How to Help Your 6th Grader Navigate Drama at School

Psst! Did you hear about Emily and Olivia? Oh my gosh they had the biggest fight ever. And Ryan started the whole thing! Everybody’s talking about it!

And so goes the story heard round the school.

Measly kid stuff . . . unless you’re Emily’s mom, Olivia’s small group leader or Ryan’s pastor. You lucky few better be all ears and ready for tears.

Related Reading: 35 Reasons Why My Middle Schooler Might Be Freaking Out

Put any sixth grade class up against the latest hit reality show and you’ve got yourself a real contest. Help your preteen tone things down a bit—and maybe even enjoy life a whole lot more—with these simple tips.

Parents:

1. Be aware. The first year of middle school means 24/7 crisis mode for your kid. We’re talking fights with friends, a confusing and frustrating interest in the opposite sex and the desperate attempt to fit in without looking like they’re trying to fit in.

And bless their hearts with those bodies. By the time next August rolls around, your preteen will grow roughly three inches and gain about ten pounds. Hormones will bring unwelcome surprises like acne and mood swings and awkwardness galore.

To make matters even worse, girls may begin menstruation and boys will notice that girls are outpacing them in pretty much every area of development. The changes are so obvious—so very visible—that it’s enough to make even the hormone-regulated among us sweat.

The key here isn’t to aggressively point out these changes but to simply be aware. Know what’s coming your way. Decide ahead of time to relax during delicate conversations. Smile, listen, encourage, advise. Remember: you made it through and so will your kid.

Voices of the Phase Project: Elle Campbell (and her love for the Middle School Phase!)

2. Make your home a haven. Let’s just call it like it is. Sixth grade beats up on kids and parents alike. While your son or daughter deals with drama all day at school, you take the nights and weekend shift.

Slammed doors, tears and yelling—many preteens save their worst behavior for home. Still, and hear us out on this one, you must fight to make your home a safe place your sixth grader.

That’s because no phase of life has less consistency. 11-year-olds straddle lots of lines on the journey from being a kid to becoming a teen. A home that offers good food, plenty of rest and lots of fun is hands-down the best place for sixth graders to figure everything out.

It really is that simple. And that powerful. So we’ll say it again: to make your home a haven focus on food, rest and fun.

Church Leaders and Volunteers: 

1. Be a friend. Yeah, we know, this sounds like a strange suggestion. Coach? Sure. Teacher? Definitely. But friend? Is that even appropriate?

Here’s the deal: Sixth graders are full with friends one moment and lonely as can be the next. And loneliness is a big deal. Kids this age are all about peer approval. They’ll conform when needed and mask emotions just to fit in. For someone so willing to play along, rejection is a punch to the gut.

With you as a friend, sixth graders find they can be themselves without risking rejection. And through informal conversation and laughter, you open the door for them to talk about their feelings—an especially big need for 11-year olds.

The biggest question a sixth-grader will ask is “Who cares?” Your friendship is a wonderful answer.

2. Stay steady. Good luck getting preteens to say this out loud, but these guys and gals crave influence from adults who aren’t their parents. Hey, that’s you!

And the greatest gift you give a sixth grader is stability. As they face uncertainty on all fronts, you portray a God who is always certain. When they blame authority, you show them a leader who loves. When they push back, you prove you can’t be pushed away.

Support your sixth graders as they struggle through the year. Because they will struggle.

Your steadiness offers hope that, with time and by God’s grace, they’ll move beyond the drama and into the man or woman God is molding them to be.

Read More: Teaching Middle Schoolers About God: How to Be More Strategic and Relational

Parent and Small Group Leader: A Child Needs Both

Last Friday you put on some tunes and busted a move in front of your totally-mortified middle school sons. Then tonight they came home from the dance doing the sprinkler, just like you taught ’em—only they gave credit to Jeff, their small group leader. What gives?

And it’s not just your own kids, either. One of the toddlers you teach at church lost it over a missing toy on Sunday. You tried to talk her through it with no luck. In the end all she needed was a big hug from mom and the tears dried right up.

You might be wondering if you’re doing it all wrong. You’re not. 

You’re simply living the reality that kids benefit from having solid relationships with adults both inside and outside of the home. That’s because some things are better received from parents. Other stuff lands easier on the ears when it’s coming from anyone but mom and dad.

And hey, that’s just a part of what makes this dynamic duo—parents and small group leaders—so powerful. Your influence in each role matters.  Continue reading “Parent and Small Group Leader: A Child Needs Both”

How to Help Elementary Schoolers Develop Friends

By the time kids hit upper elementary, they begin to realize their first major crisis: Friendship.

Kids wonder if they have any friends and if their peers will accept them. To avoid rejection, they consider changing who they are no matter the cost.

This isn’t just something that happens to our fourth and fifth graders. Believe it or not, research is beginning to show that by kindergarten many kids are testing the power of their influence and seeking connections with friends at any cost.

Meaning, there’s a very small window of time where kids can learn how to become friends before they actually have friends. As soon as they become aware there are other people in the world besides them, they start making decisions based on the sort of friends they want to attract.

We’re teaching kids how to be friends while they’re already experiencing their first taste of friendship. This would be like training for your first marathon while you’re running it. You might get a lucky mile here and there, but overall the race won’t end well without some serious help.

Here are a few ways you can help your elementary kids develop friendships.

Develop self-confidence.

When a child is self-confident, they’re less likely to find identity in her friends. Help them find their identity in who God made them to be. Not in what they can do or who thinks they’re cool. Continue reading “How to Help Elementary Schoolers Develop Friends”

The One Question All Babies Ask

Guest Article by Deb Springer

Wait…babies ask questions?  “But,” you may say, “babies can’t talk.”

Oh, but they certainly can.  From the very beginning, a baby communicates when he or she is hungry, uncomfortable, sleepy, lonely and afraid.

Parents know that each cry has a unique sound and communicates a unique need.  As a caregiver, such as a child care professional or volunteer, your responses to the infant’s needs and cries answer the critical question being asked from birth to about 1-year-old: Am I safe?

Related: Why Kids Need More Than Just Their Parents

In other words, babies are asking:

Will you feed me?

Will you change my diaper?

Will you hold me?

Will you rock me to sleep?

Will you come back?

Why do babies need this reassurance?

Famous psychologists and child development specialists (aka, really smart people) have supplied us with a variety of reasons why it is important to consistently let our infants know, “Yes, you are safe!” Continue reading “The One Question All Babies Ask”

5 Ways to Reactivate Parents Every Year

The start of a new school year usually means the start of new small groups, the start of soccer games, the start of PTA meetings, and the start of a busy season for parents. This is a perfect time to reactivate parents, so kids at every phase will stay connected to them.

Regardless of how much a church learns about life stages, parents know things no one else knows about their own children. That’s why parents have an advantage the church will never have related to the future of a child. A parent has history.

Just remember, no scientist or theorist or expert can really know a child the way their own parent does.

That being said, churches know something parents don’t know. Churches work with multiple kids in the same phase every week. That means churches can help parents understand general characteristics of a phase so they can readjust their parenting skills.

At some point, every kid will own their own faith, values, decisions, relationships, and future. But if parents don’t reinvent themselves, they may miss out on having the right kind of long-term relational influence. (Kind of like Kodak did when they ignored the digital phase.) Continue reading “5 Ways to Reactivate Parents Every Year”