It was kind of quiet around our house this past Sunday evening. We were each reflecting on our summer and mourning that it was coming to a close. What is it about going back to school that causes large emotional swings in our family? Could it be that change isn’t just hard for adults, but hard for our children, too? I think so. The great thing about change is it challenges us and often gives us an opportunity for a fresh start.
I noticed our youngest daughter was especially thoughtful about Monday morning. I didn’t blame her. Middle schoolers can be a tough crowd. There are lots of challenges for middle school girls. A sixth grade girl not only has to figure out where her locker is, but also how to decorate it and then how to get it open. She must also find each class within the allotted few minutes between classes or risk not only getting the dreaded tardy, but walking into her next class late! Sixth grade girls have the challenge of meeting new people in each class and changing clothes for PE. Seventh grade girls have the locker down, but they may be trying out for extracurricular activities and perhaps are experiencing, for the first time, not-so-friendly competition. Seventh grade girls often face daily pressures of popularity, choices, and figuring out how they fit into middle school life. Eighth grade girls face tougher curriculum challenges and tougher decisions socially.
Don’t get me wrong. I think the internet, social media, and cell phones have changed our world for the good in many ways, but our middle school daughters definitely live in a different world than we, their parents, did. If we wanted to talk to our friend after school, we picked up the phone and called her house. We talked on the phone either in the kitchen or the living room, and our parents could hear at least our side of the conversation. Now our daughters “talk” via texting, Instagram, and occasionally e-mail. It’s harder for parents to know what is going on in their daughter’s life. It’s easy for middle school girls to focus on the “me” in this world and forget life doesn’t revolve around “me.”
As a parent, I want my daughter to be successful in school, but most importantly I want her to love God more today than she did yesterday. I want her relationship with Jesus Christ to continue to grow. How can I help this happen? Honestly, I don’t have a formula that will guarantee she will do well in school, make healthy friendships, and continue to grow in her relationship with God. What I do have is a deep personal love for Him. Parents, encourage your middle school daughter to have a deep and personal relationship with Christ by having one yourself and letting her see you actively pursuing Him. Our children may act like they aren’t interested in what we do on a daily basis, but they notice.
Each fall, I have the privilege of leading a Mother and Daughter Weekend Retreat. Watching mothers and daughters spend time together playing, praying, and learning is priceless. We truly have just a few short years to train our children.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your (daughters) and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.” ~Deuteronomy 6:5-8
Parents, love your daughters by showing them how to love God first and then walking alongside them in a lifelong pursuit of Him.
Jennifer Withers is Pastoral Leader of Preteen Ministry here at Stonebriar Community Church. She has been married to her husband, Shane, for twenty-three years and they have three children. Alexandra is a college sophomore, Derrick is a junior in high school, and Olivia is a seventh grader. Jennifer enjoys evenings at home, travel with her family, and summer camp with preteens. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Christian Education at Dallas Theological Seminary.