When I heard anyone say "Middle School," I think back to my own middle schools days. Not my finest hour. I was, well, I was squirrley. I did things, said things, and behaved in ways that were vastly different from the rest of my life, before and after those years. What a blessing to look back at those years.
As we homeschool, we don't think much in terms of grades until high school. We just read and learn as the years pass by. But, somewhere around the age of 10-13, my children entered the squirrley years.
"Where did my child go?"
"Who is this person?"
They did not become mean or turn away from the Lord. They did not become rebellious. They just became squirrley.
Why is this age so awkward?
Well, they are no longer children, but they are not yet adults.
And to top it all off, their hormones are kicking in! What does that look like?
When hormones kick in, hair starts growing in odd places. Bodies began to shrink and expand in funny ways. Boys get a caterpillar on their upper lips and girls start their period.
One of the hardest things is that emotions run wild. Girls will randomly cry. Boys will get angry for no apparent reason.
"Are you angry at specific things or do you just wake up angry and look for something to be mad about?"
"I just wake up angry," Zack admitted. He was in the squirrley years.
"Do you know that your anger is from hormones. You haven't suddenly become a mean person," I assured him.
He was relieved, as was my son years later when he struggled with fierce anger for no reason at all. I assured my daughters as well that their fluxuating emotions were the results of hormones shooting into their bloodstream.
"Eventually your hormones will level off and you'll be yourself again--only better," I reassured all my children one at a time as they hit the squirrley years.
I didn't know about the emotional roller coaster before my oldest one hit the squirrley years, but I did prepare all of my children to hit puberty and the changes they would need to contend with. I stayed positive and upbeat. After all, what a blessing to become a man or woman!
Once you know the cause of the excessive emotions, it was time to teach my children to handle the emotional roller coaster and to let them know that I was for them, cheering them on, always loving them. Even if they behaved badly, I would forgive them. I also made myself available to them for long talks where I learned to just listen and love. The squirrley years are not an easy time of life.
The physical changes can make preteens and young teenagers insecure. There is a tendency to compare themselves to others. They also wonder if a special someone will ever love them. It is so important that we affirm and encourage our children over and over. Just when they are at times the hardest to love, they need more love, excessive amounts of affection and affirmation.
Now, I have talked about the squirrlier things, but that's just a part of the middle school years. Preteens and young teens are smart. You will enjoy building a friendship with them and including them in your activities, especially ministry opportunities. Each of my children, during the middle school years, has served in responsible positions of ministry. They have mixed sound, taught Sunday school, worked in the nursery, gone witnessing, and met practical needs of members of our congregation.
Middle schoolers are smart and growing smarter everyday. They have their own opinions that are worth listening to. Now, these opinions might change, but they are still important to respect. Treat your pre-teens and young teens with respect and kindness, no matter how they are behaving. Expect them to be mature and responsible. Train, mentor, invest in them. You will be surprised how God can use them. And when they are squirrley, just remind yourself, "These are the squirrley years and they don't last forever!"
Enjoy every season!