Crayons and pencils in backpacks. Lunch snacks packed. School shoes purchased, notebooks labeled, calendars marked. It’s time for us to head back to school. These transitions can feel overwhelming if we rush past them. We can lessen the challenge of transition if we approach it intentionally.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 begins with the phrase, "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven."
In the midst of all that busyness, it is easy to forget that the beginning of this new year also marks the end of something else: the end of unstructured days, sleeping in, endless playtime. The end of summer. And while we might be firmly fixed on that first day, paying attention to ending this season well can help our children, and our families, prepare for what lies ahead. When we find ways to look back before we look ahead, we honor the experience we have shared this summer.
Here are some simple ways to bring closure to this season before moving on to the next:
Brainstorm a list of things you did over the summer. Include trips taken, things seen, movies watched, memories made. Whether time was spent in your backyard or across the globe, include it in your summer list! Consider all the ways that you saw God at work. Allow for time to talk and remember as you think through all you have done together. Spend time thanking God for all of the blessings of the summer together.
Set aside a day to do some things you didn’t get to experience this summer. Did you want to go to a beach but never found the time? Did you desire to engage in service together? Do your kids love playing with bubbles but the days were too warm? Had you hoped to go camping but the schedule was too full? Before the kids go back to school, make a way to do these things. Even if it means pitching a tent in your yard, find a way. Memories will be made, to be sure!
Make a video slide show of summer pictures. With all the video programs available these days, making a slide show of your summer shots is an easy thing to do! Download your SD cards and cell phones into your computer, and pick some fun music to accompany the show. Let your older kids get in on the act and do some of the planning themselves. Once the show is complete, burn it on to CDs that everyone in the family can have. Want to make a grandparent’s day? Drop a copy in the mail and let them share in the fun.
Be intentional about slowly reintroducing schedules and bedtimes before the first day of school. Summer has a special routine that is all its own. But that routine does not work well with the needs of busy school days. In advance, begin to reinstate earlier bedtimes, light daily structures, even regular meal and snack times, so that the school year can begin smoothly for each of your kids. As parents, we want our kids to look eagerly toward class time, but this is hard to do when they are exhausted from our summer plans. Success can be found when we prepare our kids for the school year ahead.
Write letters to your child’s teachers or prepare a treat to share with them. Teachers often send letters to their students announcing the details of a brand-new year. Parents and students can make a teacher’s day by sending a note of encouragement, expressing excitement about all that is to come. Start praying for your teachers and for your school. This also helps our children learn to think about others, especially when we are eager and nervous about new beginnings!
We can pack the backpacks, shine the shoes and pick out the perfect outfit, but if we are ignoring the need for transition, we are missing the mark. Summer holds a special blessing for children, and is a time of fun, freedom and family. We can honor that time, and our children, by giving special attention to the end of this season even as we plan intentionally to begin what is next.
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra
Rev. Deb Koster