Strengthening Your Orthodox Children As They Navigate Public School

Children in a public school classroom

We live in a time where Christian values are constantly subverted by the surrounding secular culture. Perhaps the most volatile battle ground is that of the public school system. Orthodox parents often find themselves at a loss for how to prepare their children for what they will encounter in public school. How to give them the proper toolset, if you will, in their Faith to help them withstand the onslaught of ideals that not only conflict with the teachings of the Church, but openly lead countless souls toward condemnation. In this post, we share some tips to help Orthodox parents strengthen the faith of their school-aged children.

Of course, these tips are not a catch-all solution. However, along with prayer, active involvement in their education, and unwavering Faith in God, these tools can help you impart the Faith to your children. Ultimately, the rest is up to your child and to God.

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Why should Orthodox parents care about public school?

The atmosphere in our nation’s public schools has not been conducive to promoting Christian values and conduct for quite some time. And this atmosphere is oppressive. The greater part of what you may try to teach your child at home is all to easily unlearned or suppressed because of the child’s desire to fit in with their peers. If parents are not extremely vigilant and careful, their child will often begin to lead a double life.

Ideally, Orthodox parents should school their children at home. However, we realize that this ideal is not always attainable. In lieu of this ideal solution, as parents we must maintain diligent watch over our child(ren)’s development both in and outside the home if we hope for them to remain Orthodox (or Christian at all, for that matter) long after they have left home.

1. Establish a dress code and enforce it.

Children express their identity by their outward appearance. This desire to express themselves is not an evil desire, if it is fleshed out with the guidance of involved, faithful parents. For young girls these days, the challenge to express themselves appropriately is particularly daunting, as department stores and online shops stock nothing but cropped tops, short shorts/skirts, and clothing with holes or demonic messaging.

Many schools issue uniforms and ban certain things like makeup or jewelry. In these cases, it is rather easy to enforce a dress code, as the school has already put one in place for you. If your child’s school does not have uniforms, you should set your own regulations in tandem with whatever dress code the school has in place. Your child should dress modestly at all times, and without excessive adornment (i.e. makeup, jewelry). If you enforce this consistently in your child’s life, he/she will learn how to live within the limits you set and properly respect his/her body as a holy temple.

2. Encourage your child to keep the fasts at school

Fasting is a spiritual discipline that helps us to learn how to deny ourselves and our wants, putting God and His desires for us first. While fasting is “optional” in the sense that we are not sinning should we not fast, it is also “not optional”, because it is such a vital tool in our spiritual growth toolbox. If you hope for your child to have discipline as an adult, and discernment in making the proper choices, fasting is one of the best possible ways to teach him this.

There will be many temptations at school, particularly in the lunchroom. So take some time before fasting periods begin to come up with vibrant, tasty lunch ideas for your child. As a parent, articulate these fasting practices to the teachers, if necessary. And when you see your child fasting well, comment on this effort and encourage her. She will remember this the next time she faces temptation.

3. Review classwork and homework daily

Carve time out of your day to sit down with each of your children and review their classwork and homework. Not only does this help boost their enthusiasm about what they are learning and improve their grades, but it also gives you the opportunity to see what the school is teaching your children. All you need is a few minutes to check in, ask what they talked about in class, and connect with your children about their day.

As you talk with your child about their schoolwork, ask questions and listen to how your child answers you. You should be able to tell if someone has been putting unsavory thoughts or concepts into your child’s head – whether it be a friend, teacher, or administrator – if you practice active listening while they talk to you.

4. Send them off with a prayer

As you send your children off to school each morning, say a prayer for them. More than that, say a prayer with them. Pray that the Lord blesses them and their day, and that He will be with them always. Below is an excellent prayer you can use for this:

Christ our Lord, the Giver of light and wisdom, who opened the eyes of the blind man and transformed the fishermen into wise heralds and teachers of the gospel through the coming of the Holy Spirit, shine also in the minds of these your children the light of the grace of the Holy Spirit. Grant them discernment, understanding and wisdom in learning. Enable them to complete their assignments and to abound in every good work, for to You we give honor and glory. Amen.

5. Set a good example

This is perhaps the hardest suggestion to implement, because it puts the onus on us as parents to improve our own character and spiritual life first. Your children watch you more than they listen to you. We can lecture them until we are blue in the face; it is our actions they will imitate in the end. If we hope for them to internalize and adopt the values and virtues of the kingdom of God, we must internalize and adopt them first ourselves.

Related: Keeping the Orthodox Faith Alive at Home

6. Use mistakes to teach, not condemn or punish

While consequences and punishments do have their proper place in parenting, we would caution you to only use them as a last resort. Instead, take the mistakes your child makes and turn these into teaching opportunities for her. If possible, take your child somewhere where the two of you can talk privately, like on a walk or to her bedroom. Try not to turn these into lectures – as we discussed above, your child will probably not listen to half of what you are saying. Instead, ask questions to lead your child to the proper conclusions on her own.

Not only can you do this with mistakes your own children make, but you can also do this with things you or your children see or hear. This could be something from television, radio, music, or anything you might encounter out in public during interactions with others. Take care and use discernment in the way you approach certain topics, depending on the age of your child.

7. Send them to confession regularly

Confession is the means through which we can receive the grace of God’s forgiveness for our sins. Most parishes begin hearing the confessions of young children when they reach 7 or 8 years of age. Once your child reaches this age, he/she should go to confession at least four times a year (and so should you, parents!). Once during each of the four major fasting periods.

Read More: How To Prepare For Confession

In confession, the child will hear the words of her priest, guiding her as she struggles to attain holiness and forsake her sins. In confession, she can bare her rawest emotions and inner struggles to the priest without fear of judgment or condemnation. And she can receive advice for how to overcome her sins, resist the temptations of the devil, and reject the false teachings that will pull her away from Christ.

If you make going to confession a regular practice, your child will be better prepared to discern right from wrong and make the right choices when he is not in your presence at school.

8. Make pleasing Christ the goal, not pleasing you

As parents, we must remember that our children obey us not to please us, but to please Christ, who commanded us to honor our father and mother. Make sure they know this. Teach them that every action they take should be one that pleases the Lord. And if they do something wrong, to admit this and willingly accept the consequences of their actions without protest.

Along with this, encourage your child to forgive those who wrong him or tease him. And help him see things from the perspective of others before speaking or acting.

9. Let them know being Orthodox is nothing to be ashamed of

This one sounds like a no-brainer, but many parents don’t explicitly say this to their children. Teach your children they should never feel shame for their Orthodox Faith. Encourage them to always wear their cross, to say a blessing before meals and give thanks afterwards, and to call on the name of the Lord in the Jesus Prayer when they see or hear wicked things.

Orthodox Christianity is not a religion. It is a way of life. We must show our children this in the way we live as parents, and strengthen them to live out their faith. Do not let the world stifle who they are because they fear being ridiculed by others. Instead, use those moments to teach your child about forgiveness and love in the face of persecution.

10. Trust in the Lord

Our final tip is often the one that is hardest to follow, and yet incredibly simple at the same time. As we raise our children, we must remember we cannot mold them into perfect people. Moreover, we must remember that there are no guarantees. Even if you do everything “right”, your child may take a different path than the one you hoped (or planned) for when he becomes an adult.

This is because each of us is born with our own free will. Each of us must choose to live the life of an Orthodox Christian on our own, and this includes our children. Our only task is to do all in our power to train them up in the Lord. After that, we must place our faith in Christ and trust that He will bless and guide His children along the path to salvation.


While we may feel powerless against the demonic forces that permeate the public school system, parents have many tools at our disposal. Do not be deceived! The school does not own your child, nor does it have any right to dictate what values your child should learn!

Keep Reading: 8 Ways To Enrich Your Spiritual Life

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