If you’ve ever moved across the country with kids you are probably familiar with the word uprooted. Our daughter was going into kindergarten and our son into middle school when we moved from Texas to South Carolina and while it proved to be a great move for all of us, I’m sure my kids felt yanked. Out of all that was familiar and plunked down into everything that wasn’t, the look on my kids’ faces gave me a mom heartache.
It doesn’t take a genius parent to figure out that just starting school and entering middle school isn’t the optimal time to change everything in your kids’ lives. But that’s just what we did. So now what?
As a family, we needed help, and fast. Luckily, we had already identified a great church to connect with. I couldn’t wait for the next “Newcomers” event to find about the great stuff the kids and student ministry offered. I just needed somebody to come alongside my shell-shocked kids and be a friend. And I needed somebody to tell me it was going to be okay.
So what do you do when you need help as a family? Lots of years and several moves later, here’s what I’ve learned.
There’s a church near you that’s ready to help. If you don’t attend church, chances are there’s one nearby, one that is equipped with staff and volunteers who work with kids and teens every week. I made a bee-line for the middle school director Andrew (who didn’t know me from Adam) and just blurted it out, “My son doesn’t know anybody. Could you help him make friends?” He got my son into a small group with twelve other loud, sweaty sixth-grade boys who thought body noises were as hilarious as he did. My son found his tribe and to this day they are some of my son’s best friends. It was uncomfortable requesting help from someone who didn’t know us yet, but I’m so glad I did.
Your church has experts. A kid expert doesn’t have to be a seminary graduate or have a master’s degree in education. They just need to be someone who knows kids and loves to hang out with them, who gets why your kid breaks out in a sweat if they’re more than six inches from their phone or tablet. I scheduled coffee with my son’s small group leader and plied him with questions. What’s the best way to get my son connected with the fun stuff here? What are the best things I can do to help him adjust? It was a great conversation. He helped me understand the mind of a sixth grade boy and gently filled me in that the things I was worried about weren’t necessarily the same things he worried about. Basically, he told me to relax.
The church can’t always fix it, but they can help. Years later when our daughter was in middle school, she started to struggle with friendships and anxiety (isn’t this the definition of a twelve-year-old girl?). I made another bee-line, this time to Mel, our daughters small group leader. She shared stuff to read, connected me to another mom who had a daughter slightly older than mine, and the best part . . . she prayed. I didn’t walk away with a quick-fix, but I knew our family had a friend who had our backs.
Every family needs help at some point in their parenting journey, and a community of faith can be a great source of support. Lean into your church. Be bold, ask for what you need, and be persistent. If you haven’t found a church that supports your family, keep looking. When you widen the circle, you know you will never be alone.
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