Bikinis, Instagram, and Other Fun Stuff {Hard Conversations with Your Middle Schooler}

#selfie_edited-1“But, Mom, I really don’t understand what the big deal is.” And so began our discussion about swimsuits in specific and modesty in general.

But this isn’t a post about modesty. Or the appropriateness of bikinis, tankinis, or one pieces. This is a post about the things I’m learning as the mom of a middle school girl. As our conversation teetered on the edge of another disastrous blow out, I realized that talking through hard issues is… well, hard.

Truth be told, I feel like I’m becoming an expert in hard conversations. Because, we’ve had a number of them this year. We’ve talked about dating and friend choices and social media, to name a few of the biggies.

Sometimes it wears me out. During this particular conversation about bathing suits and modesty, I realized several things that are helping to shape the way I approach these hard topics.

1. I need to listen. Like really listen – to the issue behind the issue. Madison’s push-back regarding bikinis wasn’t really about bikinis. It looked like a discussion about bathing suits. It felt like a discussion about bathing suits. But, it was actually a discussion about fitting-in.

Part of my job as a middle school mom is to know my daughter and to try to understand the things that impact her. This takes time, energy, and intentional effort. Effort that I don’t always want to give, to be honest. But being a mom means sacrifice. My time in this phase of parenting is not so much consumed with potty training and a bedtime routine that works, like it was 10 years ago. Instead, it’s consumed with a lot of listening and talking through character-shaping issues.

2. I need to adjust my expectations. Because my kids are very mature for their age and are both good thinkers/articulators, I often expect them to act like adults. I assume they know and understand things that are actually beyond them – either because of their developmental stage or because they just haven’t really ever thought it through before.

It might surprise you to learn that the ability to reason and think in principles is actually a developmental process. For example, when you tell your three-year-old not to kick his sister, he does not naturally have the ability to take that principle and apply it to hitting, etc. Moral development is a process that grows with time and catalysts. As a parent, it is my job to help be one of those catalysts… not to get mad because my kids are acting immature!

3. I need to walk a mile in her flip flops. Middle school is hard. Peer pressure is real and social expectations are demanding. It might seem silly to me that she cares so much about a classmate’s Instagram photo at the beach but I need to remember that it’s her world. And, let’s be honest, I have my own social pressures that I cave in to. It shouldn’t be so hard for me to understand what she is feeling.

4. I need to be careful to cling to what is important, not just what I have always thought. When Madison started pressing me on the whole bikini issue, I wanted to dig-in and hold to my position. Which might actually be legit, of course. But I just need to be careful that I understand why I’m holding the line. Is it because I am embracing a false dichotomy, tradition or opinion? Or is it because there is a moral issue here that I believe I must stick to: for her good, or the good of others, or because God’s Word says so? Sometimes we cloak our personal opinions or preferences in God’s Word, turning them into legalisms. As parents we can certainly have preferences and require our children to adhere to them. We just need to be honest with ourselves and clear with our kids about which ones are Biblical and which ones are preference.

5. I need to remember that good questions are not necessarily signs of rebellion. Madison had some legitimate questions about modesty. At first, I didn’t like them. Maybe they made me feel threatened. Maybe she asked them disrespectfully. I suspect it was a little bit of both. But, as we talked it out, I was able to coach her on how to push-back while still honoring mom.

#selfie2

I’m not going to lie. There are days I do these things well and days that I don’t. The days that I don’t, aren’t pretty. And, sometimes even when I do, it still isn’t pretty because her heart is the stubborn one. But, this is the first time I’ve ever been a mom to a middle school girl and I don’t do it perfectly. Because of God’s mercy and grace, I’m OK with that. I’m trusting Him to fill in the gaps where I fall short and to use all of those opportunities to force us both to lean into His grace. I’m praying that Madison and I are being conformed to the image of Christ through the process of each hard interaction. Typing these five reminders was actually a great reminder for me and a great catalyst for some prayer. I hope it does the same for you.

And, let’s not forget that having a middle school daughter is not ALL hard conversations. It’s also a lot of fun. As is evidenced by the plethora of unflattering mother-daughter #selfies we now possess. {wink}

Grace and peace for your middle school mothering,

@In a Mirror Dimly

 

 

6 Summer Projects for Your Tweens & Teens

Are you a mom who dreads the summer months with your teens, fearing the unscheduled time and worrying about them being on their screens too much? Do you feel anxious about the rhythm of packing and unpacking for camp drop-offs and pick-ups in between family vacations?

Imagine being the type of mom who looks at the calendar and sees a blank canvas ready for doing life together, especially with your tweens and teens.

That’s what I’ve asked the Lord to do in me this summer, recognizing that I only have a few years left with my tween and teen at home. I’m so keenly aware that now is the time to make life-time memories, while also seizing the moment to train them up with the skills I’d like to see them take into their future.

Summer Projects for Tweens & TeensSo rather than letting a summer pass without purpose, I’ve come up with six summer projects that I can do with my tween and teen that will enable us to connect while expanding their skill set.

1.  Paint a Room {or Something}

Learning how to paint a room or a piece a furniture is a skill worth having, so look around your home — or maybe a grandparent’s place — for a small space that can be painted in a day with a gallon of paint. This is a low budget project that offers a great reward!  Work with your teen, teaching them how to pick out the paint and supplies as well as prep the space:  clearing out the room, getting the walls ready (Spackle, sand, etc), taping edges, cleaning the floor before painting, etc. And then do the job with them, showing them how to roll, cut in, etc. If painting isn’t a skill you have, watch some tutorials on YouTube and do the research together before you start.

Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 9.22.20 AM

2.  Prepare the Food

How about having your tween or teen plan the family’s menu for a week, or for an upcoming trip, and prepare all the food? Offer them a budget as well as assistance in the shopping and food prep time. Use the process to teach about how to select produce and meat, what unit price really means, shelf life for food, how to determine quantity, measurements, etc. Depending on your son or daughter’s maturity, let them handle as many of the responsibilities as possible. You could even toss in an incentive for an older teen, such as “Here’s the amount we spend on food per week.  If you can fix our meals for less than that amount, without us eating bread and water all week, you can keep what you save.”

3.  Purge Something

I’m guessing that you have a closet, storage room, garage, or cabinets that need some purging and reorganizing. Maybe even your tween or teen has a personal area that needs some TLC — like their dressers, bedroom, or old toy room. Let them pick one space to totally purge and reorganize. Be involved in the process in the beginning, but also give them space to figure it out on their own. You can keep it simple and have them focus on “keep, give, toss” for the space. If there is enough to give away, considering letting them organize a Yard Sale and keep the proceeds for themselves.  Or, if your budget allows, you can let them redesign the area, including painting and creating organizational systems.

4.  Put on a Party or a Small Gathering

Since everyone doesn’t have the gift of hospitality, learning how to put on a party or small gathering is another skill worth developing. Consider hosting a party for a birthday, anniversary, or a milestone celebration, or put on a small “themed” gathering for your tween or teen’s friends or your own friends. Have your son or daugther organize the details, including the invitations, menu, decor, party schedule, and setting up the house as well as clean up. Offer a budget as well as working with them through each step. If you do not have the gift of hospitality, don’t fret. Here’s some help just for you, and ideas for a simple tween party here and here.

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5.  Pick a Project

Is there a project your teen would like to work on, but needs your approval, input, and budget help? Maybe it’s learning a new instrument or developing a new skill, like how to paint with watercolors or write an app for a smart phone. Take your tween or teen out for ice cream and ask them, “What is one thing you’d like to learn how to do this summer?” Help them brainstorm and offer your support in the process, making a timeline and setting attainable goals.

6.  Plan for the Future

This one is definitely the most serious of projects, but worth the investment of time. Have your tween or teen begin the process of preparing for their future — specifically their college years — by creating for themselves a College Bound Checklist & Portfolio (CBC&P).  They can do this either in a binder or notebook, or online using Google Docs, which they can share with you. Their CBC&P can be divided into sections based by grade-level, with a “to do” list for each year. We’re using the Countdown to College: 21 To Do List for High School as our guide. Your teen can also include in their CBC&P a list of college scholarship opportunities (something that can be researched throughout the summer), college picks, and a record of their volunteering, work experiences, and awards throughout high school.

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What summer projects are you doing with your tween or teen?

How are you using side-by-side experiences to connect with your teens while they are still at home and train up skills they’ll need in their future?

Shine Bright,

Elisa

moretobe.com & elisapulliam.com

 

For more ideas on how to connect with your tween or teen, especially a daughter, visit moretobe.com.

 

Navigating the Rough Waters of Girlhood Friendship: Suggestions for Smooth Sailing

 navigating the rough waters of girlhood friendship

Navigating adult friendship is hard, but steering one’s way through the tumultuous times of girlhood friendship?  It can be harrowing!  Honestly, it’s a miracle that I’m still alive to tell about it!

It’s no secret that friendship – at any age – can be a spring of immense joy; but also, it can be a source of terrible pain.

And while, like us, our daughters must find their own way along the friendship journey, my prayer is that we will pass along every gem of wisdom we’ve gleaned as guidance to make the path a little less painful and a lot more joy-filled.

Here are a few of the discussions my daughter and I have shared over the last couple of years:

Feeling left out? Reach out.

First, it is normal to feel left out, so don’t think that you’re weird for feeling this way. Most of your friends have felt, are feeling, or will feel this way, too.

Second, making friends means putting yourself out there. Sometimes, you have to be the one to organize the sleepover or the trip to the park or the bike ride.

Your new friends will thank you for “breaking the ice” and reaching out; and if they don’t become new friends? That’s okay, too.  You are not going to connect with everyone.

Recognize {and replace} feelings of jealousy.

If you’re friends with more than one person (and hopefully you are), then there may be times when you’ll want to spend one-on-one time with a girlfriend.  Great!  In fact, that is awesome because you’ll probably get to know her on a deeper level by spending time alone.

However, keep in mind that your friends may do the same thing.  For example, two of your friends may get together without you

When this happens, you may feel a little jealous — even hurt — that you didn’t get invited.  Simply recognize the jealousy and choose to replace it with excitement for your friends.  Choose to be happy for them because they’re getting an opportunity to know each other better.  Choose to thank God for the friendship you have with each of them, and pray that He strengthens their bond, too.

Note that these won’t be easy choices, but they are choices you can and should make because good friends hope and pray only the best for one another.

Seek God in times of loneliness.

You may go through seasons of loneliness.  This is normal. For whatever reason (a move, a schedule change, a divorce, etc.) there may be a period of time when you are unable to connect with your friends.  Use the time to develop a deeper friendship with God, and talk to Him about your loneliness.

Avoid friendship labels.

Using terms such as “BFF” or “bestie” is trendy, but I contend that it can be inadvertently harmful to existing and/or potential friendships.  I suggest to my daughter that when referring to a friend she use phrases such as “close friend” or “one of my good friends.”

I’ve written about why I don’t think we should have “best” friends, and my daughter, age 12, recently expressed how this advice encouraged her to widen her circle of close friends as opposed to excluding everyone else and putting pressure on only one person to be her “best” friend.

Be friendly with everyone, but share your heart with few.

Everyone deserves to be treated with kindness and love — even those people with whom we would never share our deepest secrets.

However, not everyone deserves to hear our most intimate thoughts.  We must be wise in choosing our closest friends, and not everyone can be trusted with our innermost feelings and ideas.

Don’t talk negatively about others.

Recently, my daughter received a text with the ever-ominous question: Do you like her? in reference to an acquaintance they both knew.  Even though the particular girl in question has posed a bit of a struggle for my daughter, she wisely responded: Yes, she is my friend.  This response shut the door to negative gossip that could have ensued.

We must encourage our daughters to avoid negative discussion about others, even if the discussion may seem warranted. And we should equip them with tools to end conversations that begin to go down a negative road.

These are just a few of the lessons I’ve passed along to my daughter.  What advice do you have to share with young girls today who are in the midst of navigating their way through girlhood friendship journeys?

Looking forward to hearing your counsel,

Rhonda

Kids and Technology (Finding the Balance)

Kids and Technology

Can I play Minecraft on the ipad?

Lydia wants to know if she can do Starfall on your computer?
Can we play Wii for 15 min.?
Can I text Anna back because she asked a question?
After dinner can we watch a show tonight?
David asked if I can follow him on Instagram?

My nightmare.
Well, one of them anyway.

There are times when I’d love to just get rid of it all.
There’s a reason I returned the iphone my husband bought me a couple of years ago.
I have a definite love-hate-relationship with technology and all things screen-ish.
And yes, I get the irony of sharing this in a post as I type away staring at a screen.
My tendency would be to bury my head in the sand and just wish it’d all go away.

But—there has to be a balance—right?
And that’s part of our job—
To help our children find the balance and to help them learn how to keep it,
To help them learn to use technology and all things media for the glory of God.

First We Must Look at Avoiding the Dangers and Negative Impacts of Technology:

1) Overuse:
There’s a definite tendency for overuse. And that’s a real possibility for all of us. Screen attachment can become a borderline addiction (or real for some) and we must set limits when it comes to using technology and screen time.  The balance will be different for every family and should be age appropriate.

Exceptions are made as needed, but in general, as a family, we have some guidelines that have eliminated the need for constant decision making about usage.  When it comes to television, we watch a weekly show together on Thursday nights and then after evening chores are complete, our crew is allowed to watch something for half an hour while we are waiting for dad to get home (for us that is 6 to 6:30). Unless it’s a special occasion– online games or Wii games are reserved for the weekends and this has eliminated the requests for permission that were driving me bonkers.  For now, we also have decided that devices will not travel with the kids to most social functions (church, Bible study, friends’ houses etc.).

I’m not at all suggesting this is what every family should do, but the point is to have an actual usage plan.

2) Safety:
Dangers lurk on every corner when it comes to technology and this is an important discussion to have with our children.  As parents we need to explain why it’s important to never share personal information or open emails/photos from strangers and why downloads need to have approval.

There is wisdom in keeping computers and devices centrally located and for putting safeguards in place to protect our children.  Pornography is just one unintentional click away.  We must make safety a priority.
This recent article has excellent suggestions specific to creating a porn-free family plan.

In our home, our kids’ profiles must be kept private and they are not allowed to accept friend requests from people they don’t know.  And until they are a bit older and wiser, we’ve asked them not to search and click on unknown sites without our permission.  A central family docking station, ensures that all devices are accounted for.  Open communication is huge when it comes to safety…our children need to feel comfortable coming to us if something negative happens online whether intentional or unintentional.

3) Costly Words:
Words have the ability to cause great damage and it’s so easy to quickly make a comment online without realizing the hurtful impact.  It is important to explain that a text, email, comment, or post is often irretrievable and that “when there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise” (Proverbs 10:19).  As a family, studying James is a great place to start when discussing how death and life are in the power of the tongue.

4) Missed Opportunities:
The choice to engage in screen time is also a choice to not do something else. Technology often replaces good conversation and face to face relationship building. It can isolate family members from one another and it can lead to a loss of other interests.  When we start noticing that our children are choosing screen time regularly over other activities, that’s usually when we implement a technology Sabbath.

5) Lack of Courtesy:
It’s also important to stress courtesy when it comes to all things screen.  And sometimes it’s as simple as the basics– when you are in the company of someone else, it’s unkind to be glued to your phone.  If there’s any opportunity for conversation, it’s rude to not make eye contact and engage.  These are words we must preach to ourselves as well.

docking station

Then We Must Encourage the Positive Aspects of Technology:

1) Building relationships and friendships:
Technology creates a wonderful opportunity for building connections and encouraging others.  If we can help our children view it in this light, technology can be a blessing in their lives and in the lives of others.  We want to help them consider:  Who can I encourage with my comments?  What friendships can I strengthen by online connections?  What family members or friends can I reach out to?

2) Developing Skills/Creativity:
Creativity is limitless when it comes to technology and it’s important to encourage our children to develop skills in this area.  Many excellent typing, programming, and coding programs are available.  Our boys enjoy stop motion and creating videos.  All of our children enjoy photography.  These are skills and interests that God can use in their lives and we want to encourage their curiosity and delight in these areas.

3) Sharing the Gospel:
Technology offers incredible opportunities for sharing about Jesus’ rescue mission to save us, bring us forgivingness and how He made a way for us to live in deep, real relationship with God.  We want our children to approach technology with a heart to “(make) the most of every opportunity” (Eph. 5:16).

4) Keeping us in the tension:
It might be easier to just do away with it all, but instead we have to listen for God’s whisper that we may be out-of-balance or over-balanced or missing– Balance.

It might be simpler if God just gave us Commandment #11– Do not use Facebook.
But instead, He gives us a relationship where we must come to Him regularly, willing to lay it all, all the techno-everything-options, at His disposalTechnology and all things “screen” create this opportunity for our children as well.

I am sure there are many other positives and negatives that I haven’t considered…
And I’d love to hear your thoughts or suggestions below in the comments.

For now though, I’ll just admit that I did eventually get a smartphone.
Smile.
And truthfully, I use it, enjoy it, and find it very helpful.
But it’s a constant battle to keep the balance.

And it’s in that place of tension that I want our children to stay…
Where they are constantly asking–

How can I use this _________ (insert your device of choice) to bring glory to God?

Our God is a God who redeems.

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.” ~Psalm 24:1

With Love,
Kara @ The Chuppies

This post is part of our series Finding Balance as a Busy Mom. 

Please check the series page for all of the posts! 

Finding Balance as a Busy Mom

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