The new school year is here, and it’s often a time of stress for families. For kids, stress accompanies new classes, new teachers, new friends, and new academic challenges. For kids who are changing schools, there is even more stress. But, there is also stress for parents as we get our kids back into school year routines, and as we help our kids deal with their stress. As parents, our goal ought to be to intentionally work to keep the stress levels down in our homes. Lowering the stress levels will not only help your family but will also do a lot to make sure your kids experience a successful school year. Here are seven tips to help you build the foundation of a successful school year for your kids:
1. Create a Peaceful Home Environment
Your kids don’t need a perfect home, but to thrive, they need a peaceful one. During the school year, kids battle all day long. They battle peer pressure, body image, academic pressures, relational issues with peers, and many struggle with being bullied. Kids need to come home to a place where they can retreat, drop their battle gear at the door, and find a safe shelter where they can just be themselves. Your home ought to be the one place your kids feel truly safe, where they can be loved and known and cared for. So, even though there will be stress and conflict at home from time to time, do your best not to let the “stuff” of everyday life turn your home into a tense, stressful environment. Make your home a safe, calm haven of escape from the madness going on in the outside world. In some homes, this starts by simply reducing the noise level. Turning down the volume of television and music can help. Next, try not to overreact to circumstances of home life. Sure, many issues need to be addressed, but when you get angry or frustrated, overreactions are common and family stress levels rise. Look to cool down before you respond to such situations. Your family will thank you for it. When your home is peaceful, chances are, your kids will do better in school.
2. Encourage Your Kids to Make Time for God Every Day
In 1 Timothy 4:8 we read, “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” Encourage your kids to have a daily devotional time every day. Having a daily time with God is a great way for them to refresh their spirit in the presence of God. When you model this discipline for your kids, it can go a long way in setting the example that your kids will follow. As kids get caught up in all the demands of school and other activities, it’s key for them to understand the truth that “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1). Further, consider a regular family devotional time. Take advantage of opportunities for worship that your church offers.
3. Make Physical Needs a Priority
1 Timothy 4:8 also provides a good reminder to us that “physical training is of some value.” To keep kids healthy, as well as to keep the stress monster at bay, we need to help ensure that they maintain a balanced physical lifestyle. This means that your kids need to get regular exercise, plenty of rest (9-11 hours per night for kids 6 — 13 years, and 8 to 10 hours per night for teens!), and eat a healthy diet! Making sure that your kids’ physical needs are being met takes a lot of effort, but again, kids tend to do better in school when their bodies are functioning at their peak.
4. Keep the Family Safety Net Strong
Within your family, your kids find the important relational connections that will sustain them through the good times, as well as the bad. Strained or broken family relationships affect other areas of your kids’ lives — like their school performance. So, take the lead in your family to make sure your relationships become and stay healthy. Start by evaluating whether or not you are currently “enjoying” or “annoying” your family… then make the changes necessary to strengthen those family ties.
5. Protect the Balance of Scheduling
Parents will help their kids have a successful school year by protecting a balanced lifestyle in the scheduling of responsibilities, commitments, and activities. Look at the big picture. School, homework, athletics, hobbies, church activities all add up to a significant amount of your son’s or daughter’s time. Help evaluate the effects that these various activities have on their lives. Don’t be afraid to initiate a cutback in order to protect their most important involvements. Help your kids to learn that no one can do everything! Watch for emerging signs of stress. If your kids are demonstrating stress, be sure to reevaluate their schedules.
6. Keep an Eye on Academics
There’s no doubt that your kids’ schoolwork is important! It’s wise to take an active role in regularly checking on how your children are doing academically. Don’t just look at the bottom line (grades), but keep an eye on whether or not they are learning disciplined study habits, if they are turning in assignments on time, and the areas where they might need additional help. Having said this, let me also say, as parents we need to maintain balance in this area! Too many parents today wrap their own self-worth in how their kids are doing in school, and hover over their kids like helicopters, making sure every assignment is completed, on time and done correctly. Some parents even resort to doing their child’s homework! Unfortunately, these rescuing behaviors actually hinder our kids’ development toward independent adulthood. Kids need to learn to become responsible in this area of their lives, so reject the temptation to rescue.
7. Roll with the Punches!
No young person is exempt from facing at least occasional difficulties associated with school. Some are just brief “moments” while others are “seasons.” How they respond to the hard times they face is a key determining factor in whether or not anxiety will wreak havoc in their lives; anxiety that soon begins to affect their school performance. The people who enjoy the highest level of contentment in life are the ones who can stay flexible when the tough times happen — and they are the ones who end up standing when those times have passed. So, teach your kids to roll with the punches. Teaching them to face difficulties with faith and courage, to get up off the carpet when they fall, to work toward constructively resolving their problems, and to move ahead, are all key life lessons they’ll thank you for — for years to come!