The jump from 5th to 6th grade is huge. Many adults will tell you that middle school was some of the worst/hardest years of their lives. These brand new middle schoolers find themselves stranded somewhere between childhood and their teen years. They are not teenagers, but their not really children any more either. Most boys have yet to hit their growth spurt, while many girls have. This means that many girls are taller than their male classmates. And we won’t even talk about puberty. All of these things work together to make 6th grade a really tough year. This means that our kids can really use our help adjusting to this next stage of life.
For me this subject really hits home because my oldest just entered 6th grade. Recently as I went to tuck him in and kiss him goodnight he looked at me, on the verge of tears, and told me that he didn’t want to go to school the next day. I asked him why and he shrugged and told me that he didn’t know. A little time later, now with tears in his eyes, he said, “middle school is hard.” I inquired as to exactly what he meant, but he couldn’t/wouldn’t give any more information.
So, where do I go from here?
Well, that is the question that I am exploring in my own family. It is also the question that I hope to help you answer. Today we will look at what you can do now if your preteen is at this crucial transition. Then we will look at what you can do if your child is younger and has not yet gotten to this point. Finally we will look at what you can do if your child has already passed this stage, but might still need help dealing with it.
At the crossroads (entering or in the 6th grade):
- Talk: Take time to talk to your preteen about what is going on.
- Casual Conversation: I like to have my son ride with me to run errands. This give us time to chat in an informal atmosphere. I also will have him “help” me when I am working on my car or on other projects around the house. These times are very intentional for me, but I doubt he even realizes what I am doing.
- Planned times: Plan times when it is just you and your preteen. In many cases the preteen is more likely to talk openly with one parent over the other. This is not anything bad about the other parent, it’s just the way it is. Take advantage of this. With my son I am the one that he is more likely to talk to. With the conversation I mentioned above in mind I will be taking my son out for a hamburger later this week. This time is not casual. Be intentional. Ask questions about what is going on in your preteen’s life. Ask if there is anything that might be bothering him/her or that he/she might want to talk about. Encourage them to speak freely, but don’t push too hard. If this is the first time you have had such a conversation they may not be open to talking about things just yet. Plan more of these types of conversations, as well as the more casual ones, and they will open up.
- Share: As I said before, middle school is hard. Many of us have painful, or funny stories that we could share about our middle school experience. Share some of these with your preteen. This can help them to know that you have been where they are and you remember what it is like. Let them know that you remember and that they are not alone.
- Pray: This should be a part of your routine at every stage of life.
- Pray FOR them: Spend time praying for your preteen. Ask God to help them through this difficult time. Ask Him to help them know that they are loved and that He is with them. Ask Him to give them peace. As you come to know more about what your preteen is going through you can pray more specifically. Ask them how you might pray for them and let them know that you have been and will be praying for them.
- Pray WITH them: Make this a part of your routine. Regularly pray with your preteen. Pray for what is on your heart, but also ask them if there is anything that you can praying for them about. Let them pray, out loud, during this time as well. You might be surprise what is revealed when they do.
- Listen: As parents we tend towards more talking and not as much listening when if comes to our kids. Unfortunately, most adults in a kids life are this way. Take time to let them talk. Listen to them talk about the unimportant stuff. The stuff that seems important to them, but that you know, in the grand scheme of things don’t matter. Doing this will earn you the privilege of getting to listen to the more important things.
- Watch: Become a student of your preteen. Seek to become an expert on his/her behavior. I’m not talking about being nosy. I’m not talking about removing the door to their bedroom so that you can watch everything they do. It’s not like that. What I’m talking about is watching for changes in their behavior. Things that might give clue to something else going on, under the service. Look at them in the face. Look into their eyes. Not in a creepy “I’m watching you” kinda way. For most of us when we look at people we fail to make eye contact. We fail to really connect with them. I have found that when you look into a persons eyes you can tell a lot about their emotional state. You won’t be able to see WHAT is going on, you have to ask. But, you will be able to tell that SOMETHING is going on.
I hope that these things helps you. At the end of the day, the goal here is to connect with your preteen so that they know that you are with them and they are not alone. I’d love to hear any more thoughts you might have on how to help our preteens through this difficult transition.