“I don’t have that many friends in middle school,” my 11-year-old daughter said.
“Sure you do,” I answered.
“Well, I have friends but not like the popular girls,” she answered.
Ah, the popular girls. She was talking about a group of girls she knows who seem to have it all — looks, lots of friends, lots of boys asking them out. But that particular group of girls tends to be full of drama and quick to put down others. My 11-year-old daughter is extremely level-headed. She has never wanted to get mixed up in all the girl drama that takes place at school. She’s very reserved until you get to know her, and at school she pretty much keeps her nose down and blends into the background. But even she is drawn to wanting what the world says is important.
This is a tough age. Middle school is just the beginning of figuring out who you are, who God wants you to be. It can be hard to hang onto your sense of self-worth when everyone around you seems to be smarter, prettier and more popular. Everyone wants to have lots of friends. Everyone wants to know that they have value.
When our kids are confronted with situations that rob them of their sense of self-worth, of their self-confidence, we have to be there. We have to step in and remind them that God says they are a masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10). Whether they have lots of friends or just a few friends, we have to help them understand that the opinion of God is way more important than the opinion of man.
Growing up isn’t easy. It never has been, but in this digital age where every minute of your life can be dissected online it’s even tougher. Humiliating moments that used to be forgotten are now immortalized on Facebook and Instagram for everyone to see.
So, how do we help our kids through these difficult years as they grow into the men and women God wants them to be?
Cover your son or daughter in prayer. Pray every day for your child. Pray that they would know that they are loved and valued by God and by you. Knowing that you are praying for them each day bolsters their confidence and lets them know you love them. It opens their hearts to God’s direction and places a hedge of protection around them.
Don’t brush aside their concerns.Talk with your son or daughter about the things that concern them. What’s trivial to you may be a huge deal to them. When your kids know that their concerns are important to you, they’re more likely to bring you the big stuff along with the little stuff.
Let them know they are loved. Put notes in your kids’ lunches. Text them while they’re on the bus. Leave notes in their rooms. Have a special snack waiting for them when they get home. In lots of little ways each day, bolster your kids with love. Let them know that no matter what goes on outside the four walls of your home, they are loved within them.
Keep them off social media as long as possible. Don’t get me wrong, I love Facebook and Twitter, but the older your kids are when they use it, the more likely they will be to understand how to use it. Set limits on their use and be aware of what your kids and their friends are doing online. Cyber bullying is a huge issue. Make sure you know if it’s happening to your child.
Our kids are precious, but growing up often robs them of the sense that they have value. Every child, every person, has value to God. We just have to make sure our kids remember that.