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With the dog days of summer quickly coming to an end, a new school year is upon us. A new beginning—an opportunity for a fresh start, new friends, bigger challenges, and different exposures. And while the world often makes me want to place my kids in a bubble, pause time, protect their hearts, and ensure they have minimal visibility into the disorder happening outside of our small town suburbia life, I know that’s not possible (or healthy, let’s be honest). This is life. This is the fallen, sinful world we live in. So here we are, trying to make the best of it, some days better than others.

Looking ahead to this school year, the anticipation my second grader has is contagious—finding out who his teacher is, determining what friends are in his class, figuring out lunchtime and bus schedules. The jitters and butterflies bring me right back to elementary school, anxiously waiting to go supply shopping, select my outfit for the first day, and organize my folders and backpack. While that may seem like a lifetime ago and the worries of the world are much different now, when I look ahead at this school year, I realize the wishes for my son are rather similar to what my parents wanted for me all those years ago. Maybe some things aren’t that different.

RELATED: The Bedtime Hoops: 4 Important Questions To Ask Your Kids Every Night

While the thoughts and concerns about second grade may seem trivial to some, I pray my son will remember these five things as he embarks on the school year:

1. Be Kind

Kindness matters. It’s contagious, goes such a long way, and just may be the single reason why a classmate smiles during the school day. Strive to be that reason.

2. Include Others

If you see a classmate sitting off to the side, notice them. Be courageous enough to walk over to them, extending an invitation to participate in whatever it is you’re doing. Life is more enjoyable when you’re doing it in community, so aim to never be a stranger. 

3. Be Intentional

Think before you act or speak. While hurtful words or actions may be forgivable, they are near impossible to forget and can haunt everyone involved. Pausing to think, even if just briefly, about what to say or do will help ensure your next move is more deliberate.

4. Remember Words Matter

Building off intentionality, words can either lift you up or cut you deep to the core. Please, choose them wisely and think before you speak.

5. Be Joyful

These years should be fun—be silly, laugh loud, play tag and embrace being a kid. Too quickly, first smiles and baby coos turn into first words, first steps, and first school days. Time is precious and something we have no control over, so be in the present and live joyfully in the moment.

RELATED: Forget 18 Summers—You Only Get a Dozen School Years

Launching into anything new is bound to be nerve-wracking and stir up emotions, whether you’re starting a new school year, a new job, or even a relationship. Strive to make the best of it—not only for your own good but also for those around you. Lead by example, be compassionate and spread kindness throughout your school not only in your classroom but on the bus, at the playground, and in the lunchroom. Know you can be the very reason someone smiles, comes home excited, or feels noticed. And few things can make a heart fuller than that.

If we all lived a little more like Jesus, there’d be a whole lot more love to go around.

Now go get ’em, big boy.

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Kristina Shipp

Kristina lives in Ohio with her husband and their two kids. Outside of the messiness of motherhood, her favorite things include fitness, camping, coffee and reading. She is also passionate about infertility and her journey to finding Jesus.

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