Last week we talked about the ways your middle schooler is changing. As a first time middle-school parent, with all of the changes and not-so-stellar characteristics, I started thinking to myself, “How will we ever get through this?”

During our parent orientation at our kid’s school a couple of weeks ago, the counselor assured us that it is possible to survive the middle school years if you will do 3 things:

1. Remember that YOU are the parent. Act like it.

Many parents want to be their kids’ BFF—doing whatever it takes not to disrupt the magic that happens when everyone is happy. But at this stage in the game, our role is more like that of coach than friend. You’re not done parenting yet, this child is not ready to be launched into the world as an adult, so you have to continue to work at parenting during this stage knowing that the goal of friendship lies just ahead.

They need a parent, and that’s a function only you can fulfill. And yes, while they won’t always be happy with you—or happy in general during their tween/teen years—it doesn’t mean they don’t love you. Parents are the most important thing in a child’s life.

2. Don’t take anything personally.

Because of their hormones, they can and will showcase the full range of emotions in a matter of hours—sometimes minutes! During those moments of insanity, they will say things that might hurt you. They will roll their eyes, huff, sigh, or completely blow you off. WARNING: that’s not the time to pick a fight. You can’t argue with unbalanced people, your children included.

The chances are that they don’t really mean it. Pushing boundaries is now one of the primary activities on the middle school child job description. And it’s not that we shouldn’t enforce those boundaries, it’s just that we need to do so with grace and truth. Grace. Lots and lots of grace.

3. Get and STAY Connected.

Be intentional about getting your middle schooler connected to the right people. They can’t navigate this time on their own. They need people in their lives who are not you. They love you, but they will not tell you everything. In their eyes, you’re no longer objective. Connect your kid to a trusted adult such as a coach, play director, dance teacher, or church small group leader. Because they won’t ask you every question that pops into their head, widen the circle and find other adults who would say what you say.

Most of all, we can simply offer our kids safe places to land. Sometimes they just need space to clear their heads. They need us constantly reminding them they have value and that we love them in spite of the crazy.

Middle school isn’t easy, but with a little planning, preparation, and parenting you will help your children thrive throughout these important years.

If you’re a parent of a child in middle school or are past this stage of life, we could use some wisdom. How have you survived the middle school years?