In looking back through my youth, the time of my life that I look back on with the most embarrassment and discomfort, is junior high. That stage between 11 and 13, where you're too old to keep playing little kid games, and think you know everything, but aren't old enough to accept that you don't (know everything, that is), and to top it all off, you want very much to be accepted by a group... any group.. and in the pursuit, you lose a lot of yourself for a little while and make some really un-wise decisions. Anyone else feel that way about those years?
And in looking back on myself in that moment of my life, I know that the psychological, spiritual, and emotional problems I experienced "back then", have nothing to do with my family members, and almost everything to do with who I was at the time. Add to my bad decisions following a socio-political organization that set me on the path to being a life-long vegetarian (good), and at one time had me convinced I should never have children of my own (bad), and you kind of have a mess of a pre-teen on your hands, and an ungrateful one, at that (sorry, Mom!)
You may have heard me say before that I have eight children. Perhaps the full force of that fact is lost on non-parents, but what is really means is that my lovely husband and I get to go through this same "Junior High" stage eight times! We are on round four. It is both thrilling to see the growth they experience in the end - and exhausting to try to keep up with all the dumb choices they try to make.
You can imagine my husband and I have talked about this stage more than a few times.
We are helping our young people transition from being the child who is (inherently and necessarily) a first-class narcissist, to see themselves for what they are, and helping them mature into the mindset one hopes to find in a well-adjusted adult: a mindset of love, kindness, a giving heart, and a mature countenance. No one blames the baby for being the family bossy-pants, they cannot fend for themselves, but ultimately we want to help them become someone you'd be okay with if they moved in next door and might make an impression on your own pre-teen young folk.
There are times when we see glimpses of that mature mind. We know it is in there. We beg, plead, and pray for it to come out! To join our merrymaking adult ways. And there are still far too many times when we see the two-year-old version of self loudly shouting at us. And somewhere in it all... we still want to see them having fun, and just beingin their skin for a little while.
My husband and I have come up with a few suggestions for this somewhat difficult transition in life, we hope you find them helpful.
- Their hormones are wildly vacillating - perhaps adjusting their diet, sleep times, physical activity, medications, or essential oils might help. Our oldest daughter has been greatly helped by Tsuga in the past. Even as young as four years old, one drop was all we needed to completely change her attitude. Each person will respond differently to different oils - try getting an iTovi or Zyto scan from someone who is nearby to see what would be good to try first.
- "Carrot" vs. "Stick" - It can be easy to get into a habit of using our screens as our sole means of "working" but the body is designed to move. My kids' attitudes are always poorer when we've had an afternoon of screen time. We're designed to and feel more fulfilled when we are performing active, physical labor. It always changed my kids' attitudes when we were engaged in manual labor - even things like scrubbing baseboards, raking the yard, and fixing things up helped. You can imagine, perhaps, that not all of those jobs were requested by our young troops, but they changed attitudes in the end. Promising a NingXia Red packet at the end might make a good "Carrot" (vs. the "Stick" of Mom shouting.)
- Put them to work - I actually have a long-held pet theory about this - all of our children hit a point about this age where they want to do something to earn money - mow lawns, sell baked goods, etc. In times past, kids this age were put into apprenticeships, and then transitioned their way to adulthood that way. I have always wished I could put my kids into apprenticeship-type jobs for their junior high years, and then as they hit lower high school they appreciate a real day of work more, and are ready to return to their educational pursuits. As a homeschool mom, I look for these opportunities for my kids.
- Pull them closer - As parents, and as a culture, we have a tendency to see these junior high kids as capable - they can cook for themselves, they can clean and (hopefully) do more chores without an adult right over them, they can dress themselves, and track their own school work, and act like they'd rather we're not around quite so much. But the truth is: they need us during this time of life. We need to be in their business; we need to know what they're talking about with their friends; we need to be talking about what they're reading and playing, and doing online. The biggest struggles we've had with our kids has always been during this stage of growth. And putting our oils on in the morning (think Valor, Clarity, Envision, Stress Away), rolling up our sleeves, and staying close has been the cure. More family activities and projects (make a fire pit in the back yard, build some shelves together, create some bird houses, sew something, learn a new hobby, etc), hit the woods together for camping or hiking, and so on, can give them good memories, help keep you more aware of what is going on with them, and help them grow into more responsible adults.
- Pull their friends closer - I remember being in junior high and my friends coming over, and whatever household project was going on that weekend, our kids were pulled in and it was never really a question: if you were there, you were going to join in the work. And there are so many of those kids who still come to visit "Nana", join in for holiday meals, share their lives with her, and know that she invited them in and - effectively - made them family.
This is a topic that will come up again - and if you're in the throes of pre-teen-rearing, I would love to hear your tips too. As we band together as parents, perhaps we can better ensure the success and mental, spiritual, and emotional balance of our future generations. If you're in the battle with us... shoot me a message! We'll walk it together, community is as important for us parents as it is for our kids!