Let’s be honest, you’ve already made it through years of growth spurts, school problems, and parenting blog posts. Congrats on raising a little human! Many parents don’t exactly feel prepared going into the first years of the parenting experience. Are you feeling unprepared again for what seems like season two of your child’s life? Have you been bracing yourself for this sometimes awkward stage of life? Take a deep breath. You can help your child through new changes like puberty, middle school problems, and whatever else may come.
So, ready to learn how to pivot your parenting for your middle schooler?
Stay in it. Don’t check out. You have everything to offer your middle schooler by being you. Be present and be yourself in hard conversations, in the car, in the evenings, and whenever else you decide would be a good time for eye contact and quality time.
During this pre-teen stage, relationships become really important to kids. Think for a minute about what is so valuable about relationships. Is it perfection? Flawless wisdom? Hours worth of advice? Nope. The best things you can offer are your time, your kindness, your love!
It’s never too late to look your son in the eye a little more. Plan some special bike rides or movie nights. Sit down for the much needed puberty conversations, which (thankfully) don’t happen every night! Every once in a while, pause what you’re doing to create time for your kid. Creating space or down time can lead to the family openness we want as parents. Spend quality time together however that works best for you and your child.
Have fearless confidence! Have you been to middle school? Did you make it through adolescence? Right now is a great time to let go of your own past experiences and fears. Forgive your teacher, your parent, an old friend, or yourself, and release the memories. Remind yourself every time you feel grumpy about your own adolescence that you already let it go.
Most adults had specific school problems that they do not want their own child to repeat. Maybe it’s time to look on the bright side of this really exciting stage of life. So much growth and change can be tricky, but it can also be beautiful! This is an important new season for your child. You play a big part in setting a positive tone for these years based on how you respond and even speak about middle school and puberty. You are the best adult for your child to hear from and talk to about their changing body, friendship drama, and hard homework assignments.
You were made for this! As a parent you rise to the occasion. Yes, you. You have done it before in the middle of the night, at the hospital, all the first days of elementary school, and every night you tuck him or her in. You come through for your kids, and you have what it takes.
Have the hard conversations with your kids by taking one step of courage at a time. Deuteronomy 31:6 tells us to have courage because God is with us. Believe in yourself, trust God’s help, grab a library book about puberty, and listen intently. You’ll be surprised at how much wisdom you can share with your kids, and maybe you’ll even sneak in some laughs about these awkward stages.
Offer yourself. Do you know you’ve got style? You totally do. You have a creative and unique way to walk your child through the “what is sex” talk or “the deodorant talk” or the talk about periods and puberty. You don’t have to know how during this stage, you only need to be willing.
And it’s okay for you to ask for help! As James says in the Bible, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking” (James 1:5 NLT). Your child will see you showing up to guide her through embarrassing topics and start trusting you. The child you love will start to believe, “Mom doesn’t check out when it gets hard” or “Dad is willing to listen to any question I have!”
You don’t have to do it perfectly, just keep showing up. Most kids around this age will hear and wonder about uncomfortable topics like sex, pornography, betrayal in friendship, cheating on tests, etc. Your child probably already needs deodorant, has school problems, or is teased. So, it’s not your favorite topic, but your bravery to open up with your son or daughter will make such a difference in their life. Even if you are tired of messing up or tired of your kid messing up, keep on showing up. And don’t back down when you see a mess. It is better to be an imperfect guide than no guide at all.
Meet basic needs. No matter how old your child is, there are some practical basic needs that you can probably pretty easily meet for your child. Teaching them how to care for their body is super valuable. Grab a book from the library about adolescence, and you will find that the most important habits for your kid will be healthy diet, exercise, rest, and hygiene. They will also need plenty of hugs, baths, doctor visits, cuddles, and high fives.
If you are reading this post, you’re probably already crushing some of these goals. You know what your days look like, so just pick one small area to start. It may be overwhelming to try to change your entire schedule. Maybe add a 15-minute family walk. Or add salad to the menu tonight. Meeting basic needs (as you have been) is one of the best things you can give your child.
Even as their preferences change or when they start to show some attitude, kids this age crave structure. Healthy meals, consistent bedtimes, deodorant, toothbrushing, hugs from you, and exercise every day are still exactly what your preteen needs. We never quite grow out of needing of our sleep and veggies, do we? They will learn this best from you, Mom or Dad!
Trust God! Look at how God has come through for you and your kid as you have faced unknowns before. Maybe you aren’t sure which school to send your child to. The unknowns of parenting seem bigger as your kids get older, but when you pray about what keeps you up at night, you’ll begin to see God’s faithfulness in the details. Prayer helps us exchange worry for peace, striving for grace, and fear for joy. Listen to this sweet promise from Philippians 4:6-7 MSG: … Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.
Our prayers may not always lead to the outcomes we want, but even if your young student continues to have school problems, gets the teacher that feels way too harsh, or gets rejected from the school of your choice, watch and wait as God grows your child (and you) through any kind of adolescent difficulties. Our perspective changes when we trust God to be in control instead of us. When we know God is cheering us on and never leaving our side, it becomes easier for us to celebrate, too!
There may be hard days that seem overwhelming. You may feel like you just messed it up worse than ever. But you are not alone. So many of us parents are trekking the same path forward. And God promises to stay by your side. He’s also sticking with your sweet kiddo every step of the way. Here are a few quick ideas to help make this walk through adolescence meaningful.
Brave Ways to Parent Through Adolescence:
1. Spend quality time your style. It might be more fun, genuine, and realistic to connect with your child while doing things you love. Do you love the outdoors? Do you love hiking? Do you like cooking or baking? Do you enjoy movies or board games? Think about what you enjoy and start there!
2. Eat dinner together. Or pick another time in your day to turn off the devices and listen with eye contact. It’s never too late to start eating together or talking before bedtime as a family.
3. Begin and end awkward conversations with prayer! When you just don’t have the words to get started or you just don’t know how that puberty talk went, put it in God’s hands in front of your child. What a great example to show your son or daughter that we can invite God into every part of our lives.
4. Phone a friend. It is so important for parents to talk with other trustworthy parents! If you don’t have a close friend who you can decompress (and hopefully laugh) with after a shocking chat with your preteen, try looking for a parenting LifeGroup at church or bravely invite another parent for coffee while picking up your kids from church or school.
5. Get a book. You can search online or look at your library for a book about puberty, adolescent body changes, hygiene, or where babies come from. Your child would be so blessed to have you read them all the facts and even show them safe pictures as they try to wrap their little minds around big changes.
6. Surround yourself with Truth. Psalm 37:23-24 NLT says: The Lᴏʀᴅ directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lᴏʀᴅ holds them by the hand. Set this verse (or maybe another one that really speaks to you) in your phone as a calendar reminder with a notification alert every day at a certain time when you might need a refreshing perspective shift. Or just write it above your kitchen sink or on your car dashboard.
7. Stay calm. Okay. Upon hearing shocking news from your middle school student, if you must, fake a calm tone or just listen silently for the first few minutes. Refrain from screaming or punching a wall. When your student brings home the first failing test grade or tells you they lost their phone in the toilet or something way worse, chances are they are beating themselves up over the failure already. And in a few hours you will probably wish you had responded with more kindness and understanding. After all, you probably backed your parents’ car into the garage or failed chemistry or something like that too. Everyone makes mistakes, and it’s important to be kind in moments of failure—especially because failure is one of the best teachers.
8. Read this Bible Plan. Go through it with some parents you know, and find more parenting resources here, too.
9. Talk with your child’s teacher. It may sound intimidating at first, but getting to know your child’s teacher can be reassuring and helpful. Stopping to say hi at pick-up time, writing a note, or scheduling a conference can help your child’s teacher realize how much you care and let you know specifically what your child is going through in school. It may clear up any worries you have and allow you to help your kiddo more intentionally.
10. Find more help. Has your child been through something traumatic at home or school? Consider talking to your child’s doctor or a counselor about how to help you and your child walk through trauma or grief during these impressionable years.
Bottom line: A lot of things are changing with your child in this new, exciting season. But some of the parenting basics stay the same. Trust in God. Love your kid. Meet their needs, and be understanding when things don’t go as planned. With God’s help, you’ve got this!