Back Porch Prayer…Back To School~

Many years ago, not only before FB but before blogging, I shared my back-to-school prayer for my boys with some friends via e mail.  Since then, I’ve had requests every year to share this prayer again.  So here it is, my back-to-school prayer for all of our children.  I’ve never believed in the idea that it takes a village to raise a child, but I am a firm believer in the power of a village that prays together for them.

Dear Gracious Heavenly Father, Once again we send our children out into the world. We know it’s a place that won’t love them like we do and won’t always encourage them to love you. But Lord, greater are you in them than what they will face in the world. We ask you to place a hedge around their physical bodies and give them safety and strength. Guard their hearts from doubt, fear and emotional attacks of the enemy. Give them wisdom and minds that always seek you in what they are being told and let them learn to compare the information they receive with your word. Give them victories that they can praise you for. Give them failures that will teach them to be humble but not break their spirits. Give them friends who love you and with whom they can learn to serve you. Give them teachers who follow you. Bless the buildings they will sit in and the people they will be with.

Father, if there is any person, adult or child, out there who might intend harm toward these precious kids; stop that plan now in the name of Jesus Christ. Put a barrier in front of that intent of destruction before it can materialize. Expose those individuals that they might be helped and saved from themselves.

Finally my Savior, I ask that you would lay a cloak of peace and joy around our children. Do a good work in us as parents that we might become worthy of this great gift you’ve placed in our hands.

Thank you God; for kindergartners and high schoolers and college students who will love you with their whole hearts and live lives to your glory.

In Jesus name.

Amen.

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Back to school (Sleeping, but not in class!)

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Have you noticed, lately, how many people are complaining of poor sleep?  Is this a recent epidemic or is it simply us responding to too much stimuli, too much worry, too much to do?  It isn’t just adults who need more sleep, our children do as well.

I’m not offering any great scientific break through here, none of us can function without proper rest.  That includes kids, at every age.  They cannot stay up late and be successful in school.  They cannot be at school, then soccer practice, then doing homework and fall into bed only when they’ve filled every waking hour until they are beyond exhausted.  I teach high school students and most of them are up well beyond the midnight hour working, practicing, studying.  They fall into bed sometimes around 1:00 in the morning, if they are lucky, and the alarm rings by 6:00.  Every. Single Day.  Then they arrive in class disorganized, unfocused and dozing.  And when I say dozing?  I mean REM stage, snoring asleep!  Returning after an absence they will often be honest and say, they were home catching up on sleep.  Sleep lost to hours and hours of extracurriculars and homework.  Ironic, right?

In addition to the busyness of life that keeps our kids up too late, there’s the issue of just not being able to sleep.  I’m a life-long insomniac.  As a little kid I can remember lying awake in the quiet dark house and worrying about how tired I’d be in the morning.  I still struggle, and I’ve figured out which habits help me to maximize the rest I do get.  I’m very rigid in my sleep hygiene and it’s one of my biggest anxieties that I will get “knocked off” my sleep game.  My point is, young children can have insomnia too, and being young doesn’t mean they can afford to lose precious sleep. In fact, during sleep, their little bodies are recovering, growing and building.  It’s not healthy, they won’t just bounce back day after day of inadequate sleep. And they won’t be at their best in school.  They will struggle with focusing and may behave with that “loopy” tired behavior that little kids do, and maybe they don’t have ADHD after all.  They will be emotionally disregulated, crying and angry over the smallest issues.  They will be frustrated with everything and everyone.

I thought about looking up recommended hours of sleep for this post, but truthfully, I think every parent can use their own wisdom to figure that out for their household.  If you’re unsure what your family needs, do a little research and then think about your child and you’ll know what the right answer is.  But I do have some advice, as a teacher, a nurse and a very very bad sleeper.

Get rid of the phones.  Don’t let your child use their cell phone as their alarm clock.  Decide upon a cut-off point in the evening when everyone’s phones go on the charger (not in the bedroom.)  Glowing screens and thinking about what’s happening in social media are distracting.  Not to mention those unpleasant moments when someone twitters or snapchats something unkind, and we read it at 1 a.m.  No sleep after that!

Television?  See above.  Same for computers.  Decide what time is screen-free time and I find it has to be at least a half hour before I’m trying to fall asleep.  If your kid falls asleep to the television and rests well, it’s your call to decide if this is an issue in your house.  But if your student is using this method and still seems tired during the day; there’s your sign.

Homework needs a dedicated schedule and sooner is better than later.  Once it’s done, it can be left in its appropriate place for morning.  When it’s put on a back burner, it remains as a niggling thought in our minds and when it’s finally attended to, it may be rushed through so the student can finally get to bed.  This may result in a kid who lays awake unable to turn off their brain from the work they did, didn’t complete and are worried about doing correctly.

Eating.  It’s pretty well-known that if you give your kid a double shot espresso at bed time, things will not go well.  Nor will a bag of gummie worms work as a bed time snack.  For this insomniac, there needs to be no eating for three hours before bed or I experience difficulty relaxing and reflux.  Nothing but water after noon for me.  No caffeine or juice with sugar.  And goodness, if a person is slugging sixteen ounces of water before bed; what are the chances of a happy bladder for the next eight hours?  Dinner at the same time every evening and time to rest and digest before hitting the sack. Jack.

Environment of sleep.  This is a biggy for me too.  I have discovered I’m very photosensitive, any light will interfere with good sleep.  I have to cover the light on the cable box, the alarm and turn off nightlights that I can see from my bed (even if they are not in the bedroom.)  Our bedroom window is covered with a wooden plantation blind and room darkening curtains which I have to tuck in around the edges of the window at night.  Think about street lights, porch lights, any source of ambient light in your student’s room.  Many nights I even end up in a sleep mask.  Keep your child’s room cool, allow your house to go silent at night (which means you can’t be clicking away on a keyboard or chatting on your phone when Junior is trying to sleep.)  Consider white noise for your poor sleepers, but don’t use a phone app to produce it!  Invest in a CD (about $10 at Target) and use an old fashioned bedside CD player (covered to reduce the glow in the room.)  Think about scents which may stimulate your sleeper and minimize things like room sprays and plug-ins.  I find linen sprays can sometimes be relaxing and sometimes distracting, I’m careful about what I use.  Lavender seems to always be a good choice.  Make the bed, even if it’s at bed time, so everything feels neat and complete.  Establish a routine, bath or shower (even if you double up in the morning,) brushing teeth,  prepping what is needed in the  morning and settling in.

And speaking of a bedtime routine, be sure to include the winding down portion of the day.  We can only face plant into bed in exhaustion so many times before we will experience what feels like a walking coma.  We need to get into bed with a feeling of contentment with the day behind us, and confidence in the day to come.  Laying out clothes for the morning, packing lunches, completing homework and putting it in the backpack,  reviewing the days events and discussing tomorrow’s expectations gives us a sense of rest earned.

You know your child.  Maybe they sleep great with their phone under their pillow, television on all night and thermostat set on 87.  That’s fine.  But if your kid is not getting the rest they need for the best day possible at school, some of these ideas may help.  And if they do need help, give it a little time.  Changes in routines won’t fix insomnia in a day or even a week.  Make the changes and give them a few weeks to relax into the new way of doing things.

Finally, don’t forget the old standard, bed time prayer.  Ask your child what they would like you to pray about for the day ahead.  What is worrying them?  Some kids, knowing they will have a substitute teacher, will have sleep-stealing anxiety.  Field trips, friends, bullies, spelling words…  What does your son or daughter think about while they lay awake?  Assure them that you will pray, and they can rest.  Pray out loud with your child at bedtime and teach them to continue talking to Jesus after your good night kiss if they have anything that they need to tell Him.  Help them to believe that they can sleep, because the Lord is awake.

 

Father, give our children restful minds and spirits.  Allow them to give their cares and worries to You with faith that You will meet their needs.  Touch their bodies and give them the ability to fall asleep easily and to stay asleep throughout the night.  Make their mornings bright and joyous as they awaken rested and confidant in their abilities to face the day ahead.  Guard them from daytime drowsiness and sharpen their focus as they are in school.  Give us wisdom, as a family, to manage our schedules and to make good choices about what activities are good for us.  When we begin to feel too busy and too stressed, guide our thoughts and help us to make decisions about what to give our time and attention to…and what to let go of.  You promise us rest throughout Your word and we come to you claiming that promise.  We rest in You, and we ask for sweet and restoring sleep for our children.  Amen.

Praying for school (Academics)~

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Students are returning to the classroom for a new school year.  Everyone from sweet little pre-schoolers to, ahem, mature learners (like me,) are trying to navigate where to sit and how to succeed.

For most of us, praying for our kids is instinctive.  It was for me, when my boys were students.  As I searched the internet for verses to pray over students, I found that most of what was out there was regarding their hearts.  Goodness knows, this is the priority!  Please pray for our children’s spirits and hearts and while we’re at it, let’s not forget their physical safety.

I’d also like to add an often overlooked prayer.  Pray for their academic success.  Someday, somewhere, no matter how amazing your sweet little genius is; there will be a hurdle.  Everything won’t come easily forever.  We put great store on good grades and let’s be honest, failure to master school subjects has a bigger consequence than the disappointment of a GPA.  It affects self esteem, attitudes toward future learning and sometimes future opportunities.  Our kids need to succeed.  They need to learn how to learn and to love it!

In our house, one of the expectations we spoke about (and clear conversations are key,) was that they come to us as soon as they were aware they were struggling so we could help.  As soon as they were getting behind on assignments or realized they were starting to flounder, they had permission to bring it to us and we would not criticize or punish them.  Negative consequences would only happen when they didn’t take accountability and we discovered the problem through a progress or report card.  Learning to self regulate and monitor their progress was an invaluable skill that they demonstrated in early elementary school.  We considered it a matter of integrity and honesty, not a matter of grades.  We expected them to share their school experiences honestly and they did.  But first, we had to create an environment in which this was a positive experience.

Don’t assume your child knows you are praying, give them the gift of that reassurance by reminding them that you are praying not just for a “good day.”  Tell them specifically that you are praying about their spelling test or that they will have an easier time with fractions.  Pray out loud. Let them know that you recognize if a particular subject is difficult, it’s ok and that God will be faithful to them for their hard work.  And don’t forget, they should be praying for themselves as well!  This ain’t just your daddy’s Jesus, He’s YOURS!  At any point in the school day, your child can talk to the Lord about anything.  What a powerful resource! Teach them to pray for themselves before they leave in the morning, to give their day to Jesus…yes, even in kindergarten.

The list of what-to-pray about for our kids is infinite.  Today we battle bullies, culture, and even physical safety on behalf of our little ones.  Don’t forget the very reason we put our children through the obstacles of the school years.  To learn.  To discover the amazing creation and genius of God and to embrace every amazing potential within their remarkable minds.

Dear Lord,

 

Bless my child as they learn.  Give them confidence and  joy in the experience of mastering new ideas.  Help them to focus and remove any obstacles that would interfere with school. Send them anointed teachers who make learning exciting and engaging.  Give them courage to seek help when they need it, and put people in their lives who can provide that help with gentleness and encouragement.  Touch me also, Lord, and remove from me any spirit of criticism or unkindness.  Give me wisdom to guide my child through school.  Give me patience when they struggle or make mistakes.  Give my child a heart of integrity and honesty and protect them from choices that will make their lives difficult. Provide every resource they will need for school, and make me a good steward so that I can give them what they need.  When my finances are inadequate, send the help we need.  We thank you in advance and put this precious life in your hands.  Above all, give this child peace and joy in discovering your purpose through learning.  Amen.