As I was laying in bed one morning, next to my daughter who had stolen her mothers iPhone, I heard a familiar voice. (My daughter is only 2 but knows how to find the PBS app where she can watch a variety of kid shows…scary!). I quickly realized that it was the voice of Dave Matthews. Now, you must know that I am a HUGE Dave Matthews Band fan! You can’t beat his long jam sessions…c’mon!
But this was not just Dave Matthews, this was Dave Matthews on Sesame Street with Grover. That morning, Dave and Grover pointed out something that many Middle Schoolers deal with: expressing emotion. Both Grover and Dave could not express WHAT they were feeling. They knew that they were angry but felt inadequate in expressing it, that is, until they sang. Watch this and try not to sing it the rest of the day:
Junior High students have a very difficult time expressing what they feel. Sometimes they need help finding “words to say how their feeling today.” As their brains develop, they move from concrete expression to more abstract expression. In the book Middle School Ministry by Mark Oestreicher & Scott Rubin, MarkO states it like this:
“Children and preteens, with their limited cognitive options (meaning, their more literal, concrete thinking), are like painters holding color palettes containing the primary colors and one ore two others. Sure, they can mix colors on the canvas, but those brush strokes are often unintentional at best.
Emotions are abstract. More accurately: Thinking about emotions, or being self-aware of one’s emotions, is even more abstract.
Imagine that preteen painter with her little limited color palette. Then, without her actually realizing it, someone takes that color palette away and replaces it with a significantly larger palette, one that’s preloaded with a huge assortment of colors.” -MarkO
This seems to be what Grover, and Dave Matthews, are wrestling with. This is what your Middle Schoolers are dealing with. They have a flood of emotions yet have very little understanding on how to express those emotions. This is where you come in. As a Youth Worker, you can help students verbalize what they are feeling. When they experience anger, you can help them process it. When they experience life transformation through Jesus Christ, you can help them express it. MarkO calls us “emotional language tutors.”
Your junior high students aren’t just quiet because they are bored, they are literally without words! Become a good listener. Become a good question asker. Become an emotional interpreter. Let students know it’s okay to feel confusion and normal to not know what to say.
So here are my questions for you. How are you:
1. Helping Middles Schoolers understand and verbalize their feelings?
2. Helping your volunteers understand this stage of development so they can ask the right questions?
Kevin Libick recently posted on this also: Middle School Guys Have Feelings Too
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.theyouthministryblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Photo-on-2-20-13-at-4.14-PM.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Texas native, Texas Tech Red Raider, M.Div. at Truett Seminary, husband to Ashley, father to Ava & Ben, Student Pastor at LifePoint Church in Plano, Tx, table tennis (ping-pong) extraordinaire, addicted to coffee. For anything else…you’ll just have to ask, Email David.[/author_info] [/author]