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As Summer winds down and the anticipation and excitement of going back to school begins, it can be nerve racking as well. There is a vulnerability in your kids, no matter how tough they may seem on the outside, that gets exposed when put into a new environment with new teachers, new classmates, new routines, and new expectations. Because of this vulnerability, it’s important that we are proactive in communicating a few things to our kids before they start back in the weeks to come.

  1. School is important, but it’s not all there is.

Don’t get me wrong, school matters, and your children, regardless of their age, need to know that. But it’s not as important as we often make it. School is just one of many things that have an effect on the rest of a child’s life. Placing school in its proper context will minimize the fear that can arise from mistakes as well as the anxiousness kids feel in making the “wrong” education decision.

  1. There is always a real person on the other side of a screen.

One of the sociological problems contributing to the rise of cyber bullying is something called the disinhibition effect. When communication travels through a third party (a phone, tablet, computer) we are less inhibited in what we say to other people. Basically, we say things online or through text that we would never say in real life, face to face with someone. As parents, one of the most important things we can do is remind kids that the words typed are no different than words spoken. We need to tell our kids to never say something to someone through a screen that they wouldn’t say in person. (This also might not be a bad thing to remind ourselves.)

  1. Imagination and critical thinking are more important than memorizing the right answers for the grade.

As an adjunct professor, another thing that I noticed right away was how many ‘A’ students were incapable of processing what are called second level questions. Second level questions don’t just ask what something is, but why it is the way it is. Talk to your kids about asking good questions. Value the questions they ask more than the questions they answer.

  1. There is no topic off limits to talk about.

At school, regardless of whether it is public, private, religious, or home school, your children are being confronted with issues they don’t have the wisdom to properly understand. And because they don’t have the wisdom yet to deal with all they are being exposed to, they don’t have the wisdom to initiate conversations about it. Take the first step by reminding them that they can ask you anything, talk to you about anything, process any doubts, challenges, fears, or mistakes without the fear of judgment or punishment. Your kids will eventually seek out advice, so do everything you can to make sure that advice is coming from you and not their foolish and clueless friends.

  1. Remind your children they are loved and valued regardless of merits.

It is okay to encourage your kids to work hard and make an effort in school. But what they accomplish should never be tied to how you feel about them and the position they hold in your life. They are growing up in a culture where they will be judged by what they accomplish and contribute in every area of their life. The only way they will be able to weather that challenge is to know that home is not meritocratic. Remind that there is nothing they can do or not do to make you love them any more or any less.

So, whether it’s back to school or some other season of parenthood, remember that what your kids need most is a secure love, significant purpose and strong hope. You can provide this through parenting in grace. As my own dad always says, “When you sow seeds of grace, you reap a harvest of greatness.” and isn’t that what we all want for our kids anyways, true greatness?!

 

Cody Kimmel

Postmodern Parent. I am a husband, father, pastor, songster, writer, and most importantly, believer in the one true Messiah, Jesus Christ..

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