Christian schools are comprised of believers from many different denominational backgrounds and personal histories. Each person, therefore, brings a unique history and perspective to the school. Most often this is enriching for all as we grow and learn together and become more Christ-like through our association. On the other hand, it is to be expected that these differing views sometimes lead to conflict and hurt. It is hard enough to resolve these problems when they arise among adults, but it is doubly hard to address them among students.
In school, and hopefully at home, students are taught to be generous, kind, considerate, honest, and fair with one another. As Christians, we are commanded to love one another, and for the most part, parents and teachers are successful in fostering this kind of behavior in their children. However, there is one thing that neither parents nor teachers can do, and that is to get students to like each other. This sometimes leads to heartache when children are excluded from events either at home or at school. While there is no definitive answer to this problem, there are a few things we can do that may make these situations less painful.
In school, teachers can encourage children to play with each other and to play so that all get an equal turn. They can create group projects that require students to work together as a team where each individual is necessary for the group’s success. They can pre-select teams for PE and recess so that no student is left out.
At home, parents can encourage their children to invite classmates over to play--not just their usual friends but also the new students who perhaps don’t have a good buddy yet. When planning a birthday party or special event, they can insist that their child be as inclusive as possible. For example, it is always better to invite an identifiable group, such as all the girls, or all the boys, or all the team members, etc. If that is too many, then the invited group should be small enough that several children are left out rather than only one.
When conflicts do arise between students, be sure to pray about it. Your children know how to pray, and they know that our God answers prayer. Make a plan with them to pray every single day for two weeks. Brainstorm creative solutions to the problem. Ask them to consider how they could show loving-kindness toward the one who is currently bothering them. Consider ways that they could be pro-active in eliminating their ‘enemies’ by making them their friends.
If the conflict or the exclusion appears to be a serious problem or one that just won’t go away, then alert your child’s teacher. Teachers are there to help you to help your child live for the Lord. The teacher can begin to pray with you about the problem. They can focus their teaching on the problem, and they may be able to make some changes in seating or in their project groups that will help solve the problem. Working in partnership as parents and teachers is one of the most powerful ways that we can influence our children and improve their experience at school and home.
At the high school level, problems sometime arise not just among our own students but between our students and those who attend other schools. Sometimes cliques can form in youth groups so that public and Christian school kids don’t mix together. Encourage your teens to break the mold and demolish the cliques. It is natural for kids to hang around with their friends, and these friends will typically be people that attend their school. On the other hand, don’t allow the natural friendships to grow into divisions where people feel unwelcome. Encourage your kids to be the ones that reach out and include someone from outside their natural group.
My prayer is that our students would be marked by love for one another. When the world or the church sees one of our children, I hope they are struck by their poise, confidence in the Lord, and willingness to love and accept everyone. Let’s pray to that end; let’s challenge our children to do the same, and let’s live that way ourselves. If we do, we will ensure that school is a warm, welcoming, and supportive place for every student, and that will truly bless the Lord!-- BH