9 Ways Christian Parents Can Support Their Kids in School

Schools start their year in a couple of weeks here. Whether your kids go to public or private school or you homeschool, they will be much more successful and happier if they feel supported by you throughout the year.

You don’t want to do their homework for them (Trust me. Teachers can tell whether their kindergarten student or his architect dad completed the city model project!), but what are some ways you can truly support your children in their educational journey?

  1. Pray for your children, their friends, teachers, administrators, etc. Remind your kids daily that you are praying for them while they are in school. If you carpool, pray over them in the car as you drop them off (with driver’s eyes open of course!). When checking in about their day, remind them you have been praying about any specific need and ask how they believe God is answering that prayer (remember “wait” and “no” are answers from God, too).
  2. Listen. When your kids want to talk about their day or something in their lives, drop everything and fully engage. Use active listening techniques – like nodding and asking clarifying questions. If your kids don’t feel like they can talk to you, they will turn to whomever will listen to them – and that doesn’t always end well.
  3. Point out God. Sometimes you can do this by pointing out how you see God working in a situation. At other times, you may use God’s Words in scripture to remind them of things God wants them to know and how it applies to that real life incident.
  4. Get to know their friends. There is nothing more annoying to a young person than telling a story about friends and continually being interrupted by a parent asking them to explain who the various friends are. If you have trouble keeping it straight, make yourself a cheat sheet you can refer to if necessary. Don’t stop there though. Be the house where there is always food and fun. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Or be the one who drives the group places. You will really get to know their friends as you spend time with them. Then you can help them navigate tricky relationships and be supportive of their friends as well.
  5. Respect their teachers. I know there are teachers your children may have who are less than ideal. It’s okay to advocate for your child, but you can do it respectfully. Go through the proper channels, in the proper order. Don’t email the principal before you have spoken to the teacher about the problem. Avoid yelling, cursing and name calling. As my grandmother used to say, “You catch more flies with homey than with vinegar.” More importantly, you are modeling Romans 13:1-7 for your children. (I know it doesn’t directly address school teachers and principals, but I think the underlying principle applies.)
  6. Make sure they get lots of sleep, exercise and healthy foods. Behavior issues, lack of stamina, poor moods, etc. can often be improved or eliminated with proper rest, exercise and diet. All kids through age 18 can benefit from 9-12 hours of sleep a day. In fact, teens need more sleep than children do in many cases. A quick run around the yard can actually make it easier for them to sit down and do their homework. (Just be sure to agree upon a set amount of time for outdoor play before they start.) Don’t forget that heavily processed foods will make them sluggish and can create immunity issues from a lack of vitamins and minerals.
  7. Have breakfast and dinner together as a family. One country has an amazingly high score on tests of both childhood happiness and kids having similar beliefs as their parents when they become adults. They credit it to mandatory family breakfasts and dinners. They won’t even invite others to join them for those meals. You don’t necessarily have to go that far, but studies have shown spending time eating meals as a family and talking about everything while eating improves outcomes for children and teens in multiple areas.
  8. Know their rights as Christians. Public school students have more rights to discuss and write about their faith than most teachers and administrators know. At the beginning of every school year, various groups like Focus on the Family publish an updated list of student rights that apply regardless of the school system. They also alert you to ones that may vary from school to school. Familiarize yourself with their rights and educate your children so they can respectfully advocate for themselves. If there have been issues in the past, take time to role play ways of handling similar situations.
  9. Celebrate victories! No, as an educator, I don’t feel there is much long term value in bribing children and teens to do well in school. I do believe that school can feel very overwhelming at times. Any victory – whether it’s good grades or getting some sort of award – should be celebrated. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. The point is to acknowledge the victory in a way the child can hear.

All of these tips require you to be engaged with your children and their school life. They don’t need you to micromanage them or swoop in like a mother hawk to attack and “fix” things. They do desperately need to feel your love and support. That’s what will make them truly resilient in school.

Prayer Tips for the Anxious Child

As a Christian parent, you know prayer can calm jangled nerves, because you have experienced it yourself. Part of that calming though is because you have experienced years of God answering prayers and have developed a trust that God will do what is best for you – even if it means saying “no”. While your children’s faith is strong in its own way, it may struggle from lack of experience when times are really tough.

You may have had a conversation when your child expresses anxiety about something. Perhaps you counseled your child to “pray about it”, and your child responded he/she had been praying, but was still worried. Thankfully, there are things you can do that will help your child more quickly gain the trust in prayer that often comes after years of experience.

Here are some of our favorite ideas.

  1. Prayer worry box. Have your child decorate a small container. Whenever a worry arises, have him/her write or draw it on a slip of paper. After praying to God about the concern, place the paper in the container and seal it. Remind your child that worry has been turned over to God to handle and the child can release it fully to God. (Note: Some children may have to do this multiple times at first.)
  2. Praying scripture. Teach your kids how to find Bible verses that express what they want to say to God. Many will be found in Psalms, but they are scattered throughout scripture. Then encourage them to pray these verses as long as they remain applicable to their current situation. This has the added value of helping them memorize scripture and place it in their long term memories for the future.
  3. Prayer journal. Have your kids decorate a journal for the family or a personal one (school notebooks make inexpensive journals). Then have them record their prayer requests and God’s answers as they become clear. Periodically review past requests to see how God worked – especially in situations when God answered “no” and it later became clear that it really was the best answer.
  4. Prayer walks. Two stress reducers in one. Take a long walk with your child, praying out loud or silently as you walk. Encourage your child to have a real conversation with God instead of just listing requests.
  5. Gratitude prayers. Anxiety can be heightened by focusing on the negative – or potentially negative – things that can happen in life. Making an intentional effort to spend time in prayer thanking God for His many blessings can be an important reminder of God’s love and care.
  6. Asking grandparents and trusted Christian adults to pray for them. When our daughter was little, she was convinced that one of my friends from church was an effective prayer warrior. Whenever something was really concerning her, she would make sure “Miss Suzy” was praying about it. Suzy was also great about letting her know she was praying about it and asking her for regular updates until she was convinced the need had passed for that particular request.
  7. Share your prayer stories. Tell your kids about the times you were anxious and prayed to God about it. Explain how it comforted you. Tell them how God answered the prayer – especially if you were initially disappointed with a “no” and then realized God had been protecting you from the answer you wanted. Your kids will catch your faith – or lack of faith – in the power of prayer, so be intentional about setting a good example.

Prayer is a lifelong tool for helping your kids stay close to God. Helping them develop a string prayer life when they are young, will make it much more likely they will turn to prayer rather than less healthy coping techniques when anxious.

Creative Ways to Pray For (And With) Your Children

Prayer is one of the foundational spiritual practices of Christians. It’s our way of talking to God directly. Scripture is filled with descriptions of the purposes and benefits of a strong prayer life. In fact, we are commanded to “pray without ceasing”. That can sound a bit overwhelming to young people. You’ve probably helped your children establish good habits of praying at meals and bedtime, but teaching them how to pray throughout the day – as well as encouraging them to do it – can be a challenge.

Or perhaps, you know you should be praying for your children, but aren’t really sure what to pray about for them other than a few basics. How do these Christian parents who say they pray constantly for their children think of enough things to say to God every day?

Whether you want to strengthen your own prayer life or those of your children, there are some creative things you can do to spur your family to pray more often and in more depth. Here are a few of our favorite creative prayer ideas.

  • Prayer rocks. Find large flat rocks your children can decorate. If there aren’t any in your yard, most craft stores sell them. Then have your children use markers to decorate them with the word “pray” and anything else they would like. Tell them to place the finished rock on their bed pillow. When they go to bed, the rock will remind them to pray. After praying, they should place the rock somewhere they will see it immediately upon waking the next morning. When they see the rock in the morning, it is a reminder to pray to start their day.
  • Walking and driving prayers. These are prayers where you use the things you or your children see as they are walking around or driving with you in the car. For example, if your walk or drive takes you past their school, pray for the students and teachers and any specific needs of which you are aware involving people at the school.
  • Chore gratitude prayers. We aren’t usually very grateful for our chores and your kids are no different. What if you used those chores as a way to carve out time to pray? Most chores don’t require a lot of thinking, so our brains are free to pray as we work. Encourage your children to thank God for each of the items they are cleaning. Or take it a step further and use items as symbols of things to pray about. For example, if they are folding laundry, their socks might remind them of missionaries who walk long distances to serve and teach others and they could pray for them. Or putting their sports uniform in the washer could remind them to pray for their coaches and teammates.
  • Person of the week prayers. A friend of mine shared this idea. Each time period, she and her son picked a name out of a jar of names of people they know. They contact the person and let them know, they want to pray for them especially that week (or whatever). Ask if they have anything special they would like for you to pray about for them. If they can’t think of anything or don’t want to share private details, ask your children to pray for what they believe will help that person the most.
  • Scripture prayers. When our daughter was in elementary school, I joined a group of other moms who focused on praying for their school. Many in the group would take specific Bible verses and pray them for their children. For example, if they chose the verses listing the fruit of the Spirit, they may ask God to help their children have those characteristics in abundance in their lives. Since many in the time of Jesus used various Psalms as prayers, there are many verses in the book of Psalms you can use to pray over your children.
  • Color prayers. This is a favorite for Bible class teachers of young children. Cut out various squares of paper in different colors. As you pray as a family, each person draws out a slip of paper and prays for something of which the color reminds them. Young children will usually thank God for something they can think of that is the same color, like bananas if they choose yellow, and that’s fine. The object is to teach them to pray prayers that aren’t rote.
  • Theme prayers. Why not choose a theme of the day or week to add to your family’s prayers? Maybe it’s making good choices, handling conflict in more godly ways, being a light in the world, etc. Encourage everyone in the family to pray about the topic to God in their private and family prayers.
  • Breath prayers. I am not sure who originally coined the term, but it’s a great way to teach your kids to pray without ceasing. These prayers are usually only a sentence or a phrase prayed to God in the moment as something is happening. They are almost always silent prayers. Often these are prayed while waiting our turn to talk or do something. Less formal than many prayers, they are easy to do once you and your children get in the habit and they can encourage praying without ceasing.

Can you or your kids think of other creative ways to enhance your prayer life? Before long, you may find you all have started praying without ceasing and it has become as natural as breathing is to you!

5 Hidden Times to Teach Your Kids About God on Busy Days

What’s the number one excuse Christian parents give for not teaching their kids about God at home? I haven’t done an official survey, but I am almost positive the answer would be lack of time. Yet some of the busiest parents I know find ways to teach their kids about God daily. They may not have extra hours in their day, but they have learned how to use some hidden time wisely and point their kids to God even on the busiest of days.

Where are these little nuggets of time you can use to teach your kids about God? Here are five of our favorites.

  • Car time. Busy days usually also mean a lot of time in the car. You could probably do an entire family devotional in one trip, but there are other ways you can use this time as well. Try doing drive by prayers with your kids when you pray for the people and things you notice on your drive. Ask them about their day and talk about the things God would want them to know about the choices they made or need to make. Play music that is based on scripture and sing along – they will memorize Bible verses easily when they are lyrics to their favorite songs.
  • Fast food time. You may not sit down at the kitchen table to a home cooked meal, but you can still have meaningful conversations at the table in a fast food restaurant or even in the car in the parking lot if you went through the drive through.
  • Required reading time. Many schools require students to read a certain number of minutes each day. They rarely assign specific books. Why not let your child read from a children’s Bible, the NIrV version of the Bible itself or one of the many Christian books written for children? Some churches still have libraries where you can borrow Christian books for free.
  • Snack time. Many children have an afternoon snack. Instead of tossing the food at them and going about your business, sit down with them. Even on the busiest of days, you can spare five minutes to have important conversations with your kids while they eat their snack.
  • Bedtime. Once children reach school age, many parents stop doing bedtime prayers with their children. Yet most still tuck their children in and have some sort of bedtime ritual. Consider praying over your child, reading a few Bible verses, telling a Bible story or reminding your children “who they are and whose they are” instead of some secular affirmation in your bedtime routine. Those five extra minutes of time spent with you and God can also help calm and soothe your kids, making it easier for them to sleep.

Be creative. If one of your children is waiting with you during the activity of another – you’ve got a nice block of time. Children too old for naps, benefit from an afternoon rest time when you can rest with them for a few minutes, talking about the things God wants them to know. Find what works best for you and your children, but find time somewhere… because even if you attend church and Bible class regularly, your children will still need to get the bulk of their spiritual education from you.

Fun Way to Teach Little Ones to Pray

Often parents start teaching their babies to pray by teaching them to fold their hands and bow their heads when an adult says a prayer. While prayer can be said in any posture, it is a great way to help set apart talking to God from regular conversations and to teach that God should be respected.

The next step – once they can speak a few words – is to teach toddlers rote prayers that are said for every meal or at bed time every night. There is another option, however, that I believe more clearly teaches how most Christians talk with God in prayer. With a little effort, you can make it fun and easy for even the smallest child to pray with a family member or independently.

Grab some magazines, family photos, colored card stock, glue sticks, a hole punch, metal rings (laminating film is nice for longevity) and your toddler. Toddlers often have a difficult time thinking of things for which to pray. Explain to your toddler that you want to help him or her make a special book to remind him or her of things he or she wants to either thank God for or ask God’s blessings about.

Start by helping your toddler find photos of things for which to thank God (for which He has blessed your child). As you find the photos, let your toddler glue them to a “thank you” page. Remember, a toddler has a very short attention span, so you may only add one or two items a day. That’s okay. Your toddler can begin praying for those items and it gives you a reason to talk about prayer every day you work on their prayer book.

After you have several items in that section, you can begin a “God bless” section. This will involve family photos and pictures of others close to the family. You can also cut from magazines photos of world leaders, recent events that concern your child or things like a photo of a hospital to remind him or her to pray for the sick.

As your child gets a little older, you can add sections for “God is Great” and “I am sorry for”. Although tiny children don’t sin according to the Bible, it is good to get them in the habit of repenting for when they are old enough to sin. It is also a subtle way to begin teaching them about the things God says are sinful.

If you have a small home laminator, it will make the pages sturdier. Punch one or more holes along the edge and put a metal ring through each hole to keep the pages together. Help your children use the book to pray with you and then begin teaching them how to use it to pray independently. When the book gets long, remind them they can choose just a few items about which to pray each time they pray. If they pray several times a day, they can cover a lot of their items.

Prayer is critical for the spiritual growth and health of your children. It’s great to start them with good prayer habits as early as possible.