Back To School Blessings: The start to blessing our children each day!
One of the most popular back to school traditions popping up in churches is the “Blessing of the Backpacks.” Children are invited to come to church and bring their backpacks and have them blessed. This is often followed with a little fun lunch, face painting or celebration and tags are placed in the backpack with the name and logo of the church (a little easy publicity)!
This got me thinking about why we are blessing backpacks and not children. I mean, I get that the blessing is for the children with their backpack. But I want to remind all of us of the intense pressure children and their parents are experiencing as a result of the continual testing, measuring and the increased emphasis on learning through worksheets and repetition of facts, at the expense of the other things children need like play, art, music and quiet time to process and store the information they are learning.
The blessings of the backpacks and is a fun way to mark going back to school, but it ignores the reality that school, for many children is difficult. Those who feel the pressures above, not to mention those with some type of learning disability or language difficulty or who did not have solid early childhood education, struggle to feel successful and confident at school.
I am not asking you to stop blessing backpacks or to end this fun back to school celebration. Instead I am asking you to add something. As part of your celebration:
Have a moment of silence or prayer and acknowledge that school for many children is a mixture of fun and joy and also stress and struggle.
And then have the children kneel, and perhaps invite their parents to come forward and say, “For some of you school will be a fun filled, exciting time. And along with the fun will also come stress. You will be tested, you will get into trouble sometimes, some of you will struggle to understand what you are learning… and guess what? No matter if you get all A’s or struggle, no matter if you get the top 90% or not when you are tested… you are a blessing!!! No matter what, you are a blessing!”
Then turn to the parents and say, “You know what a blessing your child is. We know what a blessing your child is. Please, this year, as they leave for school, tell them! Each day tell your child that they are a blessing…no matter what! Because the truth is, that in God’s heart and in God’s eyes, they are!”
We, who work with kids know that school has changed and that our children have been effected by those changes. Let’s, without ruining the party and fun of the backpack blessings, also tell the truth in love. And the truth is: The children who thrive at school are a blessing. The children who struggle academically or behaviorally, are a blessing. All of God’s children are a blessing… no matter what. Tell them. Believe me, they will get lots of messages that tell them otherwise… tell them the truth! They are a blessing!