7 Ways to Prepare Your Child for Back to School

Tomorrow morning children, teenagers and young adults, as well as parents and guardians will wake up and jump back in to the school year routine. Here are 7 ways to help your children get the most out of this first week back to school.

1. Get them excited.

This past week granted me the opportunity to interact with dozens of young people who are returning to school this week. I was in disbelief to hear how many of them were not at all looking forward to going back. Now, I remember acting the same way when I was young. Education wasn't really an exciting opportunity until I was older. Even still, student after student told me that they weren't looking forward to it, that they don't like their teacher, that they want to sleep in, or that they simply don't want to go. We need to change this.

We have to get them excited about school.

We have to get them excited about all the things they will learn.

We have to get them excited about the people they will meet.

We have to get them excited about the opportunity they have that so many don't. Let's be honest, nobody responds well to a guilt trip so we have to be careful with this one, but it is worth reminding young people to be excited about school because they have the privilege of receiving formal education. Let's do everything we can to get them excited about this privilege so that they can get excited about working towards making education and school a right for every kid in the world.

2. Pray for them.

This is our most effective tool. How incredible is it that the Creator of the universe and everything in it, the One who holds the world in his hand, and gives life and sustains every single thing that lives - even you and me - cares enough about us to invite us to come to him in prayer? Asking him for anything we need? Incredible. What's even more incredible that that? He hears us and acts according to his will in answering us.

Praise him for all he's done and tell him that you trust him more than you trust yourself.

Confess to him that you believe he cares more about your child than you do. 

Ask for his protection, for his wisdom and guidance. 

Remember that he is God.

3. Pray with them.

Trust me, if God can understand you then he can understand them. If he can make sense of your prayers then he can definitely make sense of their prayers. We have gotten in the habit of praying each night with our oldest son. We often banter back and forth for 30 seconds or so trying to decide who will pray first and then take our turns. For the first while his prayers were very repetitive, as if he was reading a script of some kind. There was nothing wrong with this and we encouraged him to keep at it. Eventually he began to add into his prayers words of thanksgiving for the things he was able to do that day. Praying for our children is vital, praying with our children is one of the greatest gifts we've been given.

4. If you're able, get them some decent supplies.

No, I'm not suggesting you go out and buy them the latest iWhatever. I'm not even suggesting you spend much. What I am saying is that you'd be amazed at how a fresh set of pencil crayons can spark imagination and creativity. A fresh pen or decent pencils that don't break every 5 seconds, a calculator that doesn't need to be held up to the lights to get it working, and an eraser that actually erases can give your children some confidence and inspire them to do their best work.

5. Coach them.

Everything can be debriefed. Don't drive them away by putting them under a spotlight and grilling them with questions every single day. Instead, ask them what one highlight of their day was.

Ask them what they might do differently the next day to make things better.

Ask them to share about what surprised them most about what they learned.

Ask them about how they surprised themselves.

It can be easy to fall into the habit of blaming teachers or school routines or sub-cultures or peer-pressure for the challenges our children face. Life will bring many challenges and even though they will be spending 35-40 hours a week at school, parents are still the number one biggest influence on their children. Coach them and walk with them through whatever school and life throws their way.

6. Remind them that their value is not based on their performance.

I heard a devastating story of young boy who was diagnosed with a learning disability. When the boy was young his family was informed that he had dyslexia. The boy's father had been a high achiever throughout his school years and had been very successful in his career and was very disappointed to hear this news. The father began to abuse and neglect his son. His anger at his child for having "this problem" eventually drove them apart. Ultimately, the boy grew up believing that he didn't matter. He believed that he wasn't as valuable as other kids because he had this struggle. 

Your child's value is not based on their performance. Your child is made in the image of God and that is where their value is found. Please remind your child that they are valuable and that their performance - good or bad - will never change your love for them. Please remind them that you accept them and that you are committed to them no matter what happens.

7. Breathe.

The new school year leads to many fresh experiences. Taking chances and stepping outside of their comfort zone is necessary for kids to get the most out of these developmental years of their life. Don't hold them back. Encourage them to take chances. Let them go for it and then breathe. When in doubt, always default to putting #2 and 3 into practice. 

What else do you do to prepare your child for back to school?