It’s that time of year again. Back to school clothes are out in force and aisles of school supplies can be found in every store. Going back to school can be exciting, especially if your kids enjoy the learning process and being around their friends and classmates. However, the experience can also be stressful for kids, especially if they’ve had more painful social interactions or just don’t perform as well as some others academically. No matter what your kid is like, you might wonder how you can help them navigate the days ahead and whether there are any good habits that could help with the transition. If so, here’s a great place to start: with setting boundaries and taking responsibility.
Students’ schedules are often crammed full of academics, extracurriculars, and social activities, with a healthy dose of screen time on top. Because of this, many kids don’t eat properly or get enough sleep. And for kids who don’t thrive in the social climate of a typical school or don’t do well with academics and extracurriculars, getting homework done and contributing to group projects can be extra difficult.
But in spite of these challenges, the new school year is still full of opportunities to start new. So what are some practical steps you can take to help your kid have a positive experience this school year? Here are four good habits that will help your kid make the most of the opportunities they’ll have by showing them how they can take care of themselves.
1. Help them make good choices for their schedule.
Not every school year is created equal. Resist the temptation to copy and paste last year’s schedule and activities to this year. If some classes will be more difficult, consider not adding evening activities that would compete with valuable homework time. Perhaps a teenager needs to start a job. Choosing to turn down some extracurricular activities may be wise until they understand how much time the job will require and how taxing it will be, physically and mentally. And remember, not all activities are beneficial. Help your kid use good judgment as to whether or not an activity will add value to their life.
2. Teach them how to have conversations with faculty.
Many kids are paralyzed by the idea of having a conversation with a teacher, office staff member or coach. However, eventually, there will be a misunderstanding about an assignment, a question about a field trip, or a missed deadline. In those situations, kids need to know how to ask questions, gain clarity, and maybe even make a case for something. Teaching them the skills and attitude necessary to have these conversations will go a long way toward building their self-confidence and inspire them to take on more responsibility. When parents jump in to handle these things, it hampers the young person’s ability to learn and grow in this area.
3. Lead them to plan ahead.
We’ve already established there is a lot to do in the life of a kid. Having a plan established ahead of the school year regarding how much time will be spent doing what each day, week and month allows young people to mentally create expectations for themselves. It also gives them a way to communicate with others when they need to say no to an opportunity. Taking a look at the family calendar prior to the beginning of each week to determine who needs the car, what forms need to be returned, and what deadlines are ahead ensures that everyone in the family is on the same page.
4. Know when to say no.
Parents lead the way by showing their kids how to prioritize time. If the adults in the house spend hours mindlessly scrolling through social media at night and oversleep or wake up panicking the next morning because lunches aren’t made, that’s behavior kids will learn. Knowing when to turn down the request to bring five dozen cookies to the classroom party or when to decline the optional work trip to be available to attend a school assembly is the best way for a parent to teach their children how to prioritize their time. Discussing these things as a family and communicating why certain things take priority over others is invaluable.
Our friends at Axis have loads of additional great information on this topic in their Parent’s Guide to Back to School. Check it out!
Above all, remember to set the standard that spending time in God’s Word, attending church, and serving others is top priority. This is the greatest statement a parent can make to their child. During busy weeks, it can be easy to say, “We’ll just catch Pastor Craig’s message at Church Online,” but that communicates that serving together and attending small group in LifeKids just isn’t quite as important as all the other activities the week holds. If your top priority is secure, chances are, everything else will have an easier time falling into place.
Connect with other great ways to encourage your kids to share what they are learning and experiencing in LifeKids, Loop, and Switch by using the questions below.
Resources and Discussion Questions for Talking to Your Kid About the Church at Any Age
Here are some quick links to free resources for kids at each developmental level. You can also try these discussion starters to begin a conversation with your kid about the Church.
For Your Preschoolers (Or Verbal Toddlers—It’s Never Too Early to Start!)
1. Start this Bible Plan together.
2. Go on the Bible Adventure called “Everybody’s Welcome” together with your little ones. Each time they watch it, they’ll pick up new things.
3. As you work through this topic together, try asking some of these questions:
- When you choose to follow Jesus, whose family do you get to be in?
- When you’re a part of God’s family, are you a part of God’s Church, too?
- Who can be a part of God’s family when they trust and follow Jesus?
For Your Elementary Kids
1. Start this Bible Plan about the church.
2. Watch the “Who’s the Church?” Konnect HQ episodes with your child.
3. As you work through this topic together, use these questions as a jumping-off place:
- Who is a part of God’s Church? Name some people you know who are your brothers and sisters in God’s Church.
- How good do you think you are at showing God’s love to everyone?
- Share one way you can show God’s love to someone this week.
For Your Preteens
1. Start this Bible Plan about the church with your preteen. If they have their own Bible App account, invite them to join you in a Plan with Friends.
2. Watch these great episodes of The Loop Show about the Church.
3. As you work through this topic together, ask the questions below:
- What is your favorite and least favorite thing about coming to church?
- Read 1 Corinthians 12:26-27. What do you think it means to be one part of the Body of Christ?
- How could you serve people inside the church? What about outside? How could you serve people at school or in your neighborhood?
For Your Teenagers
1. Encourage your teen to start a Bible Plan with their friends. Here are a few plans they could try: Don’t Be Different Alone, and Switch: How to Follow Jesus.
2. Ask your teen if they’ve seen the latest episodes of Switch.
3. Talk to your teen about what the Church is and what it means to be a part of it. Try asking the questions below:
- Why do you think fewer people in your generation identify as Christ followers?
- What standards does your generation hold as being of the highest value? What are your thoughts on that?
- Do you sense that you have a role to play in carrying the good news of Jesus to future generations? If so, what does that look like for you? If not, why not?