As a church youth pastor, one of my favorite moments of the year is watching parents of new sixth graders bring their kids to youth group for the first time. Often, they look terrified. And I don’t mean the kids. Sure, the sixth graders are nervous too. But no parent wants to leave their kid alone in a situation that could be too big for them. Yet somehow, far sooner than we imagined, we all find ourselves facing a new chapter in our kid’s story. And this chapter is called middle school.
So, if you’re the parent I’ve watched drop your kid off at the door, lingering to see if they find someone to talk to, here’s what I hope you know: It’s going to be okay.
Truly. You’ve actually already proven you can parent through the sixth grade phase. Have you ever heard the phrase, “history repeats itself”? There’s a sense in which that’s also true of parenting. Do you remember the emotions you dealt with during the preschool years? Well, get ready. Because in a way, you’re starting over again, and some of those same preschool issues are going to be recycled with a little more intensity.
You may feel as inexperienced and as insecure in your parenting during this phase as you did when you walked into your house with a newborn. But don’t lose hope, because there’s a lot you can accomplish by simply showing up.
There may be moments you’re tempted to hide in a locked bathroom or closet. But remember, even though your kid can feed and bathe himself now, your presence is key. Your sixth-grade son or daughter needs you just as much in this phase as they did when they were toddlers and they were . . .
insisting they could do something on their own.
becoming emotional for no obvious reason.
oblivious to the strange odor coming from their room.
laughing at things that weren’t funny to you.
That’s the reason I love this phase. So much is happening as they step into a new world of unpredictable emotions, raging hormones, and abstract thinking. The stakes are high, and your presence in their world is like a compass. Not because you’ll have all of the answers, but because they need to know some things (like your love for them) will never change.
Just like you helped them navigate a spoon to their mouth when they were two, now you’ll help them navigate a myriad of more complex issues. But don’t expect them to tell you what they need any better than they did when they were crawling around your house. They need you to work at understanding something about them they don’t yet understand about themselves. They’re discovering a new world yet again, and you’re still their guide.
Try not to take it personally when their emotions collide with yours. And remember, you have a chance to be the safest place for them to make mistakes. You’ll be the place they return to when their emotions swing wider than a semi-truck. You’ll be the most stable force in their life—even though you may not feel that way.
Don’t worry, the roller coaster you’re stepping onto (or that you’ve already been on for a while) will lose some loops and drops eventually. It’s a wild ride, but take heart, because your son or daughter is in the process of becoming someone even more wonderful.
And you really are going to be okay.
Founder of The Justice Movement, Author, & Communicator
Parenting Your Sixth Grader
Parenting Your Sixth Grader simplifies what you need to know about sixth graders in general and gives you a place to discover more about your own sixth grader—so you can make the most of this phase.
Your kid’s humor is on a scale from silly to really silly, and you might be in one of the best phases of your child’s life. THIS IS THE PHASE WHEN THERE’S NEVER ENOUGH GROCERIES, TOO MANY HORMONES, AND A DRAMATIC KID WHO NEEDS SOMEONE TO PROVE, “WHO CARES.”
Don’t have a sixth grader? We’ve got a book for every age at phaseguides.com.