Students face a lot of unknowns when they begin a new school year; the “back-to-school” phrase itself can bring a lot of emotions and thoughts to a student. What will the year look like? What will even the first day look like? Will I have lunch with my friends? Will my former enemy or the bully be in my class? Will I have to see my ex-boyfriend? Will my favorite teacher remember me? Will I have a good seat in class or on the bus? Will I be able to text during the day? Will I know how to get to all my classes? Will my clothes help me fit in? These questions and many more circulate through their minds as they play out different scenarios. Can they be prepared for all of the situations they may be faced with? I believe we can help them by concentrating on a few basic principles.
- Acceptance – each student needs to know they are accepted. As a youth leader or parent our part is to make sure they feel secure in our love for them. And there is an even greater and deeper love which is the love of God; remind them often of His love which includes acceptance for them. Explain unconditional love so that they know there is nothing they can do to lessen His love. Share scriptures that ensure them of this love, and also Romans 8:35-39 that tells us that NOTHING CAN SEPARATE us from His love. Loving ourselves is also important as we seek to love others. Galatians 5:14 “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
- Perspective – each student has a different set of filters that affect the way they look at the world and the circumstances they are faced with. Being reminded of how perception can cloud their view or misconstrue their view is important. For example, someone could feel mistreated when actually it was a misunderstanding; someone could be expressing a dislike and someone else magnify the dislike and become defensive or go off on a tangent, leading the student to be afraid to express their opinion. Perspective also brings into play negative and positive thoughts as they judge one another or refuse to give others a chance, including their teachers, because someone else had an unpleasant experience. Remind students to give each other a break and allow for a bad day or a misinterpretation, rather than believing all is negative.
- Generalizing – each student is wired to seek out those with whom they have things in common. If someone else has the same clothes, or has the same interest, then they feel a bond with them. We can often group people together who appear to be alike, without even getting to know them; this may be by appearances, including race, gender, height, weight, color of hair, etc. It may also be by which classes they are taking, who they are sitting with, which bus they ride of if they drive their own car. Remind them that there may be different reasons for each of these things, and that most of their physical appearance was not something they chose on their own. Each person is unique and multi-faceted, meaning they cannot just fit into one category.
- Character – each student can choose what kind of character they will present. Friendly not Flirty, Welcoming not Bullying, Attentive not Disruptive, Serving not Manipulating, Honesty not cheating. Talk to your student(s) about what it is to be a Christian “little Christ”, and as II Corinthians 5:20 tells us, “We are ambassadors for Christ.” Earlier in II Corinthians, chapter 5, we are challenged to “make it our aim to be pleasing to Him (God)”. Galatians 5:20 lists what is pleasing; the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness faith, gentleness and self-control”.