August 27, 2004
She is a precious little girl posing for the camera with lunch box in hand. Her short brown hair curves inward, a wisp blowing around her full cheeks to touch her dimple.
In the background, her friend watches by the bus as mom finishes snapping the photo. It’s the first day of school, and you feel this mother’s anxiety as her baby heads off for first grade.
The picture accompanies an article that is a must-read for parents of young children. It offers a list of homework assignments for parents to complete if they want to make sure their children are ready for school:
- Review and update immunizations.
- Take care of doctor appointments (e.g. braces) that will interfere with school.
- Get rid of junk food. Stock up on healthy snacks.
- Make sure school programs offer gym activities…and that your child participates.
- Set up a space and time to review homework with your child.
- Monitor bedtimes to ensure enough sleep.
- Review your child’s daily trip to and from school and be alert to dangers to avoid.
- Connect with other parents and school friends to form support systems.
- Lay out a plan for hours when you are absent and your child is at home.
The article is also a must-read for parents of teens. Read through the list again. Are you surprised to realize that each of these suggestions is also required to ensure a healthy, happy school year for our teens?
How quickly we grow comfortable with our teen’s independence, assuming they can operate without us! It’s an easy pattern for both parents and teens to fall into.
This is a great time for parents and their teens to regroup and renew their connection with each other. The start of a new school year is a new beginning…new clothes, new backpacks, fresh paper and pencils…and a perfect time for high school “kids” to share time with mom and dad.
Research proves that the involvement of parents with their teenagers is the single most important factor in protecting them from involvement with drugs, tobacco, and sex. Your teens need you. And they’re the last ones to let you know.
In her book EPIDEMIC, Dr. Meg Meeker sounds a wakeup call to parents about the devastating sexual epidemic threatening the health and welfare of our young people. She writes, “I believe that, as parents, we simply run out of steam. Or we back out of our kids’ lives fearing we’re being too oppressive, overbearing, or overprotective.”
It doesn’t have to be that way. The good news is that the teen world has a lot to offer both teens and their parents.
Dr. Meeker tells us, “If you want to develop connectedness with your teen, start by getting to know the world he lives in. Where he goes at night and who comes home with him after school. Who his friends are, what they do when they’re together, and what he likes, dislikes, his dreams, wishes, and wants.”
Take your teen out for sodas. Arrange a family bowling night. Make banana splits together for dessert. Sell pop with the parent club at the football game snack bar. Pick something, anything, and do it together. You will be building a safety net to help protect your teens during their high school years.
The first day of school is a great time to reassess and establish new patterns…five years old or fifty years old…for both our children and us! You are the key ingredient to your child’s success, whether it is in first grade or twelfth grade. Start now and make the most of it.
Is your child ready for school? If you are, then he is. Have a great year…both of you!
Meg Meeker, M.D., EPIDEMIC: How Teen Sex Is Killing Our Kids, Washington, D.C.: Lifeline Press, 2002.
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