Being in middle school is like being in a tug-of-war with both sides evenly matched. On the one hand there is the pull of the teenage years. On the other hand are the benefits of being a young child. Or a middle schooler could dread the coming of youth while wanting desperately to be done with being a child.
It is important not to miss the particular struggles your middle schooler might have. He is beginning to function without the immediate and constant supervision of his parents. He does this even though new and sometimes dangerous influences enter his life. Should he listen to Mom and Dad or to the kids that are telling him that there is more to life than what he knows? The opportunity to form solid new friendships exists. But, it is no secret that sex, drugs, pornography, bullying and even gambling have made inroads into middle schools.
The scary part for parents is that there are increasingly more influences in their children’s lives that they are not aware of. So what can you do to shepherd your middle school children without giving them a lie detector test each afternoon and attaching a body cam and GPS to them?
There are several good answers to this question. But here is one that will that will serve you well for middle school and beyond:
Become an epic listener!
Here are several ways to do this:
Listen for what is not said, in addition to what is said.
Realize that when your mouth is speaking, listening skills are severely limited.
Shift out of constant direction giving mode. Young children need consistent direction and feedback. Middle schoolers need to be able to have more interaction and take more initiative.
Anticipate the challenges your children face each day. Know their test schedules, what their friendships are like, what their personal fears and struggles are like. By doing this, you may not have to ask “is anything wrong” quite so much.
Let your middle schooler know frequently that you are thankful for him, whether he has had a good day or not. Not many people want to talk to someone who does not delight in them.
Carefully consider what you will say before opening your mouth. Will your words be truly helpful or just pointing out what is painfully obvious? Eph. 4:29
If your child knows that she will be heard, that she is understood, that she won’t be shut down, that she is respected and cared for, then she will be more likely to turn to you when she is caught in the tug-of-war that is middle school.
Trust God’s Spirit and deploy the skills of being an epic listener!