to stand up to her, but then one kids takes the time to get to know this bully and discovers that her home life is nothing to be desired. She is simply acting out because she is being bullied at home by her dad (or mom, I can’t remember all of the details.)
When my kids come home from school and tell me about a difficult classmate, one of the first things I say is, “I wonder if they are having a hard time at home?” It immediately changes the tone in how they are talking about them to one of concern and compassion. I don’t teach them that they have to like everyone or be friends with everyone, but they do need to be kind to everyone, because we never know what they may be experiencing in life, behind the scenes.
We teach our kids to defend the weak, to stand up for kids if they are being bullied or teased by others. It could be a child who is handicapped, someone socially challenged, a younger kid, or a classmate who has never been taught how to stand up for themselves. Whatever the case, if they see someone who is needs help, they should defend them, because that is what Jesus has done for us.
5. Don’t forget who you are.
I wrote an entire post on this already on how to speak life over your children. Check it out here. So I won’t go into this too much. But our kids need to have identity spoken over them so they can remember who they belong to and what they are about. The Bible says, “Without vision, people cast off restraint.” We tell our kids, when you forget who you are, that is when you start making bad decisions. So every day before they get out of the car, we have them tell us who they are, “Girl/Boy of God, World Changer, and Princess/Mighty Warrior.” Even when they are in high school, we still have them tell us who they are.
There are more talks you can have with your kids…obviously. But in my opinion, these five topics are foundational conversations we must have with our kids to set them up for success. Happy back-to-school time! May this be the best year ever!
Love + Blessings,