Saturday, September 3, 2011

Back to School at "A Cup of Tea with Donna-Marie"

In my recent radio segment, "A Cup of Tea With Donna-Marie," Cheryl and Jim, radio hosts at Domestic Church Media and I chatted about back-to-school, college, and home-schooling tips from a Catholic parent's perspective. I'll provide some of it here...

When we near the end of August and early September a lot of parents begin to stress out a bit – knowing that they must change gears and even brace themselves for a new school year – whether it be in their own home as in the case of the home schooling parent or back to the school building – public or Catholic schools.

Some young adults have headed back to college or will embark upon that new chapter of their life for the first time while others are stepping over the thresholds of the Kindergarten classroom doorway ready to begin their early education in the classroom.

This all means that the lazy or even busy days of summer have come to a necessary, sometimes seemingly screeching halt (why is summer over?!) and we start getting to bed earlier, we rise earlier and we have to adjust to a new school year schedule.

Change and transitions can be challenging to both the parent and the child alike. For the parent – having to let go a bit when the child leaves for school or college can be tough.

As much as I know that our young adults need to spread their wings and experience life at college, out on their own, or in the work place, after graduating high school, my mother’s heart finds it to be a bittersweet time!

I’ll never forget bringing my fourth child, my son, Joseph to college. I had to wear my sunglasses all the way home to hide the tears that kept welling up in my eyes! I couldn’t believe that this son of mine was old enough to be on his own and to live at a college dorm!

So, Moms and dads, and perhaps mostly the Moms, you don’t have to feel silly or embarrassed if you shed a few tears but try to hang onto the hope and courage that comes through prayer as you usher your children – the little saints you are entrusted with to raise to heaven – off to school.

This same feeling may be experienced by the mother who sends her child off to Kindergarten for the first time too. All kinds of feelings and transitions are going on. As well, of course, we have the feelings of our children to contend with too. So, we prod them forth and give them encouragement.

Within the many educational settings: home, the school building – public, private, or Catholic, and college...

What can help in the transitioning process for the parent and child?

I have about 8 tips to pass along:

1) Prayer goes right at the top of the list.

a) Parents pray together for their children.

b) The family prays together.

c) Children need to be encouraged by parents to pray at home and in school as needed. Even though we are very aware of separation of Church and State, etc., it's important to impress upon our children that they can pray any time they want (silently within their hearts) and no one can take that from them.

2) Communication is paramount: with our spouse, children, and teachers.

3) Planning: for lessons and for schedules, lunches, and more. A little bit of planning goes a long way! Try to get some things done the night before. Try a dry erase board on the kitchen wall and each day update it with the schedule. Add a little prayer, even, “God, help me!”

4) SLEEP: Get enough to better cope with the day ahead – it’s so important.

5) Organization: helps for smooth mornings, stress no technology before school – games, TV, etc., Add prayer and communication instead. Talking things out eases worried little minds – and big ones too!

6) Stick to schedules, but be patient with yourself and your children when a wrench is thrown into the works, a child is sick, the alarm doesn’t go off because the power went off, or any number of things. TRY not to set yourself up for failure by thinking everything will go perfectly smoothly. Sometimes, more often than not, so much grace is discovered in the difficulties, when picking up the pieces and even trying to smile about it. Just do your best!

7) Stay positive! SMILE! A simple smile speaks volumes and makes the best of trying times. As an example, when I was a little girl I got in trouble at school for speaking to a friend in the hallway. I was so shocked to get in trouble! I felt horrible and embarrassed. But when I went home, my mother’s warm and understanding embrace melted all of my sadness. I thought I had failed, but she showed me otherwise. A parent’s love is powerful!

8) Finally, be firm – but loving. Kids can try to wiggle out of their responsibilities at home and at school, but your keen eye and loving encouragement will keep them on task.

 Prayer Tips

Regarding correcting our children and keeping them on task, I’d like to point to my prayer on pg. 26 of my Catholic Mothers Prayer Book, entitled Mother’s Prayer to Correct a Child Properly

Dear Lord, along with the incredible gift of motherhood, comes the sacred rand weighty responsibility in teaching and correcting my children. Help me to never shirk from my duty of correction according to Your holy will. May I realize that I take the place and speak for You, so may I be worthy of that trust. Help me never correct my children in anger but always in a calm and motherly manner and punish with a gentle firmness born of mother love. Amen

As well as my prayer in the same book, The Most Essential Teachings

Dear Lord, help me to see that some of the most essential teachings to my impressionable children are in my example and actions. My actions are much more articulate than my words can ever be. Some of the most important lessons in life are learned when watching one whom is respected and loved. Help me to be mindful of my choices and the critical examples I give my children. Remind me, too that my prayer life spills over into my family and will help to enhance their grasp of prayer and their understanding of what is most essential. Amen.

Get involved if you can with your child’s education at school. You are already very involved if you home-school your children. But, if they go off to school, see if you can volunteer in some capacity, which is great for both you and your children.

Naturally, as a Catholic parent, you are very responsible for your child’s education and our Church considers you to be the first and foremost educator. So, be sure that everything is kosher with regards to the material being taught – investigate – speak up if you have to, but be sure your child is getting a sound and safe education.

Let's keep in mind what our Church teaches" "Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children" (CCC # 2223).

And, "The role of parents in education is of such importance that it is almost impossible to provide an adequate substitute" (CCC # 2221). And there are many more references to the great importance of a parent's involvement in their children's education. Pick up the Catechism and take a look.
When trying to discern what committees to join, perhaps a prayer from my book A Catholic Woman’s Book of Prayers may help on pg. 31:

Help Me to Find Balance, Lord

You have given me the heart of a woman,
which wants to stretch beyond measure
to ease the pain of others.
Remind me, Lord,
to fix my eyes on my family first,
and fulfill their needs
according to Your holy will
before I attempt to look elsewhere.
Help me to know when to say "yes"
and when to say "no"
so that I don't over-commit
and can properly serve
You, my family, and others,
remembering that "love begins at home."

Finally, I think Blessed Pope John Paul II’s beautiful words to mothers can help to uplift our spirits: He said (on pg. 15) in A Catholic Woman’s Book of Prayers

"Thank you, women who are mothers! You have sheltered human beings within yourselves in a unique experience of joy and travail. This experience makes you become God's own smile upon the newborn child, the one who guides your child's first steps, who helps it to grow, and who is the anchor as the child makes its way along the journey of life."~Bl. Pope John Paul II (Mulieris Dignitatem: On the Dignity and Vocation of Woman)

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