The purpose of the MPCS ParentEd. P.E.P. Talks series is to provide helpful information to parents as they navigate different stages of their children’s lives. Three unique sessions were developed and presented for each school division, from lower school through high school. The second part of this blog series focuses on the lower/elementary school years and its associated challenges and opportunities.
THE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL YEARS
Whether you are navigating raising little ones for the first time, or you are a “seasoned” parent, knowing what to expect can make the biggest difference in proactive parenting.
First, as our children are growing and developing, it is important to remember that not all of them are the same. More importantly, they do not all respond the same to our parenting. So it is essential that we get to know each of our children as individuals and how best we can engage with them. What you may have done with your older child may not work with your younger child.
Second, as they are transitioning through lower or elementary school, young learners are discovering how their “self” fits into the world. Areas such as gender, social status, ethnicity, and belief systems are all affecting the way children are relating with one another and the world around them. It is very important that, as parents, we are there and present to help navigate and encourage them through each stage.
Third, because during this time kids are very developmentally sensitive to violence and stress, it is so important to pay attention to what young children are watching and playing. Television shows and video games can play a major role. Make sure that, as a family, you have discussed your standards and guidelines concerning this. Set limits and expectations early. Addressing these conversations are easier when your children are still young.
Finally, it is during the later primary years that our children may begin to experience puberty - usually the girls first, followed by the boys. Being aware that this is coming will only help as we encourage them through this time. Be open and communicate with them about the excitement of growing up. Calm their fears and prepare them for what's ahead.
WHAT TO DO
With all of the changes ahead, and life getting busier, what can we do as parents to be proactive in guiding our kids?
First, we must make a decision early on to stay ENGAGED. The temptation - and sometimes easiest thing to do - is to become a spectator as children grow, mature, and become more independent. Parents feel the temptation to allow technology to fill the gaps. We must not do that! It is the parent that must initiate engagement. Our strong relationship with children through these developmental years is vital and will set the tone for their middle and teen years.
Second, we must be GROWING in our own faith during this time. It will be hard to bring our children to a place of knowing Christ where we have not been first. Make regular church attendance a family habit and practice your faith visibly in front of your children. Set the example.
Finally, you must REMEMBER that you, as parents, will be in the best place to influence your kids. Use it! At this age, they are receptive and craving your guidance whether they ask for it or not.
HOW TO DO IT
There are a few things that we can do to make this time a little easier.
First, PRAY! While this may seem obvious, it is one of the most powerful and beneficial things we can do for our children. But don’t just pray for them, pray with them. Even when they don’t feel like it. Start that habit early, and do it often!
Second, INITIATE conversations with your children. Don’t wait for them because you may be waiting a long time! Find out what their interests are and then ask them about it. And use this tip: Kids are more likely to talk in the car, or in the dark, especially about the “big” things. Leverage those times.
Third, having strong policies about technology will be vital. No single factor has been more influential to the development of our children than the smartphone. It has changed everything! Make sure you have a plan in place that addresses everything from when they get a phone to how they use it. Most research shows that development in children can be significantly affected when getting a smartphone before age 14. Consider waiting! Develop a policy you all agree on, and then stick with it.
Finally, don’t give up! There will be tough times ahead but the effort will be worth it! It's never too late to be intentional with the time you give your kids.
As lower/elementary school parents, you are in the best position to influence. Be willing to make the tough decisions. Be willing to set — or reset — clear guidelines for all things, and then stick to those guidelines. As children mature, allow them to play a part in developing the “rules.” This involvement only helps positive development as children feel a part of the process.
Above all, remember that you are never in it alone. In addition to the power of prayer, God has surrounded us with a community of parents, teachers, and counselors to help us as we navigate the seas of parenthood. Be honest and share with one another the challenges, not just the joys. Knowing others are in the same boat can be just the lifeline you need. Lastly, enjoy these years when your children are little. It all goes by so fast!
ABOUT P.E.P. TALKS
Under the umbrella of its ParentEd. program, Mount Paran Christian School provides a parent education series each academic year entitled P.E.P. Talks - Parents Engaging Purposefully. These P.E.P. Talks were intentionally designed to strengthen the school's partnership with the home, in alignment with the school's mission:
“Providing academic excellence in a Christ-centered environment, Mount Paran Christian School unites with home and church to prepare servant-leaders to honor God, love others, and walk in Truth.”
Want more information about successful parenting? Plan to join us for an upcoming ParentEd. session.