The purpose of the MPCS ParentEd. P.E.P. Talks series is to provide helpful information to parents as they navigate different stages of their children’s lives. Three unique sessions were developed and presented for each school division, from lower school through high school. The final part of this blog series focuses on the middle school years and its associated challenges and opportunities.
THE MIDDLE SCHOOL YEARS
Whether you are navigating the middle school years for the first time or you are a veteran, knowing what to expect can make the biggest difference.
First, as our children are developing, it is important to remember that not all of them are the same. And, more importantly, they do not all respond the same to our parenting. So it is essential that we get to know each of our children as individuals and how best we can engage with them. What may have worked for your older child when he or she was in middle school may not work with your current middle schooler.
Second, children change a LOT over the middle school years. They are the most hormonal - emotionally and chemically “unbalanced” - as they ever will be in their lifetime. But, don’t worry...it’s normal! It is just very important that, as parents, we are there to encourage and help them navigate the ups and downs. And remember, girls mature faster than boys!
Third, friendships take front and center as children move through middle school. They begin to develop a growing dependence on their peers for self-worth. As parents, we must remind them regularly where their true worth comes from. It is also during the middle school years that boys and girls may begin to “notice” each other. “Dating” becomes a priority. Therefore, it is important you decide as a family how you will handle this. Establishing guidelines before your child starts dating will save a world of heartache in the future. Being aware that this is coming will only help as we encourage them through this time.
Fourth, with the busyness of the middle school years, you may see grades go down and stress go up. Again, this is normal for most students during this time, especially boys.
WHAT TO DO
With all of the changes ahead, and life getting busier, what can we do as parents?
First, we must make a decision early on to stay ENGAGED. The temptation, and sometimes easiest thing to do, is to become a spectator as they grow. Parents feel the temptation to allow technology to fill the gaps. We must not do that! It is the parent that must initiate this engagement. Our strong relationship with our children through these developmental years will be vital.
Second, we must be GROWING in our faith during this time. It will be hard to bring our children to a place in Christ that we have not first been. Make regular church attendance a family habit.
Third, you must REMEMBER that you, as parents, will be in the best place to influence. Use it!
HOW TO DO IT
There are a few things that we can do to make this time a little easier.
First, PRAY! I know this seems obvious, but it is one of the most powerful and beneficial things we can do for our children. But don’t just pray for them, pray with them. Even when they don’t feel like it. Start that habit early, and do it often!
Second, INITIATE conversations. Don’t wait for them, because you may be waiting a long time! Find out what their interests are, and then ask them about it. Kids are more likely to talk in the car or in the dark, especially about the “big” things, so leverage those times.
Third, having strong policies about technology will be vital. No single factor has been more influential to the development of our children than the smartphone. It has changed everything! Make sure you have a plan in place that addresses everything from when they get a phone to how they use it. Most research shows that development in children can be significantly affected when getting a smartphone before age 14. Consider waiting! Develop a policy you all agree on and then stick with it.
Finally, don’t give up! There will be tough times ahead, but the effort will be worth it!
As I mentioned earlier, as middle school parents, you are still in a great position to influence. Just be willing to make the tough decisions. Be willing to set, or reset, clear guidelines for all things, and then stick to them. As they mature, allow your children to play a part in developing the “rules.” This involvement only helps positive development as they feel a part of the process.
A Word of Encouragement
Finally, be reminded, we are not doing this alone. God has promised that if we seek Him, even in the trenches of parenting, He will provide all we need. Wisdom. Peace. Grace. Love.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. -Matthew 6:33-34
So don’t worry, He’s got this.
ABOUT P.E.P. TALKS
Under the umbrella of its ParentEd. program, Mount Paran Christian School provides a parent education series each academic year entitled P.E.P. Talks - Parents Engaging Purposefully. These P.E.P. Talks were intentionally designed to strengthen the school's partnership with the home, in alignment with the school's mission:
“Providing academic excellence in a Christ-centered environment, Mount Paran Christian School unites with home and church to prepare servant-leaders to honor God, love others, and walk in Truth.”
Want more information about successful parenting? Plan to join us for an upcoming ParentEd. session.