Pimples. Bullying.Social media. Screen time. Sports. Homework. Menstruation. Sibling rivalries. Romance.Breakups. Success. Failure. Wet dreams. Facial hair.
How any child makes it into adulthood is a miracle! (How any parent survives their child moving into adulthood is a miracle!)
On top of the challenges our children face as they move through the teen years, they also begin to wrestle with the big questions of life:
Why am I here?
What’s my purpose in life?
Am I worth loving?
They may not use those words. Their questions may come out more practically:
What am I good at? Math? Science? Acting? Singing?
How can I make more friends?
Why do I have such a hard time making friends?
What’s happening to my body?
Thankfully, as all wise parents know, you aren’t on your own. For those willing to look, there area variety of parent-helping, kid-shaping assets most parents can tap into:
Religious leaders and communities.
Podcasts (like The Wonder of Parenting Podcast: A Brain-ScienceApproach to Parenting)
Think HarryPotter. Percy Jackson. The Chronicles of Narnia. The Hobbit.
These books, and books like them, take our middle-school-aged children (and our younger and older kids) on an adventure into adulthood. Characters, about the same age as our children, find themselves, like our children, trying to figure out how to navigate the pre-teen and early teen years.
Through the power of these stories our kids begin to learn important lessons about the adventure of life.
Author Jen Petro-Joy says it this way:
Middle schoolers aren’t just toddlers with a few more inches on them. They’re not mini adults, either. Kids in middle school are unique beings, caught in that utterly amazing and uncomfortable space between carefree childhood and responsibility-laden adulthood. They’re starting to question their beliefs and their place in the world. They’re developing and refining their personalities and pushing back against their parents. They’re figuring out where they stand in their peer groups.
And often, even with people all around them, they feel utterly alone. That’s why books are so important. In books, readers can find people just like them. They can see how others navigated struggles and solved problems. They can brain storm what might work for them and what might be a bad idea altogether. They can see that growing up may be hard—that it may seem almost intolerable at times—but that they can get through it. It might be messy and the process might not be wrapped up in a pretty bow with a perfectly crafted ending—but growing up without falling apart is possible.
That they can do it, too.
In a world shaped far too much by agitation-and-anxiety-inducing social media, hooking our children on engaging, compelling books will serve them well for the rest of their lives.
I wrote The Adventures of Toby Baxter in the hope of adding yet another coming of age story that will help engage our kids with wisdom as they mover from childhood into adulthood.