One of the most mystifying things that a husband and wife can go through begins when their child enters middle school. Couples start hearing things like, “Uh, Mom, not to hurt your feelings or anything, but don’t go clothes shopping for me anymore, okay? Just drop me at the mall with some money.” Wow, that can be painful to hear!
Well, in most cases, there’s nothing wrong and that’s perfectly natural. Our kids have to go through a developmental identity-seeking stage to become a healthy adult. If you feel like you seem to be chasing after the elusive close relationship you remember having with your little one, well then, keep reading.
So much happens in just a few short years, doesn’t it? We know our kids need to find their own identity and “build their own castle.” The problem is, the only building blocks they have to build with are ours, because our identity is the only one they’ve ever known. So if they want to build something of their own, they have to question everything. It’s like they suddenly pull apart every value, opinion, and preference that we’ve used to build our castles and question whether or not they want it to be part of their own. It can be scary for a parent!
My co-author Lisa Rice and I surveyed over 1,200 teens for our book For Parents Only, and found out that it’s not just the parents who are scared. Despite the barbs, the lippy-ness, and the pulling away, there’s usually a very insecure kid inside, desperately trying to figure out who she is.
Lisa gave me a great example: “One of my daughters was frustrated one day and said, ‘I don’t feel like I’m the best at anything…not my sport, my music, my job, or my grades. It’s like I don’t have anything that’s clearly me!’ So I shared something I’d once heard from Mike Bickle. I drew a diagram – a little circle surrounded by a bigger one. I labeled the different places around the outer circle with words like appearance, talents, friends, grades, and so on, and then asked her to mark the areas that were bothering her.”
“I said, ‘The labels in this outer ring are where many people look for their identity. If necessary, God will allow pain in those areas to push us to this center circle, which is our core identity: that we are lovers of God, beloved of God, and we abide in the heart of a God who adores us. If we try to base our identity on any of these other aspects, we’ll become frustrated; but we’ll find contentment when we focus on our real identity.’ My daughter said, ‘Wow, that’s exactly what I needed.’”
During these years when our kids are trying to figure out who they are, it is imperative for us to point them to their identity in God, and it is also so important to realize that as much as we want to, we can’t push our building blocks into their castle.
Instead, we need to answer their questions and let them work through it instead of getting defensive. I promise you, if we do that, they will be much more likely to involve us in the process.