As a youth leader at my church, I’m privy to the world of middle school boys. On a weekly basis, I get to hear about their favorite music, current trends, and what’s happening inside their schools.
Because of the trust we’ve developed, the kids also tell me about their fears, concerns, and anxieties. One day while we were casually chatting, I asked the boys what they worried about. At first they were a bit tentative, but soon they flooded me with various issues that were on their minds.
Top 5 Concerns of Middle School Boys:
1. Being accepted by peers.
Boys have a strong desire to fit in and will do almost anything to get other kids to like them—even to their own detriment. No one wants to be an outcast, so middle school boys are often willing to hang on to destructive relationships just to have a friend.
As parents, we must talk about and model the Golden Rule (treating others the way we want to be treated) and respect at home, so our children can use that as a standard when interacting with their peers.
2. Disappointing their parents.
Although it sometimes feels as if our boys don’t value our opinion of them, nothing could be further from the truth. Teenagers want their parents’ approval and fear disappointing them. They want their parents to be proud of them. They want to hear their parents’ tell them they’ve done a good job.
While some days it may be challenging to find something nice to say about our confrontational, rebellious son, we have to do it—every day. Extend them a little grace and give them some encouraging words. Those kind words may be the only ones they’ve heard that day.
3. Coping with divorce.
When kids hear their parents’ arguing, they get nervous. They’ve seen the devastation caused by divorce in their friends’ lives, and they don’t want to experience it themselves. About half of the boys in my group have divorced parents, and it seems as if more couples are getting divorced each week.
During one of my mentoring sessions, I noticed one the boys with his head on the table. I found it odd because the young man was usually fully engaged in our conversations. Before we left, I pulled him aside and asked what was wrong. He sighed and stared at his shoes. “My parents just got a divorce,” he said.
Kids usually don’t understand why parents are getting a divorce and many times blame themselves. The school guidance counselor or a minister at church are great resources to make this transition easier on their children.
4. Having enough money.
Middle school boys may seem to have no concept of money, but they are quite attuned to their family’s financial situation. A few of my boys’ parents have experienced layoffs and even foreclosures. Their fears go deeper than not being able to afford the latest tech gadget. They are genuinely worried about making sure that their basic needs are met.
While it’s good for teens to have some understanding of the family’s budget, as parents we have to be careful about over sharing adult information and concerns with our children.
For example, telling your teenager he can’t have a phone because it’s not in the budget is a great life lesson. However, telling your child that you don’t know how you’re going to pay the rent and you’re going to wind up living on the street, is probably too much information and a conversation better suited for another adult.
5. Being bullied.
The issue of bullying is a huge problem for many kids. Several of my boys admitted to being bullied on at least one occasion. Some of them were able to confront the bully and make the bully stop; others continue to suffer from the abuse.
Parents must keep the lines of communication open with their children and take changes in behavior seriously. If your extroverted teen suddenly stops talking, it’s time to do some detective work and figure out what’s causing the change. Expecting your child to handle it may not always be a realistic expectation. Take this issue seriously and intervene with the school or other parents when necessary.
When our kids hit middle school, they do everything in their power to convince us as parents that they don’t need us anymore. But don’t believe the hype. Our teenagers need us more now than ever; they’re too grown up to admit it.