Archive for August 27, 2011

6 Ways to Celebrate Back to School

My daughters are back to school today…woohoo! Well, my daughters are not celebrating the return to school. They rejoice to see friends but moan about the return of homework. Me, I take any and every opportunity I can to celebrate…and my children returning so school is reason enough! So, what can a family do to celebrate the return to school? Here are 6 simple ideas to get you started.

1.      Pack a special note for your child in their backpack or lunch. Write an encouraging note on an index card and attach a piece of candy to the back–call it a “candy gram.” Or, sneak a funny card into their backpack. If your child does not like to find notes or cards during school, give them a card before they leave for school. Pick the card thoughtfully, make it one that will make them smile and express how proud you are of them.

2.      You can also get your children a little “trinket” to make the first day of school. For instance, they might enjoy a key chain that they can attach to their backpack or, if they are old enough for a cell phone, a charm to attach to it. Make it something fun…something that sparks their interests…something that will make them smile and think of home.

3.      Before your children leave for their first day of school, take a few pictures. I know my daughters moan about this somewhat; but we love to document the transition to each new year, noting how our children and our family grows and changes over time. So, take a picture or two. Let your children model their new clothes, backpacks, and hairdo’s. Take serious pictures, funny pictures, and family pictures. Take enough pictures to document the successful transition to a new school year.

4.      After your children leave for their first day of school, have a brunch with your spouse or a group of other parents. This will give you and your spouse some time to relax together, enjoy adult conversation, reflect over the summer months, and plan your schedule for the early part of the school year. Even more, it will give you and your spouse time to enjoy one another’s company.

5.      Make the evening after the first day of school a special treat. Plan a meal that includes your children’s favorite dishes. You may also want to watch a family movie or play a family game. Do something as a family to celebrate that family remains, even though school begins. If you are not sure what activity your children might enjoy the most, ask them…and then work to prepare for that activity.

6.      One more thing it important as our children return to school…pray for them. Pray for them as they go to school, while they are in school, and even after school. Bathe them in prayer for safety, wisdom, humility, and fun.
Six simple ways to celebrate your children starting a new school year, have fun, and watch them grow.

How Do You Use Words?

Lynn came into my office in tears. After she described her day, I understood. Just listen to the comments she heard throughout the day:
“Are you going to eat all that? You really have to watch your figure you know.”
“You can’t wear that shirt. It shows too much mid-rift. Are you trying to look easy?”
“You forgot your homework again. You’d forget your head if it wasn’t attached”
“You never listen to me.
“How could you go out? You don’t care about us at all…you are so selfish!”
“You always have an excuse. Well, I don’t need your excuses… Just do it.” 
“Having a bad hair day, are we?”
“Those pants don’t go with that shirt.”
“You run funny.”
“Sit down and shut up.”
The list goes on. Comments made by friends, family members, and teachers in a variety of situations…not one encouraging or constructive word. No wonder she was upset. Her friends, family members, and teachers had hurled words at her like stones, crushing her heart and mind under the weight of discouragement and belittling comments. Our homes need to provide a place of shelter from the verbal barrage of ridicule and discouragement. An honor-filled family offers a safe haven from the word bullets of discouragement that pierce our hearts and minds.
Encourage Your Spouse identifies five ways to encourage…not just your spouse but your whole family. Let’s look at each one in detail.
·         Inspire with Hope: Comments such as “You’re doing a great job” or “You are becoming such a nice young lady” inspire us with hope for tomorrow. Comments that provide hope also encourage. Hope gives us strength to carry on, even when times are rough. So, encourage with comments that inspire hope and help your family look toward a positive future.
·         Fortify with Faith: We can build one another up with comments that communicate “I believe in you.” For instance, telling a child “I know it’s hard, but you can do it. Let me know if you need some help” lets them know you have faith in their ability. Even establishing an encouraging expectation can build up a realization that you have faith in them. For instance, saying “I know you can do better than that on your homework” when you know they only did a half-hearted job communicates that you have faith in a greater ability than they exhibited. Encourage family members to live up to their ability by using kind, encouraging words.
·         Foster with Love: We can use encouraging words of love to nurture family members and develop positive character. Let family members know the depth of your love by expressing appreciation for their deeds and character, joy over their presence in our lives, and gratitude for their contribution to your life. Let your love encourage positive growth in their lives as well. 
·         Uplift with Prayer: It is so very encouraging to know that family members pray for you…that they hold you, your interests, and your struggles in mind and bring them before God for His assistance. Let family members know you pray for them. Ask them how you can pray for them. Lift them up in vocal prayer before meals or at bedtime. Let them hear you pray for them. Share your own prayer requests with family as well. Together you can lift one another up in prayer.
·         Support with Actions: Use your actions to express your love and support for their lives. Encourage family members by serving them, communicating that they are valuable enough to serve. Show an interest in their interests, become involved in their life’s pursuit, and support their dreams with positive action. These actions encourage others by expressing value and love.
Lynn’s day would have gone very differently had she come into my office after a day of receiving encouraging messages. Each of us plays a role in “making” or “breaking” the day of our family members. So, use your words to encourage rather than discourage, to lift up rather than pull down, to build rather than crush.

Take My Presence With You

I love this commercial (click on picture to watch). The little Darth Vader suddenly becomes empowered–“may the force go with him.” What does this have to do with parenting? As family shepherds, we don’t necessarily want our children to have “the force go with them;” but, we do want them to have our “presence go with them.” We do our children a great service when we build a sense of our presence into their lives. A child gains a sense of security, personal power, and comfort when they have the realization that their “parent’s presence goes with them.” Like the little Darth Vader in this commercial, children who have a “parental presence go with them” feel empowered. So, like Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker taught Luke about “the force,” we want to teach our children about “parental presence” and how it will follow them to protect, nurture, and guide. How do parents build a sense of presence into their child’s life?
First, we hug and hold them. The earliest way a parent becomes present to a child is through bodily touch. So, we hold them, hug them, playfully wrestle and tickle them, and snuggle up on the couch with them. As a child grows, the family shepherd embraces to comfort, gives a high five to celebrate, walks with an arm around a shoulder to encourage, or gives a gentle slap on the back to congratulate. All of this physical touch confirms our presence, our involvement, and our interest in our children’s lives.
We also build our presence into our children’s lives by physically stepping into their world of school. We stop at the school now and again, talk to the teachers and coaches, even the principals. When children see us at school and know that we know teachers and counselors at the school, they become more invested in doing well. They think twice about their own behavior because of the relationship “mom and dad” have with the staff. Besides, you never know when mom and dad might just show up. (Click picture to see video about parental involvement in school from Connect with Kids.)
Take the time to step into their world of technology as well.   Friend your child on Facebook and make that “friendship” a prerequisite for their Facebook page. I’m not saying to spy on your child’s every move, but casually follow them on your own Facebook page and check out their page now and again. This will help you monitor your child’s safety and appropriateness in the public domains. You can assure that your child does not post information that is too personal or revealing (such as phone numbers or addresses) as well as nipping any potential cyber-bullying in the bud. Learn to text and send your children a text message once in a while. They’ll think you’re a little “weird,” but they’ll know that you are thinking of them and they’ll feel your presence. Keep the phones out of the bedroom after bedtime and in a common area for charging. Too often children and teens stay up throughout the night texting rather than getting their needed sleep. Establish the rule that you can look at their texting history at any time. Children receive inappropriate texts at times–sexting or bullying texts. As family shepherds, we need to monitor this potential to protect our children.
Let your children see you stepping into the community. Go to the church your child attends. Attend his concerts and sporting events. Let them see you engaging their friends at these events, congratulating and conversing with them. Get to know their friends when they come to your house. Talk about their interests. Sit in with them while they watch a movie together. Also spend time getting to know the parents of your children’s friends.   Interact with them at various community events and school functions. Who knows, you might even develop some new friends yourself. And, your child learns that you are present in the community around them.
You may be thinking, “All of these suggestions are just a regular part of life.” That’s true. However, as a parent, these activities take on new meaning. They play a special role in teaching your child that your presence goes with them. That wherever they are, you might show up…or someone you know might show up. This knowledge provides a sense of security and comfort…your presence is there to protect and nurture. It also helps to provide motivation for responsible behavior…your presence goes with them to encourage responsible behavior. Move over Darth Vader, like Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker, we want to teach our children about parental presence and how it will follow them to protect, nurture, and guide. “Take our presence with you.”