I sent this to our parents in our weekly parent email today, it’s a new series on helping parents disciple/counsel their kids through the tough stuff.

Over the past few weeks I have had multiple conversations with parents who are dealing with difficult issues. In the midst of these conversations I came to the realization that it would be beneficial to equip and empower you to disciple your sons and daughters through the rough seas of middle school. For the next few weeks we will tackle a different issue common to middle schoolers in a series called “Tough Stuff”. I’ll post the others as we send them out to parents over the coming weeks.

Tough Stuff # 1 – “My friends define me.”
The Symptoms – The number one issue middle schoolers deal with is letting friends define them. A students struggling with these issues could have two sets of symptoms. Some will express feeling isolated or alone or, in other words, “No one likes me”. They will obsess over which of their peers is really their “best friend” at the moment. They are constantly worried that if they mess up, no one will be their friend. Others will have close friends, but will let those friends talk them into doing things they know isn’t right. In 8th grade I let my friends Brian and Kenny talk me into kicking down trashcans in an entire neighborhood. I was stupid, but their approval meant the world to me. You see this in your children when they are willing to compromise their integrity to go along with the crowd.

The Root Cause – Even though the symptoms seem like two different issues, the root is still the same. Your son or daughter is looking to their peers to define and complete them. Acceptance is the idol of their heart. If they don’t have a friend to tell them that they belong or are worthy of love, they won’t be satisfied. They have put their trust in their friends instead of in God. In a sense they are hoping that their friends’ apporval will “save them”. Only God can fulfill our desires to be accepted because only he can love without failing.

The Gospel Solution – God’s grace is infinite. He sees our sin and still welcomes us completely (Romans 5:8). As Christians, we are adopted into God’s family, never to be rejected (Romans 8:15). Finally, on the cross Jesus took our stain of sin upon himself and was rejected by His people, yet he remains faithful to us. When your middle schooler takes this truth to heart they can face the loneliness of middle school with strength and joy because they know that the One that really matters has loved and accepted them completely.