Helping Our Students Navigate the Middle School Years

Middle school is tough. It’s a wonder any of us survived it. Between the self-doubt, the ebb and flow of friendships, the questions of belonging and value, and the many perils of puberty, the experience is nuts.

We are committed to partnering with families at each step of a child’s development. From Kindergarten where they learn to play well with others to graduation where they prepare to enter the world, we are committed to seeing them discover the beauty of God’s plan for their lives. 

When it comes to middle school, that commitment means something altogether unique from the other seasons of their lives. It’s about helping them think differently about themselves and about the world around them. It’s about equipping them with tools and with truths that will guide them. It’s about giving them what’s most important and letting the less important things be figured out along the way. 

Some Thoughts on Making Middle School Count: 

Help Them “Own It”

When middle school starts, students can find themselves feeling flustered and overwhelmed. The expectations have changed. The responsibility that they have over their lives - their homework, their grades, their schedules, their downtime - has exponentially increased, while their abilities still need to catch up. For some the pressure seems overwhelming, at least for a time. They usually all find their way through it, just like we did, but not without some hiccups along the way. 

So try to help them “own” new parts of their lives. Help them set up an evening routine that will make their morning routine flow a bit more smoothly. Give them the chance to set a schedule for themselves that will help them be the most productive. Help them set up structure into their lives, even in the most mundane things, that will get them into the habit of owning their lives. 

Help Them Lose Once in a While

Okay. So maybe not help. But maybe it’s okay to help them discover that there are worse things in life than not being perfect. 

Sometimes “losing” might mean being tardy or missing a deadline. Sometimes “losing” is having a pimple that everyone is going to see. Sometimes it might mean totally flubbing their lines in a play or misunderstanding an assignment. The point is that our students, just like us, tend to find their value in how well they perform. But if we can help them discover personal value that is constant, outside of the demands and expectations around them, then getting a slip, making a mistake, or being human is really not the end of the world. 

Teach Forgiveness by Showing It

More than anything else in their lives, our students need to know and understand grace. Sometimes their attitudes will be awful. Sometimes they’ll push the boundaries of discipline and structure. Other times they’ll be more impulsive than a toddler. Wherever they are on that spectrum on any particular day-or in any particular moment- they need training and guidance. And they need forgiveness. They need to learn that their value is not found in how they perform but in who they are.

Think about the difference you see in a child from the beginning of 6th grade and the end of 8th grade. At the beginning, they’re just kids, with a different kind of energy and a different view of the world. By the time they move on to high school, they’re young adults. They’re thinking differently and interacting differently. It’s a time of life full of crazy ups and downs. 

As we walk with our students through the middle school years, let’s not worry about whether they’re perfect. And while we’re at it, let’s not worry about whether we are. Instead, let’s let our students learn in an environment that is safe, in a place where the mistakes they make can always be cleaned up. Let’s let them try new things, fail, and then get back up again. Let’s remember that on the other side of this season of life is another season, followed by another, and then another. And that each season is a chance for them to learn more about themselves and more about the God who made them.