As an On Purpose Parent, our main goal is to raise our children to become interdependent, life-long followers of Jesus who desire to make a Kingdom contribution. The main way we are going to do this is called the On Purpose Parent (OPP) Plan.
The third Age/Stage of the OPP Plan is Grades 6-8. This is where your main Role is that of a CHEERLEADER and your main Goal is that your child will “Own Their Faith.” The following paragraphs are to help you Understand and Appreciate this Age/Stage your child is in.
It’s important to understand that the middle school or junior high years are marked by CHANGE. There’s no better word to describe this age, and ‘the’ word you need to remember everyday with your kids in this Age/Stage.
Physicians and Developmental Experts agree that other than the first two years of life, no other Age/Stage experiences more change than these years. To make a whole lot of brain and developmental science simple….just about everything is changing in their development. No wonder why they act out of control.
Now it’s time to Adjust your parenting method. In the previous Ages/Stages, we described your Role as CAREGIVER and CRAFTER. You don’t give up these roles, instead you add another role… CHEERLEADER.
Remembering how much change your kid is experiencing will help lower your frustration level and help you parent them in the midst of their chaos. Here are 4 Categories of Change They are Experiencing with 4 Cheerleading Tips for You:
1) Physical Change – This is primarily the onset of puberty which triggers growth spurts, muscle development, acne, voice changes etc. While we as adults recognize these changes are totally natural, they are being experienced by your child for the first time. And it’s often the cause of a great deal of anxiety and insecurity.
Cheerleading Tip – Don’t minimize. Don’t minimize their feelings over being too tall or too short. Don’t say things like, “Everybody gets a pimple…get over it!” Remember, these changes are new for your child, and they need a safe place to navigate their feelings and insecurities as they experience them.
2) Intellectual Change – They are beginning to think abstractly and ask bigger questions. They are learning new insights and processing these insights in a way they didn’t when they were younger. As a result, they may push back against rules that no longer make sense to them. They may question or doubt their faith. They may ask for more lengthy explanations about topics they used to accept at face value.
Cheerleading Tip – Embrace questions and doubts. Questions are good. Especially when it comes to your kid’s faith. Doubts are healthy and normal. Encourage your child to ask questions and wrestle with what they believe. A faith that is wrestled with is a faith that is eventually owned.
3) Emotional Change – Junior Highers are famously emotional. Their highs are higher than ever, and their lows are lower than ever. A misunderstanding with a friend may result in a weekend of tears. A setback that an adult would brush off in the moment can result in the “worst day ever” for them.
Cheerleading Tip – Master the “Circle Back.” It’s tough to reason with your kid in the midst of extreme emotions. Instead, say something like, “Why don’t you take a break then we’ll talk more.” or, “I see that you’re really upset, why don’t you calm down in your room and we’ll talk later.” And then make it a point to “circle back” later to the same conversation.
It’s not always the easiest thing to do in the heat of an emotional moment, but when you give them a little bit of space to calm down and think, it can lead to better results. It also gives you a chance to calm your frustration levels too. Junior Highers are emotional train wrecks, and there’s very little you can do to change that. But you can be intentional in how you respond when the emotions hit.
4) Social Change – When you add up the physical, intellectual, and emotional changes facing your junior high child, it makes sense that this would be a time they begin to experiment and change socially. They will often begin to shift their friendship circles, try out for new sports teams or extracurricular activities, or suddenly be incredibly interested in going to a dance or party.
In elementary school, friendships are usually based on demographics and proximity (you are friends with kids on your street or the kids of your parents’ friends), but in Junior High friendships begin to revolve around affinity and things they have in common. This isn’t a hard, fast rule. But it does explain why in Junior High your child may begin to move away from friendships they’ve had for years for no deeper reason than they just don’t have as much in common.
Cheerleading Tip – Help your child safely navigate these social changes. Obviously, you need to pay close attention to their new circles of friends but avoid the temptation to over-react too strongly too soon to their new social choices. Try not to give them too much grief and guilt about no longer being buddies with the kid down the street. When they were 5 years old, they probably had a lot in common. Now that they’re 13, it’s likely they don’t relate to each other anymore. And that’s okay.
Now that you have a basic understanding of the key areas of change your Junior Higher is experiencing, let’s look at your Role as your child’s CHEERLEADER and your main Goal to help your child “Own Their Faith.”
Your son or daughter desperately needs to know that you are their biggest fan! That you believe in them and think they are awesome! They need you in their corner! Especially when it comes to them growing and becoming like Jesus (this is “owning their faith”)…
“Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people.” Luke 2:52 (NLT)
As a 12-year-old, Jesus’ relationship with his parents was changing, and He was changing. He was growing intellectually (wisdom), physically (stature), spiritually (favor with God), and socially (all the people). This single verse shows us that the changes your Junior Higher is facing are the exact same changes Jesus went through at their age.
Be your child’s CHEERLEADER and help them “Own Their Faith.” There’s an old saying, “God doesn’t have grandkids.” In other words, your faith in Christ can’t carry your Junior Higher any longer. They need to express and develop their own relationship with Jesus.