By: Brandon Hall, Middle School Ministry Director Middle School is often known as the “awkward years.” It is the time where a student goes through emotional, physical and spiritual changes. It is also a tough time for parents as they attempt to love and care for their student in such stressful and awkward time. As with any age, there is no magical formula to get your child through a particular stage, so know that raising a Godly Middle Schooler isn’t impossible! Here are three practical tips to navigating through the Middle School years! I’m in no way an expert, or a parent, but here is some advice from your local Middle School Director…
Get them involved in church early and often
The earlier you can get your student present and involved in youth group, the better. If you wait until “things slow down,” you will be waiting forever. The older your student gets, the more things will compete for their time. Now is the time to intentionally make church a priority and set the rest of your schedule around that. I often have families tell me that their student doesn’t want to come to church anymore because they “don’t feel connected.” This is often the result of only coming once, maybe twice a month, which never gives them a chance to really plug in, build relationships, and get involved. I am extremely thankful for my parents who modeled this in my life growing up. This allowed for me to get involved in church with students my age, build lasting relationships and make church a large an important part of my life. Then, as I grew up and entered High School, I wanted to keep going to church, because my youth group was a huge part of my life and base of relationships.
Space is ok!
Middle School is the time where your student will start pulling away in a variety of different ways; this is not always a bad thing! Your student is trying to figure out who they are as an individual, so work hard to support and encourage them to do so in a healthy and constructive way. Don’t feel the need to be intimately involved in every minute decision and detail of his or her life. Give them space to make decisions, be an individual, and have the freedom to be who God has created them to be. This will be a time in their life when you begin to help them process decisions on the consequences side of the spectrum versus you prescribing their behavior; you're preparing them for adulthood!
Friends are important, very important
As your student is growing up and forming their identity, the friends they develop and maintain are crucial. As a Middle Schooler, the friends you have contain the power to either push you closer to God, or away from him. Don’t be afraid as parents to have the final say in who your student spends quality time with; it will be worth it in the long run. Not to say that you need to keep your student away from anyone that isn’t a Christian, but I think it is important to help your student understand the influence that friends have and the benefit of having close friends that share the same faith as them. This is especially important as your student is figuring out what it means for them to have a relationship with Jesus of their own. Intentionally put those around them that will encourage and push them in the right direction, it will go a long way.