Preadolescence—that weird and awkward phase between 10 and 13. You were there once, and I bet you are cringing a bit just thinking about it. Now looking at your child with a lens of life experience, I bet you have a bit more sympathy. Yes, we parents have all made it through the gate to adolescence and adulthood. But looking back, we probably had some really great moments, and some really hard ones. For me, middle school was probably one of the hardest phases of my life. I was extremely insecure, way too skinny, and really awkward. But what I didn’t realize then was that all the other kids were also insecure and awkward.
Adolescents struggle to figure out who they are, and sadly, during that process, they often make poor choices that we hope they learn from. Pressures are so much greater now than they were when I was that age. The level of intrusion into our homes today is exponentially larger. Our kids are seeing things and hearing things (yes, in middle school) that we would never invite or approve in our homes. I find that no one is immune, no matter how many safety nets we put around our children. If you have a computer, smart phone, tablet, or media device in your home or your kids socialize at all, there is a chance they are hearing or seeing the very things you want to protect them from.
Recently, we hosted a grandparenting conference at Stonebriar. While speaking at the conference, Josh McDowell told these grandparents that there was a 100% chance that their grandchildren would be exposed to pornography. Those grandchildren are your children. Debbie Wade, a sex therapist who hosted a Straight Talk earlier this year, shared that the average child will be exposed to sexually graphic images by the age of six. I was given similar statistics when my kids were younger, and I naively thought, “Not my kids!” But as so many parents will attest, I was wrong.
It seems parenting our children well as they enter the door to adolescence is met with so many more challenges. We need to be on our guard and stay focused and intentional. We must build a relationship with our kids that will last through this period of enormous physical, emotional, and social change. And we must trust that God loves them even more than we do. That won’t happen by chance. You will need to be intentional at every moment. You will need to be unpopular…but that just means you are doing it well!
In Luke 12:27-31 Jesus was talking to His disciples. He said,
“Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, He will certainly care for [your child]…Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and He will give you everything you need.”
Think about this. Jesus was talking to his disciples! They were with Him 24-7, they saw Him do miracles with their own eyes, they learned directly from Him, yet they worried. He had to remind them that nothing on earth was as valuable as He is! I know I need that reminder many times a day. Jesus went on to say in verse 33, “Sell your possessions and give to those in need.” (Think of your children as your possessions in this context.) But read on in verse 33. “This will store up treasure for you in heaven! And the purses of heaven never get old or develop holes. Your treasure will be safe; no thief can steal it and no moth can destroy it. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will be also.”
God loves your child more than you do. That is easy to say, but have you truly internalized it? When facing a tough situation that you can’t protect your child from—one that you need to allow your child to walk through—it is so hard to pray God, I know you love my child more than I do, so I give this to you. But remember, He’s the one who created our children. He’s the one who planned their lives before they were even born. He’s the one who died for them. And He’s the one who will draw them back to Himself.
My children are grown. One just graduated college, and two are already in college. They don’t live under my roof anymore. I have no more control. But the funny reality is, I never had control—I only thought I did. But God has been gracious with me so many times. Trusting God doesn’t mean everything is perfect, but it does mean that God is perfect! And He has a perfect plan, even for your soon-to-be-adolescent!
Kristi McElheney is the Pastoral Leader of Elementary Ministry at Stonebriar Community Church. Kristi’s passion is leading children to Christ and equipping parents to raise children who love and follow God. Kristi is earning her master’s degree in Christian Education at Dallas Theological Seminary. When she is not busy planning the many activities at church, she enjoys picking up her guitar and leading worship. Kristi and her husband have two sons in college and a daughter graduating high school.