We are in the middle of it. The tears. The stress. Worrying all the time. Frustration. Lots of questions. And also lots of hopes. Some excitement. A lot of angst.
That’s right. Middle school starts in two days. For the first time in the household, we have a middle schooler. And not surprisingly, it’s been an emotional time. Moving from top dog in the elementary to bottom rung in the middle school can mess with a tween girl’s mind. And does a whole different thing to that girl’s mother.
And of course, one of the biggest concerns is whether or not this precious girl of mine will “fit in.” Will she be made fun of because of her clothes, her hair, her backpack, her locker decorations, her shoes…?
Because the reality is that there are kids out there that will do those things. Bullying has become one of the most talked about issues facing our kids today. Schools are not just where they learn about reading, writing, and arithmetic, but also about sex, drugs, and alcohol. And being “cool” is often associated with participation in these things.
As a parent, I’m tempted to shield her, to hold her in close and not let her see and experience that world.
As a Christian, I want her to know that there is a better way, a good way, a blessed way to live that, cool or not, will bring her life and love.
As a minister, I want her to be able to have confidence and courage, to show compassion and to forgive, no matter what comes her way.
I’m sure you get it. If you are a parent who follows Christ, I’m sure there’s been a time where your heart stuck in your throat as you considered the world thats out there and the things your child will eventually face. And for each one, there will come a day, where face it they shall.
Wringing hands. Worried faces. Sleepless nights.
These things will do them no good.
Withdrawing. Shielding. Hiding.
These will only delay the inevitable.
Since I’m just starting out, I do not speak from personal experience. But I have listened to those who do and this is what I hear.
- Be the SAFE place – We all need a place that we can go to find answers, seek comfort, and feel safe. Make your home that place for your child. 83% of 10-18 year olds said their parents were the leading influence in their decisions to use alcohol and drugs. 83% is a lot! In order for us to wield that influence well, it is important that we are a safe place for them to go in order to talk about…well, anything and everything.
- Be the REAL place – The whole “cool” thing? We all know deep inside it’s just a show. A recent study by a psychology professor in Virginia found that the “cool” kids in middle school ended up with a 45% greater rate of problems ranging from alcohol and drugs to criminal activity. It’s all show to cover up deeper heart issues. Encourage your child to be real; who they really are. Don’t press them to grow up too fast. Let them mess up and learn grace. Let them fall and learn mercy. Give them space to be authentically messy and totally uncool. And..be real in front of them too.
- Be the FUN place – Yup, I said it. Be fun. I’m not usually a huge fan of this particular word because sometimes it gets used to overlook discipleship and ignore our call as parents to mentor our kids, but frankly, a fun home is a sticky home and one that your children will want to hang out in. And invite their friends too. So find ways to celebrate and laugh together. Watch movies. Bake cookies. Play games. Shut the computer screen. Turn off the phone. Be all there.
Jon Acuff once said, “You can’t fight the changing trends, but you can fight for unchanging truth.” The truth is my child, your child, every child has been made in the image of God with a unique fingerprint of His creativity on their life. Cool or not, they are incredible, amazing human beings that He loves…even more than we do.
Fight for that truth. Out loud. Let them hear you say it. Speak life every day into their hearts! And come what may (what’s that…high school in three years you say?) entrust them into His capable hands.
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About the author
Christina Embree is 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 ChildrensMinistryBlog.com, Seedbed, and D6 Family.