But in order to leverage the opportunities of each phase, you have to show up for it. That may sound obvious, but it can be incredibly challenging at the same time.
It’s easy to get stuck in the phase that came before. It’s baffling at times when you realize your child isn’t the same person you thought you knew last year. When their interests change, or their preferences change, it can be hard to keep up. (Of course, if you have a seventh grader, they will probably let you know pretty fast when you make this mistake).
It’s easy to rush into the phase that should come later. Maybe it’s because we’re ready to watch a new movie, read a new book, or play a new game, so we stretch the age-limit just a touch. Maybe it’s because—lets face it—if we can get our son to shoot a basketball through a ten-foot goal when he’s six, we’ve earned serious bragging rights. But childhood isn’t meant to be rushed. If we’re always in a hurry to get to the next phase, we can miss what is unique about the phase our kids are currently in.
In middle school, kids need you to show up so they know you know them now. In middle school life turns upside down. Similar to the toddler years, life change is happening at an expedited rate and emotions are pushed to their extremes. The best thing you can give a middle schooler is your predictable presence in the middle of their changing reality. You show up to rediscover them again (and again, and again) in order to prove to them that they are worth knowing and worth showing up for.
In high school, kids need you to show up so they know you will be there when they need you. One of the greatest myths we could ever buy into is that high schoolers don’t need or want adults. The truth is, they don’t think they need adults when things seem to be going well. But inevitably there will be days when they do need someone. And the only way to be there when they need you is to prove that you care about them even when they think they don’t need you. So keep proving you care. Keep showing up when they push you away so they know you will be there when they need to talk.
So, whatever phase your child is in, remember there is something remarkable happening right now. This phase won’t last forever. Don’t rush the clock. Don’t wish away the moments you have. It’s just a phase…don’t miss it.