A long, long time ago, I taught one year of first grade.
It kicked my butt.
It was hard and I realized not everyone who likes kids should be a teacher.
I loved recess the most–like most of my students. I loved it because the kids would get out their pent-up energy. And the 6-7 year olds loved it because it was free time. It was also the time they would talk. And by talk, I mean share. New words were learned and stories were told.
The playground is where my daughter first heard the words french kissing. Which is obviously kissing in Paris. And before you think this is why we don’t send our kids to public school, a homeschool friend explained the word porn. Because kids.
There is education and then there is education. We need to talk to our kids about things kids are talking about. I don’t want my kids believing everything they hear, but if I’m too embarrassed or too shy to brooch the subject, then I’m having to reteach something they already have an opinion on–likely from George on the playground who has a big brother or Sally who watches too-mature movies.
4 Conversations We Need to Have:
1. We need to talk about sex and all the words we don’t want to say out loud: Y’all. Playgrounds have moved way beyond our memories of it…like when we heard you could be pregnant by kissing in your bathing suit. Kids are exposed to so much more with apps and iphones, unlimited freedom and our sex-crazed culture. Don’t be afraid to ask your kids what they’ve heard. But more importantly, teach them what is right and wrong from God’s standard. And start by listening. When we are quiet, waiting for them to talk, often they do.
2. Address the boyfriend/girlfriend thing: It took all of 9 days of the 6th grade before a girl was asking my son to be her boyfriend. He was shocked and slightly offended. His classic answer, “I’m just a kid. I’m way too young for that. Thanks, anyway!” We have a society of aggressive girls who aren’t afraid to chase our sons. Some parents my expect their tweens and younger teens (under 16) to dip their toes in the “dating” waters, but we don’t encourage boy/girl stuff. At all. It’s not cute or funny. There’s a time and place for it, but it’s not now.
After some probing after an article I read, I asked my 8th grade daughter if anyone ever did “slap ass Friday” (where boys will slap girls on the butt in the halls, while lockering, etc). She said she had seen it going on, but the school was very strict to stop it. “Plus, Mom, boys know I would turn them in so quick! They wouldn’t dare.” We often don’t say anything because we’re afraid we’ll expose our kids to things too soon. We can’t buy into that anymore. If your child is in public or even private school–or frankly, around other kids their age, we need to begin these conversations.
3. The importance of not fitting in: There is a lot of pressure to be like everyone else. I would say it’s even overwhelming pressure at this age. If your kids don’t have church or positive community within or outside of school, they are going to feel some pressure to comply with culture norms. This isn’t always terrible. It’s part of growing up. There is a part in all of us that longs to fit in, but we need to remind our kids that it’s okay to be different. We need to be talking with our kids about it and praying for good, Godly friends to be a part of their lives. There is a lot of experimenting in tween and teen years. If you’re raising your kids in a with Godly ideals, don’t be afraid to set boundaries.
P.S. Clothes start becoming a big deal. My son never cared about what he wore to elementary. The first day of the 6th grade changed that. It was a pretty easy shift for me to buy him athletic shorts instead of Osh Kosh (sorry, he’s my baby). I just didn’t know until he told me his preference. And It’s okay to say no to things or fads that aren’t in your child’s best interest. Just because it’s being sold in the stores and “everyone else is wearing it” isn’t enough reason for us to jump on a bandwagon. Modesty is a thing, too.
4. The conversation where we don’t say anything. This is the season where our kids often clam up and stop telling us everything. I think it’s probably because it’s the season parents talk a lot.We list the rules, we nag, we remind, we speak before we listen. But I’m learning the less I say, the more they open up. Instead of asking “how’s your day?” and waiting for the trite answer, if I’m quiet, they often tell me much more. This might be one of the most important conversations of all.
Don’t be afraid to talk to your kids about anything. They are waiting for you to, whether they know it or not.