You know how yesterday I was hanging nappies out to dry?
My son starts secondary school in September. Eek! As with most surreal notions, I think I live mostly in denial about this fact until it suddenly dawns on me at unexpected moments and I find myself welling up or wanting to give him an embarrassingly big squeeze.
It’s not that starting secondary school is a bad thing. I’m looking forward to seeing what God’s got in store for him in this new chapter. I’m hopeful that he’ll really enjoy meeting new people and learning new things.
But it does feel big, and my husband and I want to help him to be as ready as he can be. We also want to support him through what will sometimes be an overwhelming time. I know it’s only May, but the summer is usually so mad that I thought I’d share some ideas about this now, rather than leaving it until January when it might feel a bit tardy.
My daughter started secondary school last September, so although I’m not a seasoned expert in parenting secondary school kids, it is fresh in my mind. First and foremost, we need to be praying with our children, praying for them and teaching them God’s word. As well as this, a top priority for us is to keep our children talking to us. We can’t protect them from everything that might happen at school, but we can listen to them and try to teach them that it’s always safe to talk to us. We can help them to process their experiences and keep taking them to God’s word for wisdom.
I try to take my daughter out once a fortnight, ask her how things are going and pray for her. We tend to go to a wonderful and ludicrously expensive gelato shop, but the McDonald’s drive-through would work just as well and would have the benefit of us not having to make eye contact. A park bench would also do the job, especially with a flask of hot chocolate or a bag of crisps. We’ve been known to just crouch on a pavement with an ice cream, now I think about it.
There may be times when we do things like this with our children and it feels a bit pointless (if all they talk about is, say, their favourite condiments), but we can trust that over time it will help them. It also gives them the opportunity to talk to us about bigger things as and when they want to.
As my daughter started her new school, I bought her a little prayer diary as a way to show her that she could talk to me about everything that was on her mind and that we’d bring it all to the Lord together. This also helps us to focus the conversation a bit (“What are you thankful for? What shall we pray about? How is that thing going?”) and then we can see how the Lord has been answering our prayers as we look back at previous pages. Don’t be discouraged if your child finds this hard. Hopefully it’ll help to open up conversations. We bought this prayer diary but a plain notebook would do nicely – that’s probably what we’ll use for our son.
I’ve gone on long enough already, so I’ll post some more tips in a few days’ time. Meanwhile, if you need me you might find me weeping into a Leavers’ hoodie.