Getting Your Grandchildren Ready for Back-to-School
The summer is already winding down and kids are heading back to school in the next few weeks. This transition back to the classroom can bring about many anxieties among children. They may wonder: “Will I be smart enough? I’ve heard third grade is the hardest…” “Will I be included at recess this year?” “What if I don’t make the basketball team?” Such thoughts can make kids extremely nervous before that “first day.”
Even if you are not on the frontlines and with your grandkids all the time, it is important to recognize how you can support your grandchildren at the beginning of the new school year. As a Jewish grandparent, you have the advantage of wisdom, experience, and the ability to share Jewish lessons for everyday life. What mitzvot can you teach, activities can you share, or conversations can you have to help your grandchild become mentally prepared for the next school year? How will you prepare your grandkids for the big step back into the classroom?
Here are some ideas to infuse your time with your grandchildren with love, fun, and Jewish living before they enter their next scholastic chapter:
- Go School Supply Shopping Together: Take your grandchild school supply shopping, and use it as an opportunity to discuss your memories of school. Who was your favorite teacher? When did you feel most challenged? How do you remember your school days? Make sure to talk to your grandchild about any anxieties they may have before starting school.
- Buy Extra Supplies to Donate: Purchase some extra school supplies and choose an organization together through which you can donate to children in need (eg: Operation International Children, Develop Africa). In this conversation, you can discuss what the Jewish idea of tikkun olam (repairing the world) means and convey the importance of education to the well-being of every child in the world.
- Read Together: Get your grandchild ready and excited to read again. Read your favorite childhood book together. Take your grandchild to the library and have them choose a book. You may also consider talking to your adult child about signing their child up to receive books from PJLibrary, an organization that will send Jewish-themed books monthly to families raising Jewish children. Then, you can read Jewish books together on a regular basis or discuss the books over the phone (or online video chatting like Skype).
- Eat Apples and Honey: Who says you can’t eat this delicious treat throughout the year? An apple a day, right? Have some sweet snacks with your grandchildren to start off a good, productive school year. Explain to your grandchild that this is a tradition at Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, which you will be celebrating in the coming month.
- Say the She-hecheyanu Together: First, make sure that your adult child and his/her partner would be comfortable with you teaching a Jewish prayer to their child. Then, if you get the OK, call your grandchild or visit him/her the day before he/she starts school. Introduce the she-hecheyanu prayer, which celebrates the arrival of special occasions like the first evening of a holiday, the first time eating fruit of the harvest, or the first time doing a certain mitzvah. Teach your grandchild the prayer and how Judaism emphasizes the importance of cycles and new beginnings. Discuss what it means to start a new phase in your life. How else do you mark special occasions?
Any of these activities can be a special way to spend time with your grandchild. Whether you can add Jewish lessons to the conversation or not, make sure you do all you can to help your grandchild feel prepared to enter the classroom. Showing your love and support is itself a mitzvah.