Sunday, September 3, 2017

One Thing Every Middle School Parent Should Know

(Inside: How to prepare your child for middle school.)

When I was in middle school, my mom came and sat next to me for two class periods to, eh-hem, "encourage" me to behave. I didn't deal well with the big emotions of those transition years so I reached for the obvious best coping strategy - disrespect my teachers and act out in class. (Nailed middle school.)

But, now I’m on the other side: My oldest son is starting these in-between years. 

It’s weird because I’ve always been excited for him to start each grade. Kindergarten – you get to learn to read! Third grade – you finally get to be a “big buddy” to the younger students! Fifth grade – you get to try band!

But, I just can’t get myself excited for my son to start middle school.

Instead, I feel the opposite. 

When I think of these transition years I think of: clichés, bullies, name brand clothing, more intense sports, gossip, hurt feelings, pressure, raging hormones, heightened academic stress and noticing your body and skills compared with others.

Mama, do you feel the same way? Apprehension. (Maybe even dread.)

We don’t want our kids to experience rejection. We don’t want our kid to be the one not invited to the party, left off the team, or have to deal with social media drama. Nor do we want our kid to go through the big emotions: one day life is bliss, then the next day everything and everyone should eat dirt. We don’t want them to struggle with switching classes and teachers and fail because they can’t seem to get the hang of organization. We want to forever wrap them in a bubble where only joy and love and success lives.

I thought maybe we should all warn our kids of the potential dangers of middle school. Because they should be "ready." But, then as I tried to explain cautions to my son, confused eyes looked back at me. He doesn’t see middle school the same way I do. He's looking forward to it. 

So maybe our wisdom and experience aren't needed to prepare our kids for middle school.


We need it to prepare us.

Knowing this one thing can get us there: There is power in viewing the challenges of middle school as opportunities.

If our kids experience rejection, we get to teach them about a God who never rejects them, show them a family who always loves them, and help them seek out beautiful authentic friendships. If our kids experience big emotions, we get to help them untangle their thoughts and better understand themselves in the process. If they do poorly in school, we get to teach them to persevere, ask for help and reach for resources. We can take all the middle school challenges and transform them into opportunities to help our children learn to deal with life's inevitable bumps while they are still in the safety of our homes 

Yes, our kids might be nervous...but they're ready.

And you know what – with all the knowledge, life-experiences, and problem-solving skills we've acquired...

We're ready too. 

Besides, there's a solid chance we'll all sail right through. But if not – if it all goes awry – we can always fall back on sitting next to our misbehaving kid in class. After all, that tough love's proven to have worked in the past. (I mean...not that I'd know...)

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