My oldest daughter is in her last year of elementary school. She's been with the same group of kids since kindergarten. Her place in the fifth-grade social order is firmly fixed. She's the "sporty" girl -- the one who only wears jeans and T-shirts, puts her hair in a pony tail and can keep up with the boys at recess soccer. The funny thing is that my daughter loves fashion. She loves to dress up at home and create unique outfits. Her favorite video game is one where she owns her own boutique and has to dress customers. She has a great eye for style, but you would never know it by the way she looks when she walks out the door for school.
Last night, she was messing around with her clothes before she went to bed. She tried out a couple of cute outfits and did her hair. I commented on how pretty she is and asked her why she liked to hide it at school. Apparently, she's worked hard at her playground soccer reputation and her clothing is part of her image.
We spent a little time talking about how middle school is an opportunity to change how others see her. It's a new school with lots of new kids who don't already know her. She can be whoever she wants to be.
These late elementary school and early middle school years are tough. It's the age at which our kids -- boys and girls -- are trying to figure out who they are and who they want to be. We call them "tweens" because they are in that stage "between" childhood and being a teenager. It's a time of discovery and learning. It can also be painful and heartbreaking.
No matter the age of our kids, they need to know they are loved -- both by us and by God. They also need to know that God is making them into all that He wants them to be, and every creation of God is beautiful. When your kids are frustrated with who they are or are so busy wanting to be older that they can't appreciate where they are, remind them that "becoming" is a process. It's one we can't speed up, and it's one that can sometimes be painful.
- Find a picture of a butterfly coming out of its chrysalis. Talk with your kids about how a butterfly starts as a fuzzy caterpillar, then goes into its chrysalis and emerges a beautiful butterfly. Butterflies have to fight their way out of the chrysalis, but you should never help a butterfly to get out. Only the struggle to free themselves gives the butterfly enough strength in its wings to be able to fly. Talk with your kids about how growing up is sometimes like being a butterfly. It can be tough, but in the end, God creates a beautiful you.
- Share Ecclesiastes 3:11 with your kids. " He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end." Ask your kids to think of things that God has made that don't start out looking beautiful but end up pretty. Flowers are just green stalks when they sprout out of the ground, yet they provide beautiful color. Trees are barren in winter, yet they spring forth in bud and bloom when the weather warms. Talk about how this verse relates to us. Explain that God is always making us beautiful. Our beauty comes from letting God's love shine through us, not from some outer trappings.
- The next time you see a rainbow or a beautiful sunset, point it out to your kids. Talk about its beauty, and talk about how the beauty just showed up. We couldn't see it earlier in the day, but all the things that happened weatherwise during the day combined to make the sunset or the rainbow. Explain that the same thing happens with people. God uses all of our experiences and personalities to create something beautiful.
No matter the age of your kids, help them recognize that they are becoming something beautiful. God wants them to be who He made them to be. Sometimes that process is confusing and can even be painful, but beauty is the result.