Sunday, August 1, 2010

Tips for Preparing Your Child for Challenges

By Glynnis Whitwer

The promise of a new school year burns bright this time of year. Crisp white paper and sharpened pencils are at the ready, as excited children (and moms) fill clean, new backpacks with supplies. Back-to-school shopping has restocked the closets with shoes that fit, jeans that are long enough and jackets to replace the ones that were left on the playground in March.

By the first day of school, parents will have prepared their children well. But, have they thought of everything? Have parents prepared their children to deal with the anxiety of change, the fear of harder tests and the possible bullying from a new classmate?

Sadly, most of us don’t know how to prepare our children for the emotional challenges of school. We tend to find out about issues when they have escalated into problems. This year, I’d like to share a few tips for preparing children to deal with some of the most common problems they might face in the coming months.


People get stressed when pressures accumulate faster than our ability to adapt, last longer than our ability to maintain control, or our internal makeup is unable to deal with problems. Given that children have very little control over their circumstances, they are at a great risk of facing stress. Here are a few things parents can do:
· Create a stress-free environment at home. Establishing calming routines in the mornings, afternoons and evenings give your children a chance to regroup.
· Limit extra-curricular activities for all family members. Parents can model healthy activity loads when children are very young. Lots of time at home enables you to finish homework, study for test and work on projects without stress.
· Honor the Sabbath. This is difficult for most families, but it was God’s design for a day of well-needed rest. Try and build in a day where everyone is free to celebrate life together.


Many children will deal with fear at school. Fear often manifests itself with physical symptoms before your child will be able to communicate his emotions. Be attuned to slight hesitancy, upset stomachs or difficulty sleeping. What you can do:
· Establish a culture of openness at home. Always take your child’s fear seriously and investigate a concern. Your child will grow to trust that you will take her seriously.
· Desensitize your child. If your child is naturally hesitant and fearful, introduce new situations gradually. If the start of school is fearful, then practice walking to school the week before. Talk through possible situations. If you’ve never be separated before, then have some practice runs where you leave your child at a friend’s house for a short time and then return.
· Have an action plan. Play the “What If?” game. What if mom isn’t there to pick you up? What if you forget your lunch? What if you get picked on at recess? Talk though the potentially fearful situations and have a plan.

Sadly, bullies are a part of life. Statistics say that up to 90% of schoolchildren will be bullied. Unfortunately, shame and a code of silence often keeps parents from knowing about it until it’s too late. Thankfully, there are things you can do to bully-proof your child.
· Don’t over-protect. Teach your children early on to deal with problems themselves. Children who run to adults over every small problem tend to be bullied more than children who are calmly assertive in meeting their own needs.
· Invest in your children’s friendships. Good friends are protection against bullies. Make an effort to invite other children to your home, or to join your family on outings. Create situations where your child can interact with others and develop good friendships.
· Teach your children to stand up for others. This might be controversial to you, but children need to know their parents would support them if they had to defend someone. We need to raise a generation who will defend the weak. It’s called moral courage and we need more young men and women who won’t tolerate injustice. That means getting involved and not walking away when someone is getting bullied. Another mom will thank you for it.

Problems are a part of life. We will always have them. Perhaps one of the best gifts we can give our children is to equip them with practical ways to deal with the everyday issues of life. I believe they’ll thank you for it when they’ve become adults who persevere through pain, and come out victorious.

Glynnis has written a book on this subject titled “When Your Child is Hurting.” In the book, she explores these three topics, plus 11 other common, everyday issues children face. Each chapter contains Scripture verses, inspiring quotes and discussion questions to be used in a small group setting or individually. It’s filled with practical parenting tips and encouraging stories. Click here to purchase or read more.