Have you prepared yourself for middle school, Mom?
Maybe you've noticed it. Growing independence, face in the phone, wanting to go to the mall more often (without you). Sure signs of the impending teenage years. In my observations over the last few years, right before 6th grade is when moms start asking questions and seeking some guidance for the next phase of life. Questions like this, "HELP!!"
A few bullet points to get you started on this brave new journey:
1. Decide your stance ahead of time on the boy issue. First of all, learn the kids terms and what they mean. "Boyfriend" could mean "we now awkwardly avoid each other at all costs and only talk through friends" or it could actually mean "we go on dates alone and make out in the movie theatre on the weekends". Probably a few other meanings in between too. What's going to be allowed? Can your daughter text guys? Can she hang out with them? Do you care if she has a boyfriend? The subject will come up so decide ahead of time. Have dad involved too and listen to what he has to say. Talk to your daughter about the why's and why not's in whatever you decide.
2. Some places may not have to worry about this, but if you are in most public schools at least, prep your daughter how to handle inappropriate talk from boys. This infuriates me. Much that could actually be labeled "sexual harrassment" will be open talk at unbelievably young ages. Within earshot that she can't ignore. What should she do when guys talk all kinds of sexual talk to her or in front of her? No matter the school policy, my own kids have our permission to do whatever it takes to defend themselves or put an end to things. So far only a pencil bag used as defense has been broken. That won't be everyone's policy, but it's ours. I happily replaced the bag.
3. Prep her for mean girl drama. It will happen. She could be on either side of it. Or stuck in the middle. Talk her through the concept that "hurt people hurt people". It doesn't cure the pain but it gives perspective of motive that allows empathy. Encourage her to be one of the much needed heroes who stands up for weaker people. Role play with her possible solutions when hard situations arise. Give her a game plan. Encourage her that it takes two to tango and if you don't engage someone when provoked, the game ends. Only the other girl is left playing. Read "Odd Girl Out" by Rachel Simmons, "Girl Wars" by Cheryl Dellasega, or if you want a Bible based approach read "Mean Girls" by Hayley DiMarco.
4. Know that 6th and 7th grade can often be the hardest years. I think it's because they are at a transition stage where most still want to be young, but they are afraid to admit or show it because there is incredible pressure to be "old". For years I have asked 13 year olds if they would rather stay young or grow up. It is almost 100% unanimous- they want to stay young. They feel pressure to dress older, talk and act older, watch and know more. Tremendous pressure to look old and to have a boyfriend. These are the things they have told me at least. My suggestion is to keep them young as long as you can. Encourage acting their age, not like high schoolers. 6th graders still have a lot of teenage years to get through. If they are allowed to do it all in 6th or 7th grade, what is there to look forward to? Pace their teenage years. Think about all the freedoms teenagers will eventually have. Will you give all those out at age 13? What will they have to wait for? It's easier to extend waited for freedoms than to retract ones given too soon.
5. Decide on social media. When are they allowed to have Facebook, Twitter, etc? Know that middle school is potential for high level drama and if they have social media, problems can follow them home. It may be a relief to have a reprieve from people at home during any difficult phases.
Keep a good line of communication open. Be available. You will survive! Teenage years are so short in comparison to the rest of their lives. You stay strong and help them to stay true to themselves during this short time. It can be done!
At a recent meeting at my house, 22 year old girl Britni Bersin shared candidly with a group of girls what she wished she'd known before entering college in Oklahoma. Much discussion followed with some great questions and insights from many. I'm just going to give you a touch of what was said and encourage you to forward this to any college freshman (or moms of) that you know!
1. Coming from a small conservative atmosphere, our Britni had an image that "only bad people party". This was busted when she realized awesome super fun really good people party too, which gave way to reconsidering partying may not be so bad after all. So she tried it and has some stories to share now that she wishes she didn't have. Her willingness to share was prompted by trying to save these girls some problems.
So lock your doors. Don't put your drink down where it can be messed with. Drive yourself places so you're not stuck somewhere you don't want to be. Don't live in fear, just in awareness. Have a blast and find good people to have good fun with. Study hard.
Lastly, for parents (and I guess college students if they want one more book to read) I highly recommend the book "Unprotected" by Miriam Grossman, M.D. A campus psychiatrist shares many current stories of life on her college campus and how many popular campus trends are hurting our kids. We need to be aware of what's going on, not to be scared, but to just be informed and able to help our kids through possible scenarios should they occur. Stay one step ahead! :)
Trust all that you put into them. And pray.
This week I had a room full of teen girls at my house - some in high school, some entering college. All came for prayer time. One thing I love is the variety. Schools represented were OSU, Victory, Metro, Lincoln Christian, ORU and Union. At last month prayer meeting we also had Broken Arrow, Jenks and OU girls.
A friend of mine who helped pray spoke of how a "safe place" has been created for girls to come. I told her that spoke volumes to me because that was the original goal! Seven years ago, I wrote down my goals, one of them being "to create a community of friends, moms, and mentors who can guide girls safely through adolescence." That is just one thing that has happened in these few years.
Girls who have to be a certain "way" at school or who may be perceived in a particular fashion at school, can have a place to come where that is laid aside, and we are all just girls, working through life.
Our prayer team is comprised of women from their late twenties to early seventies. Prayer teams privately pray for each girl individually. Many times the prayer team has never met the girls, other times we know them quite well. Standard procedure is to pray and remain quiet until God shows us what to pray for. We don't ask questions or needs from the girls until later. It's always an adventure to see what God has to say to each girl.
It's common for girls to kinda be freaked out or scared of prayer meeting. For some reason many are afraid they are going to get a list of what's wrong with them. It's unfortunate that our church culture has often fed that fear, because that is not God's heart. What always happens is God tells them what He loves about them, or He brings up some secret awesome thing that is really meaningful, that the prayer team could not have known. So then God is seen as really personal and that He cares about those hidden things in her heart. He also often highlights the girls' gifts and confirms plans He has for them. He may say there are things to get rid of, but only in light of something so much better He has for them instead.
In a culture that constantly tells girls they aren't good enough, it is a privilege to offer an atmosphere where girls can come hear straight from their Heavenly Father what He loves about them. They leave lighter, freer, filled with hope, stronger.
(Women, if you need a night of prayer like this, I urge you to check out my friend Sheryl Kloehr's ministry at www.irefresh.net. See her facebook page called iRefresh Ministries. How we pray is modeled after iRefresh. Monthly meetings for women are offered in the Tulsa community.)