Transitions (for Parents!)
In my role as a pastor to students, I have never come across parents more anxious than those whose oldest is about to enter the world of middle school. Concerns over the new pressures their child will face met with the mounting reality that their child is growing up make this a difficult transition for parents too, not just the students. In fact, there are three primary transition points in the lives of adolescents, both scholastically and experientially – the transition into middle school, the transition into high school, and the transition out of high school to whatever is next. These transition times are significant for parents as well as students, so below are a few thoughts and resources to help begin thinking through what the transition can be like. None of this is intended to be prescriptive, but hopefully it will provide some helpful insights as you enter these seasons. (For the moment this page will address the first two of the three big transitions. I hope to add some reflections on the graduation transition in the near future.)
5th to 6th Grade Transition
While the various school districts in the area organize middle school differently, at WEFC we welcome rising 6th grade students into our Middle School Ministry. If one were to summarize this phase of a student’s life in one word, an apt one would be transformation.
From an article on transitioning to middle school, Cheryl Somers writes,
“Yes, middle school may be a time full of awkwardness and self-doubt, but it is also a time of incredible transformation and movement toward independence. With regard to its impact on human development, this period of life is second only to the period from infancy to age three.
Think about that for a minute.
Remember how much your child changed from birth to age three? That’s how much change, growth, and development will happen over these next three years as your teen navigates middle school! Get ready for a wild ride!”
The complete article gives 4 tips to help parents help their child’s transition that are well worth the read. You can find the article at: http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/tips-for-parents-on-a-successful-transition-to-middle-school-0902155
If you are interested in some further exploration, there are 3 books that Katelyn (Ryan’s wife and licensed counselor!) wholeheartedly endorses (each links to the book on Amazon): Intentional Parenting, Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys, and Raising Girls. These books come from the team of Christian children and family counselors at Daystar Counseling in Tennessee.
Finally, while humorous, I find the following blog post about children turning from dogs to cats to be absolutely on point:
Note: The Middle School Sunday Morning Community will begin for the fall on Sunday, September 17th @9:30am in Room 211.
8th to 9th Grade Transition
If transformation is the key word to describe the middle school transition, then belonging is the word for the transition into high school. From Kristen Ivy, in the family ministry handbook Think Orange:
“When freshmen enter high school they enter a new world of possibility. There are new people to become friends with. There are new clubs to join. There are new teachers to impress. But the most pressing issue is waiting to see where they will land in the social spectrum. With a new school (even if it’s next door to the middle school/junior high) comes the opportunity for a new start. If they are going to switch social groups or branch out, now is the time. Their primary drive is for acceptance and belonging.”
Indeed, the freshman year of high school opens an immense amount of new opportunities for students. Mostly, this is good for students, helping them to explore who they are and who they want to become. The wealth of opportunities also means having to make choices, often between multiple good things. Students really begin grappling with the limited amount of time they have to meet all of their responsibilities. In my experience, this transition is one of the highest points of time in all the teenage years for students’ disengagement with the church. Our hope is that WEFC’s High School Ministry will provide an authentic and meaningful place for students to belong, and will be a place that exists at the core of students’ high school life. As parents, you can help us by letting us know in what ways, and with whom, your son or daughter is connecting - or not connecting - within HSM at WEFC.
Furthermore, it is important to us that our high school students begin connecting not only with the High School Ministry, but with the church as a whole. Such connection is imperative to the development of a faith life that lasts beyond the high school years. As such, this is one of the most significant reasons we do not currently offer a high school Sunday School course. Instead, we strongly encourage high school students to engage in the life of the church in two ways: first, by attending a Sunday morning worship service with the rest of the congregation, and second, by serving in some capacity. We have students serving in children's Sunday School classrooms, on the worship team, in the tech booth, and on the parking team. We are convinced that these means of helping a student belong to the whole church better prepares them for life and faith beyond high school.
Finally, in regards to helping your students manage the abundance of choices that lay before them throughout their high school years, author and speaker Rachel Cruze (daughter of Dave Ramsey) uses an excellent analogy to help parents focus on the goal of raising kids who will become responsible adults.
“One way Mom and Dad continually maintained a balance between grace and legalism was through the analogy of the rope. The Ramsey kids heard about the rope all the time. Our parents described it this way: “Picture an imaginary rope tied around your waist. I am holding the other end of the rope. The length of the rope is entirely up to me. A longer rope means you have more freedom to explore and make decisions, and a shorter rope means I have to rein you in a bit due to trust or behavioral issues.”
For example, think about dropping your twelve-year-old daughter off at the movie theater. You tell her to stay inside the theater and that you’ll be back in two hours to pick her up at that exact spot. When you come back to pick her up two hours later, she is nowhere to be found. You call her and find out she’s across the street at the ice cream shop because she and her friends decided not to see a movie. So what happens? She loses some rope. You have to pull her back in a bit because she made a bad choice and didn’t call to ask permission. Now, imagine your teenager is at a high school party where adult beverages are flowing. If he calls you, tells you what’s going on, and asks you to come pick him up, then guess what? He just earned more rope because he showed the ability to make good decisions.”
You can read the full excerpt from the book Smart Money Smart Kids for the story of how powerful of an impact this analogy had one Rachel and her siblings at: https://www.rachelcruze.com/topics/kids-and-money/living-by-the-rope
Note: We will be hosting a 20 minute Parent Meeting for all parents on Sunday, September 10th at 12:30pm in Room 211 at WEFC. This meeting will cover the calendar, teaching, objectives for the coming school year, and Challenge.