This time of the year is filled with anticipation. By now some of you are well into the school year while others of you are just getting started. Either way, you’re probably wondering a few things:

What will my child face? How will they change? What will they remember from this year?

If you’re the parent of a preteen, these questions might be amplified. After all, some of you have recently woken up to find a completely different child under your roof and you’re frantically asking, “Where did my child go, and will I ever get them back?!” You might actually be worried about what your kids will face as preteens this year.

It’s true. The preteen years are a huge transition period for kids as they travel from childhood to adolescence. These next few years will be filled with ups and downs and twists and turns, but that’s where you come in. You can offer your kids the stability they need.

As you look ahead, here are some things to keep in mind as you help your preteen navigate this phase.

Preteens are inconsistent.

Sometimes you’ll think they are the most mature 11-year-old you’ve ever seen. Other times you’ll wonder if they ever learned anything about making wise choices. Remember, they’re in between. They’re going through major changes that affect how they think and feel and process life around them. Sometimes they’ll act like a three-year-old. Instead of being frustrated, respond with grace, and guide them to understand how they can make wiser choices in the future.

Like three-year-olds, preteens have lots of questions.

Only their questions can feel big and weighty, and some might not even have answers. This is when kids start fighting against who they were in order to become who they will be. Don’t squash their questions. Instead, give them a safe place to wrestle with them. You will help them discover more about God in the process.

Preteens care about what their parents think.

They may not act like it, but you are still their primary influence. This year might be amazing, and it might be hard. Either way, remember to fight for the heart of your child. You are raising an adult. This awkward phase will end. Stick with it and give your kids a chance to experience the awesome future God has planned for them.