Back to School – By Lois DeFelice

back_to_schoolAs we begin the new academic year, it is worth our while to know what issues parents think are most problematic. According to Elisabeth Wilkins, editor of Empowering Parents, the top five concerns of parents as the school year approaches are: (1) Unmotivated children; (2) Paying attention and behaving in class; (3) How to get kids out of bed in the morning; (4) Homework problems – teaching kids to bring it home, do it, hand it in on time, and not hate it; (5) Bullying behavior – from both sides of the fence – as victim or bully.

Parents play an essential role in the development of their children’s faith and life. Looking for ways to collaborate with them to addressing their concerns provides an excellent way to begin the school year. As St. John Paul II taught in Familiaris Consortio (no.17), every “family has the mission to guard, reveal and communicate love.” One of the significant challenges every teacher and catechist has is encouraging and supporting families in their important role.

Here are a few suggestions you can use to assist families:

  • Invite families to pray together each day and eat meals together as often as possible. When they gather together for meals, suggest that each person bring their needs to the table to share in prayer. Create a special prayer box that can be placed on a table at home or in the classroom for specific prayer requests
  • Encourage parents to give positive messages to their children each day. The best times for these conversations are in the morning, when parents and children return home from school or work, at meal times, and in the evening at bedtime. Little messages of encouragement, especially text messages about the positive qualities shown during the day, are very effective ways to help children grow in character and faith
  • By specifically addressing parents’ concerns about bullying, teachers can provide the necessary skills parents and children need for dealing with the issue, including knowing when to get help from teachers and other trusted adults

The theme of Catechetical Sunday this year is “Safeguarding the Dignity of Every Human Person.” It is certainly a topic of interest that could spark many conversations on how we live the Gospel message in our daily lives, as well as what we can do to bring hope and joy to the world. Today’s students are frequently referred to as “Generation M” because they have never known a world without mobile devices. It would definitely be worth the time to discuss how to use these tools to live out the message in Matthew 25, for example.

Finally, Pope Francis’ letter, Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home, provides many ideas that you can use to engage students in caring for the earth. Introduce your students to the patron saint of ecology, St. Francis of Assisi, and encourage them to consider ways they can follow his love for the earth and all its creatures. Every small step taken in our classrooms can make its way into the family home to create better stewards of all.

Here’s to a wonderful academic year!

Lois DeFelice has served in the Archdiocese of Chicago for more than 40 years, primarily in liturgy and faith formation on the parish, diocesan, and national level. She is a wife, parent, and grandparent.

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