As a parent, it can be scary to release your child into someone else’s care or to send them out of your sight. While it changes a little bit as they get older and more capable, there is still no shortage of things to worry about.
My kids are 10, 9, and 6. As the summer wore on, we found that as we prepped them for each new camp or activity — or even sent them for playdates with friends — we were giving them the same list of seven things to remember. These lessons encompassed physical safety, social interactions, and potentially uncomfortable or dangerous situations.
Now, as we have just sent our kids back to school again, these are the same seven lessons I want them to internalize. And, actually, most of these are things I need to internalize as well:
1. Be kind
In any given social setting, be the person who includes others, welcomes those who are on the outskirts, and is generous to your friends and classmates. When in doubt, choose to be kind.
2. Drink water
Take care of your body, and don’t get dehydrated. If you don’t take care of your body, your mood will be affected, your energy level will go down, and you will not be the best version of yourself. Other things might taste better than water, but your body needs water to be its healthiest self.
3. Private parts are private
Period. End of story. This lesson is SO important and one we will remind you of often. Your private parts, your friend’s private parts, everyone’s private parts. They’re not a joke or a punchline. We don’t show or touch our private parts in public, no one else should be touching your private parts, nor do we look at or touch other people’s private parts — even if they ask us to. Also, please close the bathroom door and wipe your own butt!
4. Listen to your gut and trust yourself
If something makes you feel uncomfortable in your belly, trust yourself and listen to your gut. It’s OK to say “no thanks” and leave the situation — even if the person asking you to do something is someone you like, like a close friend, a coach, or a teacher. Your body is pretty smart, and sometimes it gives you prompts before your brain.
5. You can always talk to us about anything.
We are always here for you. We will always be in your corner. Always. We want to know and want to help you in any way we can. There is nothing you cannot tell us. Even if you think you’ve done something wrong, we are in your corner and will work with you to right any wrongs. All you have to say is, “I need you to react calmly,” and we will do everything in our power to do so. As we often tell you, “It will always go better for you if we hear it from you first, and if you tell the truth.”
6. Be respectful to coaches/teachers/fellow kids.
This lesson is a big one. We don’t tell you to obey your teachers. We tell you to listen well and be respectful. We (explicitly) give you permission to say no, respectfully. We ask you to treat everyone the way they want to be treated. Be respectful in your speech, your attitudes, your helpfulness, your leadership on the field or the classroom, and your treatment of everyone.
7. Have fun!
You’re kids, and this is going to be an awesome experience! We are jealous of all the things you will get to learn and do and all the friends you’re going to make. Our attitudes make a big difference in our experiences — expect the best and enjoy every part you can! You’re an amazing, fun, wonderful kid, and I am so incredibly proud of you!