Who would have thought a year ago – when many of us were enjoying vacations, family get-togethers, backyard barbeques, and summer festivals that we’d be here? Last year this time, we were all moving around freely. Churches, malls, restaurants, street festivals, and amusement parks were packed with people, and kids were enjoying their childhoods – doing what kids do during the summer months – playing with friends, swimming, frolicking around playgrounds, riding bikes, playing sports, going to recitals, and attending summer camps. Life as we knew it was good. This year has been an epic year – and not in a good way! The first half of the year has been eerily quiet. Stressful. Overwhelming.
As we continue to navigate these uncharted waters, it's important to recognize that as hard as current circumstances are for us as adults to process – it’s exponentially harder for our children to grasp. And as we begin to shift back into school mode - the uncertainty and complexity are even more magnified as decisions are made to teach children - in person or remotely.
How do we as parents ease this transition for our kids of starting school with all of the associated stressors and demands? How do we get our minds focused on tackling this temporary "new normal"? How do we mask our own anxieties and reassure our kids that everything will be ok in the midst of so much uncertainty?
There's really no single answer to these questions. But what we know for sure - and what we can control - is ourselves! We can choose to have an attitude of positivity and a mindset of optimism (despite current circumstances) - but most importantly - we must have a Christ-centered focus every day that is grounded in faith. We need this! Our kids need this!
Here are a few suggestions to help you with this journey:
Pray For Yourself And Your Child
First, pray for yourself as the parent by asking God specifically for the peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7). Pray for wisdom and direction as you work to educate your child in the best way possible (James 1:5). And acknowledge that circumstances and resources may look very different during this season. Second, pray specifically for your children - that they will continue to grow in wisdom. Pray that they will have patience, retention and flexibility so they learn what is being taught - despite which learning approach is used.
Prepare Your Heart
Our kids already all learn differently and as this process starts, their learning will look more different than usual. If you are working with an educational system, prepare your heart to support the system, encourage the teachers, and interact well within it while asking for help when you need it. If you are homeschooling, prepare your home for your child to learn well. Thoroughly think through how you can create an environment that is conducive for their learning. Prepare your child. If they are doing school online, talk through your expectations for them, what the year will look like, and how being a learner and a student is a God-given purpose (Colossians 3:23).
Process Your Emotions
If you want to help your kids process their emotions, it is really vital that you process your own first. This means setting realistic expectations for yourself - for your kids - for your family overall. Every day may be different. Schedules may need to be established. Your workdays may need to revolve around the needs of your kids. Some kids may be excited by the start of the new school year, and others not so much! Depending on the age, maturity, and independence of your children, school may be a welcome return to some semblance of normalcy - and for others, an emotional and/or academic struggle. Meet your kids where they are and work through their emotions about starting back to school. We cannot always control our circumstances, but we can control our response to circumstances. We must try to remain positive despite current circumstances. Now is an opportunity to exhibit optimism for our kids. Don't be hard on yourself if the kids stress you out. Every day won't be that way. Enjoy the good days.
Put Aside the Worries of This World and Show Up Strong For Your Children
Once you're able to put things into perspective, focus on loving your children through the uncertainty and unprecedented period in their lives - and shift into high gear as you prepare them to fulfill their purpose. As parents, we must show up strong for our children and not become distracted from our purpose of helping them and letting them know they are loved, supported, and empowered. We must remind them that if and when they feel scared or uneasy that they should call on God! We can also enjoy opportunities to spend less time on some of the educational dynamics and more time focusing on other areas in our lives. Take breaks to talk, check-in, pray, and play! We need to be cautious that we do not get too worn out by the worries of this world that we forget the big picture which is to put God first in our lives.
Please reassure your children that nothing is too big for God! They will one day soon get to again play outside and enjoy the company of their friends and classmates.
Read last week's Mommy Moments: Teaching Our Kids to Discern Between Good and Bad