For many students in the northern hemisphere, it is time to prepare to go back to school for another year. It can be difficult to transition from the carefree days of summer vacation to the rigorous schedule of a school year. But with a little planning and preparation as well as a lot of love, we can help our children to make that transition in a healthy manner!
First and foremost, let us pray for our children. Here is an Orthodox prayer for a child’s first day at school:
“Dear God, here are (names), ready for their first day at school. They have been counting the days. They are so thrilled. Be with them today when they go into unfamiliar rooms, when they see new faces (make them kind faces!), when they stand in the lunch line, when they are on the playground. Keep them close to You as they learn and grow and make friends. Protect them from harm. Watch over them on the way to and from school. And as they become part of a larger world, help me to let them go and gain experience that they will need to become a responsible part of Your creations. Amen.”
Secondly, let us talk with our children. We need to find out what they’re looking forward to, any fears that they have, and how they want us to pray for them as they begin the year. Also, we should continually be talking with them about their faith. Orthodox Christian children in America are in the minority, as far as their Christian faith is concerned, and we can help them to stay strong in their faith even while they’re around others who believe very differently. “Your children need to know who we are (as a Church), so that they will know who they are.” (For the context of this quote, listen to this great podcast or read its transcript: http://www.ancientfaith.com/specials/episode/teaching_children_about_keeping_their_faith_in_the_context_of_being_a_minor.)
Let us also help our children to physically prepare for the school year. This may mean gradually adjusting bedtime/getting up in the morning time. It may mean revisiting ideas for packing lunch. It will certainly entail some shopping to ensure that our children have clothes that fit them, as well as school supplies that are needed. If your child has a favorite icon, consider doing this craft together, so he/she can take a reminder of their faith along to school: http://www.theorthodoxchildrenspress.com/diy-kids/tocp-diy-kids-back-to-school-icon-notebook/.
To be sure that we are ready for school, it would be good for us to go over this checklist of suggestions from Orthodox Family Life: http://www.theologic.com/oflweb/school/b2s01.htm. Although it was first published in 1996, this checklist still is applicable to Orthodox families today. The checklist includes a variety of suggestions for preparing students of different ages for school, and can be a helpful resource to ensure that we have thought everything through before school begins.
Everything that we do to prepare ourselves and our children for the school year will be helpful for their success! Let us pray, talk together, and do all that we can to help our children to be ready to begin the new school year with peace and an awareness of God’s presence with them! May God bless our families as we grow together towards Him, throughout this school year.