February 22, 2024

By Brianna Wingen

Brianna Wingen, social media lead and administrative assistant, Diocese of Sioux Falls Communications Office

I remember as a child having mixed feelings about returning to school. There was the excitement of making it to the next grade, new school supplies, wonderment about the new things I would learn during the new school year, and above all the excitement to be reunited with friends.

On the other hand, I remember having anxiety and a certain level of fear about returning to school. Was I ready for the next grade? Would the new material I would learn be too hard, and would I fail and be held back?

But the one thing I remember fearing the most was that my friends had all decided they no longer liked me and I would be all alone. Sadly, I wouldn’t have blamed them if they decided they no longer wanted to be my friend.

In the early years of elementary school, bullies led me to believe that kids at school only played with me out of pity, that my parents took care of me because they were stuck with me, and that I was a burden just because I existed. This broke me, as it would any child. I began to question my existence and value.

My parents must have known something was wrong because I remember at one point they told me if there was ever anything I felt I couldn’t talk to them about, I could always talk to God. And that’s what I did, late at night when I was supposed to be asleep.

Many times, when I was talking to God I felt guilty for bothering Him, because he’s God and had more important things to do than listen to me. But I couldn’t help myself.

Once I started talking to Him, I couldn’t stop. I would ask Him if He loved me, if I was a burden on my parents, and many other questions that took years to sort through and became more complex as I grew up. I don’t look back at this time in my life with regret or shame because it led me to a relationship with my best friend, the Lord.

Peers today can be even more influential on our children than 20 years ago. Today kids have a number of ways to interact with one another which creates more opportunities for them to either build each other up or tear each other down.

Parents, I encourage you to not be afraid to talk to your children about building a relationship with God, especially if you can see something isn’t right. Let them know they can talk to Him if they are afraid to talk to you about what is going on in their life.

Invite them to pray with you. If you’ve never prayed together or talked about God as a family, it might feel awkward and scary at first to ask them to pray with you, and that’s okay. Your thoughtfulness and genuine efforts to connect with your child will not go unnoticed by them, even if they turn away, roll their eyes, scoff, or lash out at you.

I know that my parents’ offers to talk over the years reached the well-guarded areas of my heart, but I never let them know what that meant to me at the time. I didn’t understand it myself. Don’t be afraid to let them hear you praying for them, and don’t be afraid to show your love for them or tell them how much they are loved by God.

Teachers, thank you for all you do for our students. It takes a special person to do the job of a teacher. Students today are growing up in a very unique time, and they need teachers who care not only for the intellectual well-being of our students but also for the whole being of each student. My prayers are with you as you enter into a new school year, that you may do the Lord’s will in your classrooms and attend to His children.

My prayer for each student this year is that they know they are loved by God, and that He created each of them his son or daughter, fearfully and wonderfully made in His image. Be not afraid to be in relationship with God, you’ll discover your best friend and most loving Father.

Join me in lifting up our children as they return to school. May God bless them abundantly.