Believe it or not, some young people across the nation have already returned to school and are settling into a new season of learning and growing.

Here in metro Richmond, however, the countdown for most students continues: One last week of vacation; a few more visits to the pool or amusement park; as many late nights hanging out with friends as parents will allow.

Truth be told, we parents are on a similar countdown. We know that when our kids return to the classroom and to a routine that can help them succeed, we are back in school mode, too.

Yet what we may take for granted during this letting-go-of-summer, getting-back-to-business season are the opportunities it holds for mutual parent-child growth.

What if this school year you challenged yourself to be intentional not only about helping your children prosper intellectually, socially and emotionally, but also about stretching as their leader, chief cheerleader and role model?

  • If you’re the parent of a child who struggles with some aspect of learning, what if you shared with that child an age-appropriate challenge you’re wrestling with and how you’ve sought to overcome or embrace it?
  • If you’re the parent of a child who lacks confidence or feels shy or insecure, why not spend the next few weeks reading a book together about a child or teen who dealt with similar issues in the plot or memoir, and discuss the relevant potential solutions?
  • If your child is one of those kids who “hate” school, begin asking why until he or she can articulate what’s causing the disdain. Then explore together what could make the school experience better, and help your child create a process for accepting what can’t change (such as going to school) and recognizing something valuable or meaningful about each day.
  • If you’re the parent of a child who is prone to being bullied or left out of social circles, create a plan beforehand of how your child will handle negative encounters or awkward situations, and enlist the help of a trusted friend, teacher or the principal to help your child launch into the school year with confidence.
  • Every day, tell your children they matter and give them tangible examples of the positive ways their spirit and their actions add value to the world. So when they face a challenge, confront obstacles, wrestle with fear or doubt, your encouraging refrain will be the background music in their minds to help them push through.
  • Nudge them to be their best, and push yourself to do the same. As they watch you operate in excellence or serve others with courage or patience at home, at work or in your community, you’re giving them instructions for navigating their own opportunities or circumstances.
  • Give more grace. Assure your children that no one expects them to be perfect because you aren’t either. Let them see your flaws and how you love yourself anyway. Acknowledge their missteps and love them anyway, too.

Practice these suggestions, and perhaps come up with more of your own, and as the school year winds its way through fall, winter and spring, you’ll notice that you and your young scholars have had an amazing ride, too.

When the next summer rolls around, you’ll once again be ready for a break from the norm and ready to relax.

Yet you’ll be grateful, too, for how you and your children have grown exponentially in both book knowledge and in lessons of heart and habit.

Stacy Hawkins Adams is the mom of a son and daughter ages 16 and 19. She is also a Chesterfield County-based novelist, communications professional and volunteer child advocate. Contact her at

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