My youngest is entering junior high. My children are roughly three years apart. That means I always have one leaving junior high, and another one entering. I’m sure you remember the horrors of junior high and middle school: the embarrassment of gym class,
the never-ending girl drama, and perhaps that awkward first kiss.
As a parent, these early adolescent years are challenging and leave me scratching my head at times. I’m entering this phase for the fourth and last time, but it never ceases to slap me in the face when the emotions, words, and eyerolls come.
“Mom, I know” (Eyeroll).
“Mom, you don’t need to tell me.”
“Mom, you don’t understand.”
While an adolescent’s words say, “Leave me alone!” They are also saying, “I still need you, but I can’t let you know it.”
I can’t say I’m ready to go through another round of middle school. It’s a scary time for mom and child. For them, they are trying to break away, be independent while everything around them is quickly changing. They are searching for identity and caution signs are flashing everywhere for good reason. But while middle school kids are pushing parents away, they still want you and need you.
As a teacher and counselor, I’ve seen many insecure teens form their identity around unhealthy peers or dangerous behavior because the pull for identity – any identity – is great. As a mom, this is where parenting becomes tiring – having one hand on their life while also letting go. It’s like a dance and you never quite know where the perfect line of balance is.
Helping children through adolescence feels like an insurmountable job. It requires
- knowing each child’s different needs at the various ages and stages.
- studying a child and knowing their spirit.
- loving them when they don’t feel lovable and
- setting boundaries for their best interests, even when chaos seems to break loose.
One of the greatest pieces of advice I’ve received in parenting is to love your children equally while letting them feel like they are the most special child to you. In other words, when you have them alone, tell them things that make them unique and special. Affirm them not in comparison to others, but based on their own unique qualities.
I can’t say I’m ready for another round of having a middle-schooler. But hind-sight is better than foresight. I’ve learned more patience and grace in handling this age-group. As I dance the middle-school dance, with one hand holding on and the other releasing, my lips are close to their ear, whispering,
“You’ll be alright. I believe in you.”