What a difference a year (or two) makes. Children are flooding back to school all over the country. Parents are searching for school supplies, clothes/uniforms, the best back packs and all that goes with starting a new school year.
It wasn’t that long ago “back to school” was about virtual classrooms, facemasks and when or if there would be in person classes. Things are better!
Kids do some of their own searching when it is time to go back to school. They are thinking about (maybe googling) how to make friends and how to avoid bullies. Some are anxious about being away from home, others are intimidated about the class work and a few love everything about school.
Parents are trying to get it all done and kids are trying to work it all out.
I listened to a podcast with Andy Crouch recently. He said some things I didn’t know and concerned me greatly about the fallout from all the disruption in education.
Learning to read is essential, studies have shown kids become “innate” readers when they learn to read between ages 5-8. They can become functional readers at later ages but for some reason it does not resonate as well. For most children, reading can become as natural as breathing in this age range but after it is always more work and less instinctive.
In much the same way, middle school age kids learn to become “innate” relators. Socially all the awkward middle school stuff is a great experiment for 10-13 years old to learn how to relate to others and function in more complex social settings. Think group discussion/projects etc.
Here is the problem, for many kids these things didn’t happen and no one is sure what the results will be. One Junior High teacher commented on the data saying he used group activities as a major part of his teaching in past years but current students don’t seem to know how to function around others as part of a group. Their social skills are so low learning doesn’t happen.
If you are a parent, a grandparent or simple concerned about kids, how can you help kids close the gap. I would offer you four suggestions:
1) Talk to the One who can do something about it. Concerned? Have you already felt some of the losses? There are practical things you do. The most practical thing you can do is pray. Pray for your kids as they start this school year.
Ask God to take away any anxiety they may feel. Pray for His power and strength to show up in their life and that they would learn their confidence comes from Him, not their accomplishments. Pray their hearts and minds would be open so they can learn both the material and how to love others well.
As a pastor, I am praying for your kids. Join me. It is incredible to watch God work, when you ask Him to and position yourself to see it.
2) Get them to church. Yeah I know, things are busy, schedules are tight, lots going on. I get it. I really do. But, this actually makes my point. You have to prioritize. Serious question, why wouldn’t you prioritize taking your kids to church?
If you are a parent you are the spiritual leader in your home and the most influential person in your child’s life. There will always be other things you can do instead of church. I will admit not every kid who regularly attends church has everything turn out great.
I do know taking kids to a church that values them, teaches them about how God loves them and what it looks like to love others can close all kinds of gaps and make up for all kinds of challenges kids face.
The small stuff, Learning how to socialize. Check. Practicing skills learned at school. Check.
But the big stuff, the important stuff. Knowing they are loved and valued by their Heavenly Father. Check. Learning to make their faith their own. Check. Setting them to live a life filled with meaning, purpose and impact. Check.
Too much at stake to let this slide.
3) Talk to them. Who is them? Them is your child’s teacher. Don’t blame them, question them or challenge them on everything. Ask how they are doing. Find out how you can help them. Let the teacher know you appreciate and value them.
They are real people. They can be an incredible ally of yours. Take some time to invest in the person who is investing in your kids.
4) Go to Dairy Queen. Many years ago my wife and I started a tradition. Before the first day of school we took our girls to Dairy Queen to get whatever they wanted and to talk.
It was a celebration of the end of summer and the start of a new season. It didn’t hurt that I ended up with a large Cookie Dough Blizzard every year either!
We talked about what they were looking forward to, if there was anything they were concerned about and what to expect. This was especially important on the big years when they switched to Jr High or High School.
I also REQUIRED them to share their goals. I know that sounds way too Type A. But the goals were just a tool to communicate to them we expected them to have a good year and do some important things.
It wasn’t about accomplishing a bunch of objectives, it was about them thinking about where they are and where they want to be. Although one year my oldest daughter’s goal was to “spend less time in the principals office than last year”! (LONG story)
Maybe the kids in your life are struggling because they haven’t learned as much either academically or socially. You can help them. You can close the gap.
As a parent, take charge. As a grandparent or relative, volunteer to help. If you not either maybe you need to find a way to invest in kids this school year. I know the kid’s ministry at our church would be excited about helping you find a way to make a difference.
Everybody wants their kids to do well, so take some steps to close the gap.