The schools have released their plans for the 2020-21 school year and decision time is close. Families are considering and evaluating what this school year will be like, recognizing it affects the entire family unit. These questions are swirling in our homes:
Never before have these been options for us. What do we choose?
Recognizing the complexity of these questions, I’d like to write transparently to two different groups—parents and students—and I recommend these groups read this together and talk about it together.
Writing as a parent, my wife and I have been going over our plan for quite some time and coming up with our final answer. Deciding on reentry to school has not been easy. Given our family’s recent arrival at Bethel, our kids had only been in Crown Point schools for three months before the pandemic started. They really need friends and more social engagement and yet we want our kids to be healthy and safe. We know that social distancing for elementary kids is hard.
Given the physical realities, this brought us back to our faith and what God’s Word says. The Bible reminds us that it is our responsibility to care for our kids and make the decision that we believe is best for them, as well as train them to do this for themselves as they mature. As parents, we need to understand that no matter what we choose, it is our choice. God has gifted us with the responsibility to choose wisely.
Given this biblical reality, you as the parent(s) or caregivers need to be at peace with your choice, even if your child is not. I am guessing most students want to be with their friends at school, but if you are not at peace with that, you’re the parent and your decision is the final one.
This is a hard reality: We make the final decision and our kids need to obey it (Ephesians 6:1).
As much as you may desire to be your kid’s friend, now is not the time to be friends with your children or to give them what they want. What they want and what your family may need are two different things. It might be time to be “the bad guy.” As parents, we still need to listen to their thoughts and respond to their fears and concerns. We need to listen to everything they have to say about missing their friends or missing out on sports. Or you may need to encourage them to be brave, and not fear wearing a mask or getting sick. These are discipleship opportunities. When the decision is made, we then need to continually be helping and discipling our men and women in training adjust to new plans, a new way of school, and the “new normal” as much as we can discern it.
I realize that for parents of middle and high school students this is hard. But it is no less essential. We need to be sensitive to their feelings and fears, but not let those dictate our choices. We must show our children how to lead, how to make biblical decisions, and how to make the wisest choice that God is revealing for your family.
Students, we have been saying this from the very beginning; this situation is miserable. You missed out on all your clubs, musicals, sports, and dances. Your summer vacations have been changed, summer jobs are sparse, and most everything fun has been shut down. I believe that you have been one of the hardest hit groups in this pandemic. Sadly, for some of you there may still be more difficult things to come.
Your parents are going to be deciding what you do for school very soon. You may not like their decision. You may even disagree with it. I am encouraging you to share your thoughts and feelings with them. Share what you want and why, along with your fears and concerns about the different options. Share your heart so that they are making an informed decision.
But listen, you must let them make their choice.
Now is the time to really learn what “honor your father and mother” looks like. They are looking at the whole of your family and weighing out what’s wisest. You might hate the changes to school and you may have valid counterpoints to their decision, but you are called to honor them. What does that mean? To honor implies that you are choosing to give them respect and submission. You’re not just obeying outwardly. but with maturity; you are acknowledging that this is their choice and you want to please God by following your parents’ instruction.
We see Jesus model this for us in the garden of Gethsemane. God’s will was for his Son to pay for sins that he did not commit. Jesus did not want to be tortured and die, but because obedience brings his Father joy and honor, Jesus obeyed with the right heart. Jesus wanted to give the Father respect, so he submitted to the will of the Father (Matthew 26:39).
Whether you go to school, engage in virtual learning, or a combination of those, recognize that your parents are seeking what is best for you and your family. You have the privilege of learning from them how to make big decisions like this, examining all the angles, and determining what’s best. Don’t miss the opportunity to grow. And remember, obedience and honoring your parents starts in your heart. It is shown in your actions and attitudes.
Parents, we are praying for you and will support you in your decision. Students, we pray that you will have a humble heart that is seeking to honor your earthly parents along with your heavenly Father.