Last week, I shared that I was away with my (almost) 12 yr. daughter for a pre-middle-school trip away, just the two of us; a trip dedicated to some serious conversations and some serious mother-daughter fun. A number of you wrote to me curious about our trip and what those moments of discipleship looked like, so with my daughter’s permission, I’m happy to share with you a bit about our time away.
Middle school – just hearing that can immediately strike a chord of terror in many hearts. Whether it is because you are reflecting back on your own experience or dreading the fact that your child is now entering or in that phase, the middle school era carries with it some unique challenges. It is for some kids their first brush with “the real world” outside the relative bubble of care that most elementary schools provide. For others, it is the first time they are handed a bit more control and responsibility for their academics, extra-curriculars and, most importantly, their choice of friends within a wide range of peers. For all, it is that mysterious time where their body starts changing, their minds start maturing, and their hormones start raging, leading to all kinds of emotions and discoveries…the stage parents cringe at as they consider their child and remember their own journey through adolescence.
Long before we reached this exact moment, my husband and I decided that it would be prudent for us to make some plans to be pro-active in starting an intentional conversation with our kids prior to entering middle school to address the issues and changes they were about to experience.
Here are a few of the things we did to make that time memorable and meaningful for our daughter.
1. Build the Excitement – Long before the summer of middle school angst, we told our daughter that she would be going on a trip with Mom all by herself during that summer. We told her she got to pick where we went (within a 4 hour radius) for our two-day overnight trip and that we would do whatever she wanted (within reason). The build-up alone was enough to set the stage for a memorable trip; no matter what we ended up doing, she was thoroughly engaged with and owned that time and was ready to take it all in.
2. Give Over (some) Control – Since we were going to talk about some sensitive topics that could make her feel uncomfortable, I wanted to make sure I gave her some measure of control. I wrote the topics on a number of 3×5 cards (one per card) and told her, “We will talk about each of these things on our trip, but you get to pick the order and the speed at which we go through them.” As she initially looked through the cards, you can imagine the reactions I heard…but she was able to be in control of the conversation and that seemed to give her some peace.
3. Offer a Tangible Reminder – Ever since she was born, I have prayed the same prayer over my oldest girl – that she would grow to be a woman of excellence and noble character whose worth is far more than rubies (Pr. 31:10). Last fall, I found a necklace that had a pendant with those words inscribed on it and I bought it with this trip in mind. During our last meal together, I gave it to her and shared with her that whenever she wore it should could remember our time together and all that we talked and prayed about and know that she can always talk to me about anything at anytime. She’s worn the necklace nearly every day since.
4. Have FUN – Our serious conversations took place basically on the ride down and the ride back (3.5 hours both ways was plenty of time). Remember those 3×5 cards? I told her that if she had questions about a topic we discussed to write them on the back of the card and I’d answer them when we drove home; that I wanted our time away to be fun and full of comfortable time together so she didn’t need to feel nervous that I’d talk about those things all during the trip. It worked out well – she wrote her questions and we were able to process together on the way home and she had space during our trip to think things through without pressure. And while we were away, we concentrated on important things like…shopping, swimming, hiking and eating.
By no means do I think this is a “cookie cutter” way of doing things with each family and child, but these were some of the ideas that worked for us as we get ready to head into our middle school years. By far, I think the most important part of this trip away was the message that was sent: You are important to us, so important that we are willing to drop everything to just be with you! That message of grace, of love, and of honor can be carried out in many ways, but it is oh-so-important that the message is heard. Intentional moments of discipleship in parenting necessarily require our time. But the rewards from that investment are lasting.
Have you had a meaningful pre-middle-school activity or conversation with your child? There are many tools available to help with this conversation such as Passport to Purity from Family Life Today , but I’d love to hear what worked for you! Feel free to check out the links below to join our conversation on Facebook and to learn more about practical discipleship at home.
For more information about
- Kids in Worship
- Determining which Type of Family Ministry model works best for your church
- Discipleship in Intergenerational community
- Encouraging the continued conversation through Practical Discipleship at Home
- Seminars, Workshops, Coaching
About the author
Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, Seedbed, and ChildrensMinistryBlog.com