Recently I read a hysterical article comparing back-to-school from the 80’s to back-to-school circa 2016. It joked about the simplicity of an era that involved lunches with processed bologna, metal lunch boxes, and the need to only supply a pencil and pen for the first day of school. In comparison today’s parents are easily putting out hundreds of dollars in school supplies, with an expectation to pack lunches that have the word “healthy” attached to them. By the end of the piece I was laughing so hard I could barely grab a breath.
I sent three kids off to high school this year, and only five weeks in it has already been a whirlwind of tests, Advanced Placement classes, projects, friend drama, sports and after school activities. Gone are the glorious days of “easing” into the school year; we jumped in head first. The article summed up well the sentiment that sending our kids off to school only gets more complicated with every year that passes.
It was funny because there was so much truth in it. As school years become harder to navigate, parents need more support than ever before. As I looked at a counter filled with forgotten items for school this morning, I thought it might be helpful to talk to you as a parent about how to best help us get back into the swing of this Fall.
What is it we parents need from the youth worker?
Invite Parents to Your Back to School Night
Have a “back to school” meeting with me and the rest of the parents, and ask us what time we can show up. It might be on a Sunday afternoon after church or later in an evening. Tell me why it’s important that I am there. Offer a raffle for a scholarship to camp or retreat, or have a money off (give me a monetary incentive to show up). Make it easy for me to show up. Then share it all with me: What, When, Why and How.
- What does the calendar look like this year?
- When are the most important events that matter most to you?
- Why are you doing what you are doing; what’s the vision?
- How are you going to stay connected with me, help me succeed, and in a practical sense pay for all of these things you would like my children to attend (In other words what’s the fundraising plan?)
This is the time of year I am thinking about schedules, order, and getting into the swing of things; use this to your advantage.
Over Communicate with Parents
I was talking to a friend of mine who has 5 kids (HS, MS, and Elementary) AND teaches at a local high school, about an email including a form that was needed for a recent school activity. She said, “I totally missed that. Do you know how many emails I get per kid? Between information from teachers, the school at large, work, sports and all other activities, something is bound to get lost.” Back when I was a kid there were two ways of getting information home: 1. Physical paper. i.e. ACTUAL forms or permissions slips. 2. A phone call. I could shove something in front of my mom and say, “SIGN THIS.” If it was forgotten or ignored an actual live person followed up with my parent via phone.
Now as everything is virtual the belief is because someone hit “send” that parents have read it. If you want me to know something over-communicate with me. I know I say this in virtually every post about parents, but the reality is if you have a Fall Retreat with a form that needed signing yesterday, or you desperately need help at the upcoming fundraiser, get in my face and tell me over and over. I know it might feel like extra work for you. However, just because it is important to you doesn’t mean it is important to me. TELL ME (in multiple ways) this is important.
Show Parents Extravagant Encouragement and Hospitality
I was talking to a dad this past Friday who is raising 4 teens (2 in HS and twins in 8th grade) who said, “No one told me it would be this exhausting. All I can hope for is that they listen to something I say, figure out how to clean up after themselves some day, and that they always know they can come home even when they mess up. I live in fear they will think they will mess up so badly they might think they can’t come home.” We are exhausted, emotionally wrung out, and slightly fearful we will lose our kids to some form of poor choices. Parents of children just entering junior high need reassurance that even though their babies are growing up, they will be ok, and parents of seniors in high school need reassurance that they do not need to get an apartment on campus at their child’s school of choice. (Yes, this is actually something I have talked to other parents about.) The statement I say often is that we parents of teens are all tripping forward hoping we can get something right.
We need you to be the one that goes out of your way to encourage us, goes above and beyond to accept us, and goes beyond your comfort zone to ask us what we might need. I know it’s extra work, but everyone else is pulling at us. The school needs a form signed, and sports want me to know about why they “need” one extra practice. I need you to tell me it’s all ok and a $5 gift card to Starbucks to make my day. What if when a student wins a prize at one of your youth events (candy, gift cards, anything) you give them two? Tell them, “One is for you, and one is for the parent who got you here.” I think it might go far. Last year I got to May before I felt as if I had a handle on the school year. I am really hoping this year it might be before the last day of school.
What will you do to support parents this year?