School is almost here, and your students likely have mixed emotions.
There’s some anticipation for rhythm and routine, but beneath the surface are layers of fear and uncertainty. School is a precious privilege, but it can also be filled with struggles and pressures that weigh heavily on a student’s heart – especially a student who’s seeking to follow Jesus.
As I’ve considered my own school years, parents, here are four ways you can practically speak into your students’ struggles.
Help Them Fight Conformity
There is an overwhelming (and often crippling) desire in the young human heart to be liked. Students deeply and radically want to be accepted, approved, and applauded. Above all, they want to be cool.
Thus, there is a constant temptation to sacrifice convictions and clarity on the altar of conformity. They don’t want to be perceived as weird, awkward, or outsiders—they want to fit in.
Of course, fitting in isn’t always wrong. But elevating school status over faithfulness is.
So students need your help to keep them on track. They need accountability. They need gentle and compassionate reminders that popularity or power won’t give them the satisfaction they crave. They need you to set an example of faithfulness in an unfaithful world. They need you to teach them that Jesus is the King to submit to, not conformity.
Put Performance in Its Place
As students prepare to open their books again, another equally daunting pressure looms ahead of them: performance. For students, there’s a subversive (or completely blatant) expectation to excel, work, and perform for good grades so they can secure approval from others – often you, their parents.
When students are operating from pressure to perform, they quickly get stressed, depressed, and discouraged. The joy and purpose from their education is drained, and they’re motivated by fear and approval instead.
You can help by assuring them that their worth is not in A’s or honor roll placement; it’s in their identity. You love and accept them because of who they are, not what they do, and nothing can change that. You can show them how to work from a delight and desire to serve God and honor their parents, instead of working from duty for letters or numbers alone. You can daily preach to them the gospel of grace, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us, freeing us bondage to performance.
Teach Them to Manage Their Time
Also show them how to manage their time. With the start of a new school year, it feels like a student’s calendar explodes. There are suddenly a million things to do every week, and busyness threatens to drown them.
At the same time, students can struggle with wasting time. Even though there’s much to do, they can be guilty of procrastination or, worse, apathy.
They need help managing their time. Parents, your student needs your input about their schedule (even if they don’t ask for it). They need your direction, advice, and accountability. They need reminders to rest. Help them set healthy and realistic boundaries while also nurturing their passions and gifts. Teach them how time is a valuable gift from God to be managed wisely.
Train Them in Christlikeness
Returning to school also means returning to complicated relationships – with friends, other students, the opposite gender, and teachers. Being around the same group of people every day naturally breeds a thousand potential pressures, problems, and conflicts. Your students need to learn how to handle these when they arise.
They also need to know how to spend time with the right kind of people – how to avoid cultivating close friendships with those who are immature, ungodly, and destructive. They need to know how to handle crushes, hormones, and romance in a robustly biblical way. They need reminders to treat other students with compassion and empathy. They need training to look for opportunities for gospel-engagement. They need to know how to serve and honor their teachers – even (and especially) the difficult ones.
Parents, they need you to show them how to be a living, breathing picture of Jesus Christ to the people they’ll interact with this year.
Being a Student Is Hard
So, parents, as your students go back to school, realize this time is just as important for you as it is for them. Being a student is hard. But so is parenting a student.
Yet there is hope, because there is grace for us. There is grace for you, parents. God doesn’t leave you to do the hard work of shepherding your kids alone. He promises to equip you with everything you need:
Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20-21)
Yes, following Christ as a student can be difficult. There are so many pressures and temptations for them—and that’s why they need their parents. They need you. It won’t always be easy for you, but rest assured Christ will be with you every step of the way.
As you raise your students with love, encouragement, motivation, instruction, and patience, know that Christ, the great shepherd of the sheep, is with you. You are not alone.
A Recent Graduate