Fall is one of my favorite times of year, as the season begins to usher in cooler nights and warm clothing we also begin to find ourselves in the busyness of life. School starting back, new sports seasons starting and if we are not careful we can easily overlook on the most important needs of our kids. Yes, it is important to get them ready for the school year and equipped for whatever activities they choose, but how can we prepare to provide for our kids relationally?
Our kids will encounter so many things in their relationships with friends and teachers and coaches. We can be the steady consistent influence to help them make sense of all the noise. We must be the voice that helps them remember the Truth of who they are and not lose site of how important and valuable they are.
The following are four ideas to help you invest in your child's school year and communicate both love and respect to them:
1) During the week leading up to school, do something one-on-one with each child.
- Pack a lunch or grab some drive-thru. Picnic at a park (or in your own driveway or yard) and feed the birds or ducks some leftover pieces of bread or take some bird seed with you if you are fancy.
- Let your middle schooler or high-schooler take you to a new lunch place introduced to them by their friends- let them give you guidance in your ordering or try some sauce they recommend. On the way listen to their music. Some possible topics of conversation could include: hopes they have for the year, any grade-specific thing they are excited about or worried about, people they are most excited to see, people they may not be excited to see, any items or clothing they would like to have.
- Take your elementary or preK child to picnic at the playground at their future school. While there dream about the new friends they will meet and pray for their teachers and all they will learn.
- Go together one-on-one to grab the supplies with each child. Rotate which older child stays home with the others or partner with a friend to keep all the other kids while you two rotate taking one child at a time. I did this three years with a dear friend and the kids loved the play time and their one-on-one hour.
- Take your child to shop for a child in need and donate to any organization or store that is helping make those connections.
- Bake some cookies together that you can pack in lunches during the first couple of days.
2) A new school year can give children a sense of starting fresh. Talk with your child about one word they would like to focus on this year so you can encourage them in that. Be patient and give them a few days to think it over. They may not know until a few months into the year but it leaves an open door to come and converse with you. Some examples could be: contentment, authenticity, boldness, confidence, friendships, etc. When they give you the word, pray for God to help them grow in this area. Look for little ways to encourage them like memes to text them, magnets for their lockers, little books to read, or other ways to cheer them on in life.
3) Consider them when volunteering at their school. Ask for their input in what they would like for you to do. If work or other things limit you, try to at least choose two options and let them have some say in which you participate. Even kindergarteners feel respected and valued knowing they have influenced your decisions!
4) Plan a shared target schedule template for the season. Incorporate chunks of time for homework, extracurricular practice, friend interaction, family time and of course, PLAtime. This gives them days they can anticipate having your attention, shares expectations for when they can have friends over, and helps them budget their time and responsibilities.
May you have a great time with your child planning and dreaming about the new experiences and new ways they will grow this year!