Back to school advice is often about returning to an earlier schedule, adjusting to new classes, and breaking in new shoes. Once school has started and the new has worn off, a few other issues can emerge. Besides family, school is usually your child’s largest time commitment. We drop our children at the door of the school each morning and pick them up in the afternoon—and other people influence them for the time in between. Most of those people are great influencers, some are good, while others are adequate, and there is usually one or two that can become a real problem. Those statistics will be true for your child for the rest of his or her life. The school years are about learning life skills as well as academics.
What should you do if your child comes home in tears? Complaining of boredom? Feeling unpopular? Or . . . with a scraped knee or black eye?
First, take a deep breath and realize that your first thoughts are probably not going to be your best thoughts. Reactions are rarely as productive as actions. There is a solution, but it probably isn’t a quick solution—because, if at all possible, Mom and Dad need to allow their child to do the “fixing.” It is normal to want to jump in and handle it, but it is almost always better if you can help your children learn how deal with their own problems.
Second, you can know that if you only have information from your child’s point of view, you only have half the story. Make a point to get facts from several sources. Children rarely share the part of the story where they did something wrong or could have done something better. But, if you give them some time, they will usually give a little more insight over dinner, at bedtime or before school the next day. And if they don’t, their siblings, friends, teacher, or other moms will probably offer a few facts. Kids are wonderfully honest, over time. Most have a tender conscience and will need to be honest with the people they love.
Third, try to step back from the immediate circumstances and see the larger picture. How will a tough situation help your child develop some great life skills? It’s that “forest for the trees” idea. It is normal to want to make life easier for your child, but difficult situations sometimes teach the best life skills. Allow your children to endure some difficulties and they will be better equipped for the years ahead.
Every child will need to learn how to handle a little boredom in school. Every child will have a subject they are not interested in learning. Every child will have a teacher who lacks enthusiasm too. Not every child is a genius; in fact, most are not. A quick study of the number of CEOs that were “B” students will help you to feel a lot better about your “average” well-adjusted child.
Some kids wear the cutest clothes. Some kids are the best at sports. Some kids make the best grades. Some kids have a lot of friends. Some kids have one or two close friends. Some treat others kindly and others do not. Some are outgoing and some are shy. No child is all of the above. If your child comes home depressed because of who or what they are not, talk to them about who or what they are.
If your child comes home bored, think of ways they can be creative with their thoughts. If your child comes home with the blues, try to listen to what isn’t being said. The whole truth is usually a few days down the road, and often your child figures out how to work through the struggle by his or herself. Kids are wonderfully resilient, and giving them the time to cope is often giving them time to learn they are far more capable than they realized. When a parent jumps in, it can be perceived by the child as, “I’m not capable of doing this myself.” Don’t be a hero, if you can teach your child to be that hero instead.
If a child is physically harmed by another child, the game changes. If you see another child being harmed, the “it takes a village” rules kick in. Adults need to keep kids safe and usually our very near presence or a very intentional look will cause a bully to back down. That is the reaction, but there also needs to be action. Some bullying can be forgiven if it is a temporary lapse in judgment. Most people act like a bully at some point and learn to do better because of consequence or discipline. But, if your child is a constant bully or constantly bullied then your child needs to get help. You might need help as well. Most schools have good counselors that you will need to trust. But, again, if your children can learn how to handle a bully, or stop acting like a bully, your children will have learned a life skill that will help them for the rest of their lives.
Think of the first four weeks of school as a learning curve. The problems your child faces the first week are rarely issues by October 1st. Teachers are still getting the “lay of the land” as well. As parents, hang back, watch and encourage your children to handle their own problems. They are amazing little people and you have probably raised them to know the Lord and trust his help. This could be that one of the greatest lessons your children learn from a few tough times:
The LORD has been mindful of us; He will bless us; Psalm 115:12
The Lord loves your child more than you can imagine. He will help you raise them up and learn to make choices He will bless. But, God’s word also teaches us “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). There might be back to school blahs, blues, and bullies—but October 1st is just around the corner. A lot of things will get worked out by then.