It's back-to-school time, and the department stores are filled with moms and dads shopping for those last minute deals. Notebooks, pens, iPads (yes, iPads are on the list for some schools), and backpacks are filling the shopping cart lines with anxious parents ready to ship their most prized possessions back to the academy.
In the midst of all the buzz, I've started thinking about some of the most important lessons I learned after coming off a fun filled summer vacation, and I think it would be good to share a few before we pull up the family truckster in the drop off line.
1. Although academics are important, don't forget the need for your student to learn interpersonal skills.
I was sitting with a group of students this summer, asking them about how they receive information. It's too easy to just assume all kids are paying attention to the latest social media trend. (In a recent article on Geekwire, you'll see teens ARE actually leaving Facebook.) All of the sudden, one of the girls in my group said, "You still email?" I caught my breath for a split second of wonder as I found myself feeling REALLY OLD in an instant.
We've only been using email since the early '90s and now all of the sudden it's equated to the rotary phone, the 8-track, and the Beta video machine. Students are learning how to communicate faster and with a lot less noise than most of the main line social media outlets provide. And in doing so, we are complicating the social space where they have the ability to actually communicate full ideas. Texting is certainly a valid form of communication, but ask a student to do a dissertation on the ancient philosophers theories of existence. You'll find a need to be coach both the subject and the vehicle of communication, and education now takes twice as long.
Don't forget to give your students opportunities to look people in the eye, talk in full sentences, and work on systematic thought processes. In my 15 years of youth work, I'm finding these skills less and less prominent as our social media outlets have replaced eye to eye communication.
2. If they have the gift, push them. If not, keep searching.
As parents, we have the same basic needs as our students. We want to be known, we want people to like us, and often we use our kids to showcase our own insecurities to the world. I recently watched the Little League World Series, and I was taken a back at how many parents seemed to take their kid's performance so personally.
Sure, we want our kids to do well in whatever avenues they choose to play in.
No doubt, the emotions I saw on the faces of the moms and dads when their kid hit the game winning run in were real and proud.
But when I watched the "other" parents watching in the stands when their kids didn't perform, I noticed an expression of disappointment and even anger.
We need to be careful that we, as parents, are putting our kids in places where they are fashioned to function well. Some kids are just biologically made to play football, while others are made to be in the band. We should support, not be discouraged, if our kids choose an adventure in life that differs from our own expectation.
3. Make sure home is "SAFE."
The days where school is a safe place may be in the rear view mirror. Those of us with a little more grey hair remember times when Jr. High School and Sr. High School were places to learn, socialize, and grow up. We had school friends, and then we had neighborhood friends. Both places had their own rules and we could escape mistakes made in either environment just by being in a different place.
Today's hallways are filled with danger at every corner. With technology "on" every second of the day, it's hard to retreat to a safe place without bringing all the baggage of the school day home with you. Bullies don't sleep at night, they tweet all night. Break ups aren't regulated to the hallways as often they are on display 24/7. And now, with every cell phone as a video camera, mistakes students make can be around the school in seconds and left for all to see at their leisure.
Make sure your home is a place where your student can be safe, free from the mistakes they make at school. Laugh a lot, encourage even more, and find the good in your kids when they're home.
These are three lessons I'm trying to implement in my own home.
As all of you, I want the very BEST for my kids while they learn how to be who they are, fashion a sense of direction for where they are going, and understand how to navigate well in their future endeavors.