Quaranteens: Three Ideas to Help Students Grow in the Pandemic

For Full Article Click Here – I LOVE TIME ELMORE!!!

By: Tim Elmore

It’s been over a year since students all over the world were sent home from school and instantly had to learn how to learn from home. Teachers tried to maintain academic standards as students transformed their bedrooms, dens, and kitchens into classrooms to try to meet those standards. 

Some call these middle school and high school students quaranteens

They’re now voicing what it’s been like to spend 12 months in a lockdown, knowing rites of passages for past high schoolers will not happen for them. The senior trip, the prom, the graduation ceremony–all of these are morphing (at least slightly) and teens are feeling the angst of it all. In an interview, some said to me:

“My anxiety has gone up a thousand percent.”

“I pretty much feel lonely all the time.” 

 “I love spending time on screens, but I hate them now because that’s all I do.”

Dr. Dimitri Christakis, director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Research Institute said, “The cost will be borne by families because increased online use is associated with anxiety, depression, obesity and aggression — and ‘addiction to the medium itself.’” Did you know that screen time has doubled year over year during the pandemic?

What the Teenage Brain Needs

I do not claim to be a neuroscientist, but as I study brain development in teens, it is clear that adolescence is a time of measurable change in hormones and other chemicals that change how a person reacts to life. Their brains are pruning themselves, moving from childhood thoughts and feelings to adult thoughts and feelings. It’s an in-between stage where a parent, teacher, or coach observes shifting emotions on any given day.

My point is simple: The essentials COVID-19 has stolen from teens are the very elements they need to develop and thrive. Three realities are clear:

  1. Their brains need socialization.
  2. Their brains need structure.
  3. Their brains need sleep.

Teens Need Socialization

One of the primary ways teens mature is through social contact. They are testing boundaries. They’re assessing patterns of thought. They are comparing themselves to others and forming a sense of identity. This happens when they spend time with both adults and peers. The pandemic has forced them to separate, so adults need to help them find ways to get connected and socialize as part of their development. Students see it as fun, but we know it’s actually how they’ll grow during their adolescent years. 

Consider how kids develop their values during their childhoods.

  • Ages 1-7: Imprint by observation. (They observe adults and emulate what they see.)
  • Ages 8-13: Modeling by heroes. (They now choose their heroes and imitate them.)
  • Ages 14-20: Socialization by peers. (They compare and contrast via relationships.)

What if we got just as intentional about encouraging teens to find places they can connect with each other for non-academic purposes as we are about academics? Driveway small groups, community service projects, or even the Clubhouse app are great starting points for students to socialize and grow together. 

Teens Need Structure 

The pandemic hasn’t removed structure completely, but it has reduced it significantly. For months, the typical routines of classes, athletic practices, band rehearsals, and school plays have dropped and in some places disappeared for months. Most teens need this structure in their daily schedules. It prepares them for adulthood and enables them to build disciplines and habits in their lives. Consider the benefits of structure:

  1. It fosters a sense of security as norms are established. 
  2. It provides clarity and combats ambiguity.
  3. It can build good habits through a maintained routine schedule.  

Stick to a schedule that works. Set a time to wake up, exercise, shower, get dressed, have breakfast, or whatever your student needs to start the school day. If it helps, allow your teen to sleep in a little later than normal. Just like in most classes, phones should be off while doing schoolwork. Keep the TV off during school hours, too, and limit the time they watch the news. Plan mini breaks and a one-hour lunch break.

Teens Need Sleep

Most of us recognize how important sleep is to an adolescent, even more so than an adult. The average amount of sleep that U.S. teenagers get is about seven hours, perhaps a few minutes more depending on where they live. However, studies show they need between nine and nine and a half hours. Teenagers do not get enough sleep for a number of reasons including a shift in their sleep schedules and the number of hours they spend on a screen, especially right before bedtime. 

In my interview with high school students, the majority of them acknowledged their sleep patterns have been “wrecked” by the pandemic. Some are on their portable devices even more these days and unless they are intentional about their time, phone addictions can develop. Below are some ideas to foster good sleep habits in students:

  1. Ban portable devices in the bedroom, and charge them somewhere else.
  2. Limit caffeine intake. Instead, drink more water. 
  3. Encourage exercise every day–walks, shooting hoops, running, etc.
  4. Start a habit of reading 30 minutes before falling asleep.

Socialization. Structure. Sleep. They’re basic needs that teens have, especially in a pandemic. It’s up to you and your teens to figure out what’s missing and apply it.

One of our applicable Habitudes is called “Surgeries and X-Rays.” Before a doctor performs an operation to repair a patient’s bone, that surgeon will always take an X-ray to see the fracture and determine what repair is necessary. It would be ridiculous to simply cut into the patient and begin wandering around with a knife, looking for a possible problem in the dark. So it is with students. I suggest you take time to reflect together on what they’re missing. Assess where they stand. Do a conversational “x-ray.” Then they can do the necessary surgery by removing unhealthy habits and inserting healthy ones in their place. 

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

WHO WAS ST. PATRICK

The man we know as St. Patrick was born around 389 AD in England. His father was a deacon and his grandfather a priest. 

The Roman Empire was still in titular control of Britain, but their demoralized armies were unable to protect the island from Irish invaders. Farms were pillaged and teenagers enslaved. Patrick was taken at age sixteen. An Irish farmer bought him as a slave and put him to work tending sheep. 

Somehow Patrick came to personal faith in Christ in the midst of his tribulations. He later wrote, “The Lord opened to me a sense of my unbelief, that I might be converted with all my heart unto the Lord.” 

Patrick received a vision from God when he was twenty-two, a clear signal to run from Ireland for his home. Risking his life, he was able to evade his captors and return to his family. But his heart was heavy for the spiritual condition of his Irish captors. 

Following another vision, Patrick devoted himself for seven years to Bible study, then he returned to Ireland as a missionary. The Irish were almost completely without Christ, worshiping the elements and spirits in trees and stones and engaging in magic and even human sacrifice. 

Patrick got to work. 

When his career was done, he had established some two hundred churches in Ireland and led more than one hundred thousand people to faith in Christ, despite more than a dozen attempts on his life. He is today the patron saint of Ireland. His death on March 17, 461 is remembered each year as St. Patrick’s Day. 

However, there’s even more to his story. 

In the following century, Irish Christians who were spiritual descendants of St. Patrick’s ministry sailed back to Britain, where they evangelized the heathen who had overrun the country. They established monasteries and copied books being destroyed elsewhere. 

According to Thomas Cahill’s How the Irish Saved Civilization, these men “single-handedly refounded European civilization throughout the continent.” 

You could make the argument that St. Patrick deserves to be on anyone’s top-ten list of all-time most influential Christians. But you’d have a hard time getting Patrick to agree. 

In his Confessions, Patrick wrote, “I am greatly a debtor to God, who has bestowed his grace so largely upon me, that multitudes were born again to God through me. The Irish, who had never had the knowledge of God and worshiped only idols and unclean things, have lately become the people of the Lord, and are called sons of God.” 

He closed his memoirs by explaining the secret to his history-changing ministry:

“Do you judge, and let it be most firmly believed, that it was the gift of God. And this is my Confession, before I shall die.” 

Read Full Article by Dr. Jim Denison Here

MASK UPDATE FOR MSM ACTIVITIES

The Oakwood Student Middle school Ministry Wednesday Night Activities and Sunday Morning Bible Study will continue to follow Mask Protocols in regard to keeping in step with Oakwood’s Statement by Pastor Ray.

Below is a repost from Pastor Ray’s written statement and a link to the original post.

UPDATE REGARDING COVID-19 (UPDATED MARCH 7, 2021) 

This past week the Governor of Texas rescinded the mask mandate that Oakwood has been observing in accordance to the Scripture’s direction to obey those in authority (Romans 13:1, Titus 3:1). Beginning Sunday March 14, 2021 masks will not be required at Oakwood. However, wearing a mask is highly recommended by the CDC and health professionals to help stop the spread of COVID-19. For the safety of our volunteers in the children and student ministries areas, we will continue to require masks while in those facilities. Throughout this pandemic, it has been my prayer that we—as Christ’s followers —remember our Lord’s instruction in Mark 12:30-31: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength; and love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” Let’s continue to work together to keep those attending safe.

Blessings, Pastor Ray

Middle School Overwhelmed Sunday Series

Our Sunday Series is taking us through Key Verses in the Psalms that share truth to tackle faith’s ups and downs.

Each lesson gives your student the opportunity to study Scripture and apply it to their own life. Below are the passages we are studying and the main takeaway from each lesson.

Additionally, each lesson includes a memory verse, and we’d encourage you to learn these verses alongside your child.

Sunday, Feb 21
When I Want to Cry Psalm 80  
THE TAKEAWAY It’s ok to grieve. Christ-followers cry out to God to remind ourselves of who he is and what his plan is.
KEY VERSE “Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved!” Psalm 80:3 (ESV)
Sunday Feb 28
When I’m Happy Psalm 103  
THE TAKEAWAY Joy in God’s grace and love for you is a praise you can always bring to him.
KEY VERSE ““The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” Psalm 103:8 (ESV)
Sunday March 7
When I Feel Wronged Psalm 79  
THE TAKEAWAY We cry out to God in times of trouble, but we also leave justice and vengeance up to him.
KEY VERSE “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” 1 Peter 2:23 (ESV)
Sunday March 21
When I’m Thankful Psalm 100  
THE TAKEAWAY God delights when we give thanks, and he’s given us endless reasons to be thankful.
KEY VERSE “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!” Psalm 100:4 (ESV)

RESPECT – 2KINGS 2:23-24

When you throw around ideas in a meeting to find a THEME something like… BELIEVE WEEKEND… other ideas swim through your head as well!

Don’t worry, we are not asking GOD to bring any SHE-BEARS to Believe Weekend. Our intention is to challenge students to BEAR FRUIT. A completely DIFFERENT MESSAGE than this one!

However, if you are a parent in sudden need of a quick lesson on RESPECT, this IS IN THE BIBLE.

‘He went up from there to Bethel, and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!” And he turned around, and when he saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord . And two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys. From there he went on to Mount Carmel, and from there he returned to Samaria.’ 2 Kings 2:23-25

7 Undeniable Characteristics of Middle Schoolers Parents Should Know

PARENT CUE ARTICLE: 7 Undeniable Characteristics of Middle Schoolers Parents Should Know

Ashley Bohinc

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. 

Topics: Fight For The HeartMiddle School (6th-8th)

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Can You Hear Me Now?

CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?

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.

As we are looking at PRAYER or CONNECTING WITH GOD as a church, our Middle Schoolers are going back to the basics of what it means to connect with God.

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?