In the Middle: Loving Your Middle Schooler

Originally posted on the Eagle Brook Church blog

Middle school students are, well, in the middle. They have outgrown some of the characteristics of being a child, but they are not yet full-blown teenagers or young adults. Perhaps that is why they are so wildly misunderstood by many. People see students in grades 6, 7, and 8 playing on a playground and think, “What are those teenagers doing here? This is for kids!” or they see middle schoolers without adult supervision in a mall and think, “These kids need to be supervised by an adult!” It is a confusing time, for both the adults around them and the students themselves.

As a pastor to this age group for about 16 years now, I’ve come to LOVE these “middle years.” I love that a middle school student will play with Legos or tag at a park. I love that they are wrestling with boy/girl relationships and what it means to become more independent from their parents. Now granted, I’m sure I won’t love this when my kids are in “the middle,” but as an adult hanging around your kids, I love it. I see so much potential in them. I see that they have a child’s heart to please, but also want to try some things without anyone holding their hand. I see that they are OK with failure, as long as a loving adult is there to help them up and tell them to try again. I see that they do much better when we cheer them on wildly and tell them we see potential in them.

If you are a parent, aunt or uncle, grandparent, or guardian of a middle school student, let me encourage you. Your influence in these students’ lives is immeasurable. They are stuck in the middle and they are looking to you for guidance on how to navigate these years. So, help them. Just like when they were little, hug them when they get home from school, play a board game, throw a football around with them, and indulge them in late-night ice cream from time to time. They aren’t done being kids. But also LISTEN to them, carefully, and for as long as they want when they are wrestling with an issue with friends, or feeling undermined by a coach, or aren’t sure what they think about a political or historical issue they are studying in school. This is just them growing up, right before your eyes, and they need you for that too.

These years are important and wonderful. Our whole Student Ministries team at Eagle Brook is praying for you and cheering you on as you navigate your student’s years in the middle.