Middle schoolers are real people. I know that may shock some readers, but it’s true. I’ve actually heard grown adults call middle schoolers “pre-people”. Besides being incredibly demeaning, it implies that young teens aren’t dealing with real life issues yet. Part of this stems from the difficulty middle schoolers have with communicating what’s going on underneath the surface.
I thought I would let you into my world to show you that middle schoolers are facing really difficult situations. Over the past month I’ve become aware of a number of issues that middle schoolers I know are dealing with right now.
Homosexuality – We have a student who just came out to the world via social media. They stopped coming to our group a few weeks ago just before it became public. Our leadership team is figuring out how to show the love of Christ while helping them find their true identity in Jesus.
Self-Harm – I know of multiple students, from great families by the way, who are expressing their emotional struggles by harming themselves. We are walking with the parents to reinforce constructive ways of dealing with their emotions and bringing hope through the Gospel.
Drugs/alcohol – I have students who get offered marijuana EVERY single day at school. Other students have been caught sneaking alcohol at a friends house. One teacher from a local middle school tells me all the time that a handful of students regularly show up to class drunk. Our students are self-medicating to escape and they have access to whatever substance they want.
Pornography – Most teens are exposed to pornography in the middle school years and addiction is common. In addition, I know of students who have consumed pornography that is violent in nature. My heart breaks for those who’s view of sexuality is so distorted.
Family roles – There are students who have to play the parent role for their families because mom or dad can’t or won’t act like the grown-up. They live in a dual world where schools treat them like kids and yet they have to perform as adults at home.
I could really go on and on. The point is this. Your middle schoolers are hurting NOW. They are facing real life NOW. The more you understand this the less satisfied you’ll be with playing babysitter. Middle schoolers need adults who will shine the light of Christ into the convoluted, dark, broken world they are living in every single day.
It all starts with listening. Start asking probing questions to your middle schoolers and listen for the subtle and not-so-subtle clues that show you that there is more going on. After all, young teens are real people, too.
Kevin Libick is a Middle School Pastor living in Fort Worth, TX with his wife Kara and her two cats. He is a novice banjo picker and expert Hawaiian food eater. Kevin loves to connect with other youth workers and equip them to live out their calling in God’s Kingdom. Kevin loves to connect with and empower youth workers. Connect with Kevin on Twitter: @kevinlibick