At public school, your child will be surrounded by a wide range of morals, influences, and experiences. Life as Mom contributor JessieLeigh explains her strategies for equipping her kids for potential clashes.
photo credit: Phil Roeder, used by license
This post is written by Life as MOM contributor, JessieLeigh:
One of the toughest things about sending your kids off into the world is dealing with the incredibly wide range of morals and influences with which they will be surrounded. From colorful language to amount of screentime allotted to dietary choices and on and on, the simple fact is that the public school tends to be an environment in which you’re bound to encounter plenty of things you just don’t agree with.
Your kid is bound to run into other children who are unkind, acting out, wild, or just plain mean.
I know many people, both those who send their kids to public school and those who have chosen other options, who cite this as a real problem. It can be frustrating and disconcerting to invest so much time in teaching your children certain values and priorities, only to feel like they’re being undermined and undone by influences elsewhere, particularly at school. As someone who admittedly has very high expectations for my own children’s character and behavior, I get this.
When my oldest child was in kindergarten, I had a rude awakening. Within that one single year of school, he came home and asked me what the f-word meant, told me a classmate wanted him to play “Zombie Death House” with him, raised discussions about gun violence, and came home crying when someone sneered at his black grapes and called them disgusting. I felt sucker-punched.
Here I was, raising this wholesome, healthy little child, carefully censoring language and media, and then THIS?
I had a decision to make. I could explain why our family didn’t subscribe to some of these choices. I could insist he find better friends. I could contact the teacher. I could vent to my husband about all these terrible parents and their terrible choices. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that all of those crossed my mind at one point or another.
But, in the end, I went with a different tactic, and it’s one that has honestly served me well ever since.
I deal with the words or topics or ideas that come up on a case-by-case basis, but the one thing I always tell my children is this:
You never know how someone else’s day started.
Now, that might seem random or obvious, but it really helps us put things in perspective.
When my kids waltz into school at 8:30 in the morning, it’s a safe bet that they have at least ten hours of sleep under their belts and their bellies are full. Their reading will have been done and their paperwork signed.
Sure, stuff comes up, but they can pretty much rely on being rested, fed, and appropriately dressed, if nothing else.
photo credit: Phil Roeder, used by license
But this isn’t the case for everyone.
And I try to remember how “off” I can be when I’m hungry– how I’m irritable and impatient and unable to focus. I think about how cranky and illogical I can become when I’m seriously lacking sleep.
I try to remember how miserable it is to be cold. Or to have water seep through a hole in the bottom of my shoes and leave me with wet socks for the day. Or to have pants that, let’s face it, are clearly a size or two too small cutting into my waist.
I think about the impact that violent TV shows have on my sleep and psyche. I remember how on-edge and twitchy I can feel after I’ve been around people having intense arguments. I recall how unsettled I’ve felt on the rare occasions I wasn’t sure where we were staying or might end up.
Because here’s the thing– while some of the questionable stuff that comes up is merely a result of differing family values, plenty of it is also a result of forces beyond the other child’s control. And it’s just so very important that we remember this.
So, when I hear about a child who was yelling out, or acting angry, or using obscenities, or shutting out my own kid, I try to remind them what I need to always remember, too:
You never know how their day started.
And that’s often the first step to the understanding and grace it takes to break down walls and get to know those people whose behavior might initially turn us off.
How do YOU prepare your kids to deal with these situations?
– A mother of three, including a 24 week preemie, JessieLeigh is a determined advocate for even the tiniest of babies. She can be found celebrating life’s (sometimes unexpected) miracles and blessings at Parenting Miracles.
You can read all of Jessie Leigh’s posts for Life as MOM here.