September 24, 2023 | Doug Sauder
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New school supplies, new teachers, new schedule, new uniforms, and new friends. So much is new at the beginning of each school year; however, some things remain the same!
Let’s have some fun and pretend that it looks and feels a little bit like fall here in South Florida. As you sit down to make your list for what school supplies you need to purchase and who needs new shoes or a backpack, grab a journal and a hot cup of coffee or chai tea latte and join me in giving this upcoming school year a few minutes of intentional thinking and vision—a new type of planning.
Did you come up with a theme or word for the 2023 new year? Maybe in January, you started out with a theme or word, but now you can barely remember what it was. What about your child’s new upcoming school year? Have you ever thought of coming up with a theme or word for that?
In my family, we’d sometimes pick out specific themes, mottos, or goals for upcoming events, even if it was just for a small break. For example, things like, “Kicking up the Personal Hygiene—Spring Break 2023” or “The Summer of Emerging into Adulthood.” Slogans can be fun, but also meaningful.
What areas of growth are you desiring in your child for this next school year? What are their hopes and dreams or fears and insecurities as they prepare to start a new year of school? We all want our kids to step into who God created them to be. How about, “School Year 2023—Free to Be Me”? I love that one!
Perhaps your child needs encouragement and confidence to be themselves and not to be exactly like their peers. Your child is who God created them to be, and no one else. It’s our job as parents to remind and encourage them to hone in on their gifts and talents and things that make them unique, as well as teach them how they can use those attributes to add value to others and glorify the Lord.
Perhaps you like the theme, “School Year 2023–24—We’re Here for More”—more of using God’s gifts and talents, more of sharing His story, more of stepping into who God created us to be. Whatever it is, have fun with it! Write it on a poster board in your home and on notecards to put in your child’s lunch box. Traditions and family mottos strongly increase the confidence and security in our children.
Maybe a theme or motto isn’t your thing. Here are a few fun traditions that will add value to your kids and family during the upcoming school year.
If the wake-up routine is rough, here’s an idea I love for those sleepyheads who won’t get out of bed in the morning. Set your alarm to go off a half-hour before you really have to get up. Go to your sleepyhead’s room and slip into bed with them. Spend that extra half-hour snuggling and waking up slowly while talking quietly or reading the verse of the day together. Then get up together and start getting ready for the day.
My husband used to do car duty at the school several mornings a week during the school year. Day after day and week after week, he began to notice this father who would take his daughter to school in the mornings. Every day, this dad would pull out of the long car line, pull over to the side (not at all in a hurry), get out of the car, go around and open his daughter’s door, and then give her a hug goodbye. I can picture it, and I can sense the joy, peace, strength, and confidence that girl must have felt as she marched onto that school property and down the halls to start her school day. What a legacy this dad has created. She will never forget this sweet, impactful tradition.
When my husband would take our kids to school in the morning, they played a fun game they created. If they saw a red Ferrari, they would stop for donuts, whether or not it made them late for school and work. Odds were in my husband’s favor, but it was a fun way to start the day and our kids were wide awake and full of hope!
Don’t just ask, “How was your day?” Ask questions to start conversations like, “What was the favorite part of your day? Did you encourage someone today? Did someone encourage you? Was there a time in your day when you knew you were being you and it felt good?” Ask questions about your goals or theme. You could also choose to set a tradition where every Friday or Wednesday (Hump Day), you go to the park after school, have a playdate and invite a friend over, or go out for ice cream (yes, even before dinner). Make it a consistent tradition they’ll look forward to.
Homework, soccer practice, laundry, church, classes, grocery shopping, dinner . . . it seems as though there’s never enough time in the evenings to get it all done. But try this: Be intentional about having dinner together as a family around the table a few nights a week—no phones, no TV, just the family talking, sharing, and laughing. Trust me, you won’t regret it!
We all know this routine and tradition: Tuck your child into bed, pray with them, and kiss them goodnight. This isn’t new, but it sure is powerful. Well into middle school (and yes, even high school). If I didn’t go into my son’s room to pray with him before bedtime, I’d hear him yell from his bed, “Come tuck me in!” Prayers are powerful. Traditions are gold and help to instill values in the lives of your children. They don’t have to take long, just make sure they’re a priority and be consistent.
I once cared for a little four-year-old foster boy. Every night, he needed a Band-Aid for his ouchy, and we needed to sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (insert name) wonders where you are.” Then, he would fall asleep.
And these are just a few ideas. There’s so much more we can do, so many traditions we can start, so many ways to make these years fun, formative, and intentional. And, we need to teach our kids to trust God and to not be anxious about this next school year.
Own it. Be creative with it. God’s got you! We can trust God when we’re afraid or anxious. Faith and fear cannot co-exist; we cannot have faith in God while letting fear run rampant in our minds. So, as you think about what you want for this next school year, as you pray about who you want your kids to become, and when you ponder your new traditions or themes, remember that it’s our responsibility to train up our children in the way they should go.
This school year, encourage your children to be focused on others and not themselves, to be generous with their gifts and talents, their smiles, and their compliments, to share and give words of encouragement, to sit with the child who doesn’t have many friends, and to be a blessing to their teachers. They can be world changers right where they are.
And remember, we’re always here for you! Let us know what theme or traditions you’re going to implement for this year, and be sure to stay connected with us by visiting CalvaryFTL.org/Parenting.