If there is one common theme that surfaces every time I talk with parents of middle schoolers it’s this: it’s really confusing and really hard. Why? Because change is what marks this phase of life, and change isn’t easy for anyone.
I have worked with middle school students in educational, athletic, and ministry settings for more than 14 years now. Although each context was uniquely different, there were still a few basic things about (most) middle schoolers that remained the same no matter what.
1. They push their parents away.
This is normal. Middle schoolers want freedom. They aren’t kids anymore, and when they are treated that way, they revolt. They push back on everything from bedtime to chores to going places by themselves to social media. They want to make their own choices. They are tired of being told what to do and when to do it. That’s the tension of living somewhere in the middle. That’s why it’s so important as a parent of a middle schooler to have adults you trust in their life other than you. Those adults can stand in the gap between your teenager and you (and help them see you are right after all).
2. They may act one way with you and the complete opposite with someone else.
You get a call from their teacher, coach, or small group leader, and hear a story about how helpful they are around the classroom, or encouraging they are during group time. And you instantly think, “Seriously? My kid? I can’t even remember the last time they said anything encouraging to their siblings, or the last time they helped around the house without complaining.” It’s confusing when they act different with different people. Why do they do that? It’s not that they are being fake, they are just trying on different parts of their personality to see what fits them best.
3. What their friends think matters more than anything else.
This is difficult, because as puberty begins to change them from the inside out, middle schoolers are desperately trying to fit in. Peer approval will always trump advice from adults (especially their parents). They can’t be seen wearing those pants, hanging with those boys, or walking around in public with their parent. The point is, teenagers in the middle school phase care more about what their peers say than anyone else. This isn’t just your kid.
4. They exaggerate (and sometimes lie).
When you find yourself wondering, “What happened to my kid? They didn’t use to be this way,” know you are not alone. This is middle school. Something happens at the 8th grade dance, and your kid is huddled in a circle crying in the bathroom with her friends. If it’s trending, they are talking about it… non-stop. Friend drama is basically an all out brawl (with words or rumors). It thunders outside, and they act like they’ve never been in a storm before in their lives. They see a snake outside, and it’s most certainly trying to eat them. Their teacher is obviously the most unfair person on the whole planet. Oh, and they didn’t copy that homework or cheat on that test; they were just scratching their head! You get the point. It’s a phase full of all out exaggeration.
5. They are incredibly insecure about what is happening to their bodies.
They feel like they are the only ones going through this thing called middle school. And when you feel like you are the only one going through something, you feel like all eyes are on you at all times. Normalizing what’s happening to and around them is important, but be sensitive to the fact that when you bring up what’s happening to their body, they may get even more insecure at the fact that you are noticing. If you are trying to get your middle schooler to do something in front of their peers and they resist, there is probably a physical explanation for it. Sweat stains. Period leakage. Wrong bra. Gas. Food in their braces. Acne. Though it’s all normal, it feels isolating to them. So don’t push them.
6. They want to have fun, but they want to be taken seriously.
You can’t be boring, or they won’t want to spend time with you. They don’t want you to just allow them to have fun; they want you to have fun with them. At the same time, they want you to be real with them. They want to be taken seriously. They don’t want surface answers. They want direct, real explanations. When they tell you something that seems silly to you but real to them, you can’t laugh. You can’t dismiss it. You have to engage it with a matched level of seriousness to show them you care.
7. YouTube is Gucci.
According to many research studies, 80%-95% of Generation Z seeks advice through YouTube channels and videos. The most searched videos are about real stories, day-in-the-life videos, behind-the-scenes videos, or how-to videos. They want to know about relationships and dating, teen trends, advice on how to do new skills, and more. If they don’t know how, they go to YouTube. If they don’t know what it is, they go to YouTube. If they want to become famous, they go to YouTube. So basically, you should be on YouTube, too.
Parenting middle schoolers is no easy task, which is why understanding where they are and what’s normal will help you stay sane as the parent. Remember: It’s not just your kid, it’s just middle school.
Discover what’s changing about your kid or teen over the next 52 weeks, the 6 things your kid needs most, and 4 conversations to have in each phase. The Phase Project, including these Middle School Phase Guides, is a synthesis of personal experience, academic research, and gatherings of leaders and educational experts from across the child development spectrum.
Okay, so the Verizon guy… wait the Sprint guy… whoever he is with, gave us a simple phrase that sticks out in my mind all the time. Our family totally changed services here in New Braunfels in order to HEAR ONE ANOTHER. From where we live currently to where we go out and about, we continuously found certain areas where our calls were dropped. Then, as we moved out of the “dead spot” we magically connected again. Needless to say, we made a move TO BE HEARD.
That same question, “CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?” seems to come up as we focus on prayer as well.
The BEST example we have is JESUS HIMSELF, as he preaches His first (and need I say LONGEST) sermon that cuts to our hearts, even today. In this Sermon, presented on a mountain, he directs His people to think about the “WHY” when it comes to prayer.
“Don’t be like the hypocrites, for they love standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full” (Matthew 6:5 NIV).
“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then, your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:6 NIV).
WHAT IS THE REWARD?
When we create a space and a place to CALL ON the Lord, we get more than an instant download code for 20% off on a flash sale. When we make time to focus on the person of JESUS and call out to HIM, we get more than three wishes for all our dreams to come true. Our REWARD is far greater than a “good day” or a material possession.
OUR REWARD IS A DEEP RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS.
Isn’t that what our hearts truly call out for? I believe we are moved to choose a payment plan and upgrade to a new cell phone because we value the close relationships in our lives. We desire to connect with others on a deeper level, and we want to guarantee a secure connection.
How does the value with our Father translate to our daily lives?
I believe that an intentional TIME and PLACE builds a foundation for a deep encounter with the God of the Universe through Jesus Christ. How have you created an intentional time and place this week to connect? How have you seen the ultimate reward work out in your own daily walk with Jesus?
On a scale of 1 to 10, How important is it to you to: Fit in? Be popular? Be unique? Describe yourself as a part of the body. (An eye, hand, foot, etc.) Why did you select that part? How connected are you to your local church body? What can you do to help the “body” function better?
The drummer boy wanted to use his best ability for the King, so he played a drum. How does the TRUTH in Colossians 3:17 help you think about your gifts and talents? What are you involved in, right now, that you can use for God’s glory? How can our family pray for your gifts, talents, and abilities this week?
There’s reality behind the story and history of Santa Claus.
There actually was a man known as Nicholas who was born in AD 280 in Asia Minor, which is modern-day Turkey. He was bishop of the church in Myra, participated in the First Council of Nicaea, and helped the church find the best language to describe the Incarnation of Jesus.
St. Nicholas was beloved because he spent his life helping the poor and underprivileged. He was the first to initiate programs for mentally challenged children. His love for children led him to visit their homes at night disguised in a red-and-white hooded robe to leave gifts of money, clothing, and food in their windows or around their fireplaces.
After his death, he was made the patron saint of sailors since his church was located in a port city and had an extensive ministry to those who traveled the sea. He was later named the patron saint of Russia. Nicholas was one of history’s most venerated saints, with more than five hundred songs and hymns written in his honor. Christopher Columbus arrived in Haiti in 1492 and named the port after him. By the year 1500, more than seven hundred churches in Britain were dedicated to him.
The Dutch especially appreciated his life. They spelled his name Sint Nikolass, which, in America, became Sinterklass, or Santa Claus.
His popularity grew through a poem written by Dr. Clement Clark Moore, a theology and classics professor at Union Seminary in New York. In 1822, he penned the classic, “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” better known today as “The Night Before Christmas.” Artist Thomas Nast illustrated the book, creating the figure we now know as the jolly Santa Claus.
That’s the reality behind the story of Santa Claus. St. Nicholas’ selfless lifestyle was based on his love for God and people.
Now, let’s look at the actual Christmas story and why it should matter so much to our lives.
Christmas nativity scenes all over the Christian world will once again be unpacked and displayed to relate the story of that glorious first Christmas: a beautiful young woman protected by her equally attractive young husband, adoring shepherds with their sheep, and three majestic kings from the Orient bearing their magnificent gifts for the baby lying in a manger.
But very little that blessed night happened the way our decorations depict it. Let’s discover why.
Why do we celebrate Christmas on December 25?
According to our traditions, Santa Claus visits our homes on December 24, Christmas Eve. And we celebrate Jesus’ birth on December 25. But, do we know why we observe Christmas on that day?
The night Jesus was born, the Bible tells us that the shepherds were in the fields tending their sheep (Luke 2:8), something they did not do in the winter. The Roman census, which brought Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem, would not have been possible in winter either.
It is most likely Jesus was born in the springtime. Early scholars estimate the time around March 25 or sometime in April. But Christmas was not celebrated as a holiday for nearly four centuries.
For many years, the Romans had celebrated the “birthday” of the sun each year on December 25 since that date is near the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. It’s the beginning of the winter season. Pagan festivals marked the occasion for centuries before Christians began using the “birthday” of the sun as the birthday of the Son.
By 1038, the Mass of Christ was called Cristes Maesse, from which we get the word “Christmas.” In 1223, St. Francis of Assisi assembled the first nativity scene.
And so Jesus’ birthday is celebrated on December 25, and St. Nicholas is the “patron saint” of the holiday.
This is our Retreat/Disciple Now Event geared for Middle School and High School Students.
Rather than cancelling one more event, we have decided to ask the question,
WHAT CAN WE DO?
#1 WE CAN meet on the Oakwood Campus with regular Covid gathering guidelines for main sessions geared for Oakwood Students as they grow in their faith in Jesus.
#2 WE CAN break out into small groups after each session for real life discussion.
#3 WE CAN provide FUN ACTIVITIES during the weekend that may happen both inside and outside the Oakwood Campus.
WHAT IS DIFFERENT?
#1 WE ARE NOT coordinating HOST HOMES or any overnight activities. Due to the Oakwood Policy during Covid, we have held back from overnight retreats, camps, events, in order to walk wisely in the midst of the pandemic spread.
#2 WE ARE meeting THURSDAY NIGHT, FRIDAY NIGHT, and SATURDAY AFTERNOON/EVENING. This will include main sessions with Speaker, Stuart Hall and the Gladsome Light Band + a few random games and surprises.
#3 WE ARE thinking creative about outside HANGOUTS and FUN EVENTS that look like AFTER PARTIES EACH DAY. So if you are looking to hang with your friends and enjoy outside games, we are working to make them cautiously FUN.
#4 WE ARE thinking about what snacks and food may be appropriate for the AFTER PARTIES and a DINNER SATURDAY.
WE BELIEVE GOD has a word for this generation, and that is based out of John 15. He calls us to BEAR FRUIT and prove to be disciples of Jesus. …Somehow that looked like a Panda in a Pineapple suit, but you get the point. No matter the circumstance, we have the ability to walk in the Fruit of the Spirit and Love like Jesus calls us to Love.