Recommended at age 11+
Discuss the changes and challenges of adolescence with your child.
During the transition from childhood to adolescence, kids begin to desire to create an identity for themselves. They might define themselves by their activities, academic interests, clothing choices, or friend groups. These marks of identity will likely change fairly often during the next few years, as young people are constantly asking the question of themselves and others—Who am I? As parents, we can help to guide our children toward a secure and truth-based identity rooted in faith in Jesus. The more our kids begin to see themselves as one who is created, accepted, and loved by God, the less important those other labels will become.
Identity in God’s Story
Author Michelle Anthony encourages parents to help their children answer two key questions: Who did God create me to be? What part will I play in God’s big story? It is important for all of us to understand we are part of a bigger story—one in which God himself is the main character. As we join God in his big story, he will give us a role to play. Discovering our role can be very exciting, and it can also keep us from thinking the story is only about us!
God is FOR You!
It is crucial for a child to understand that the God of the universe is on their side. Scripture is loaded with stories and examples of all the times and ways God fights for his people. Even when we sin, God is for us. So often when kids “mess up” they assume God is fighting against them. The reality is, God may be fighting against sin, but that is because he’s fighting for you!
Identity in Christ
Young people need to know they are accepted in Christ, secure in Christ, and significant in Christ. Scripture is rich with these truths. (See John 15:15; Romans 8:1; Romans 8:16-17; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 1:4-7; Ephesians 2:10; Colossians 1:13-14; Colossians 1:21-22; and many more!) During the years of early adolescence, your child will need to hear these messages over and over again. Be creative with communicating God’s truth to your child daily, both intentionally and informally. Fill your home with reminders—for your child, and for yourself, too!
God has given your child unique strengths and gifts to be used for his special purposes. The preteen years are a perfect time to encourage self-discovery. Acknowledge your child’s natural abilities and value their uniqueness. Encourage other respected adults to talk to your child about the strengths they observe. Consider helping your child to take a Spiritual Gifts or a StrengthsFinder assessment. Use extracurricular activities to explore identity in a healthy and balanced way—and be sure to emphasize character development over achievement.
Words of blessing
Our words carry enormous weight. Our kids will remember forever how we define them. Be prepared for your child to fail, and be ready to help them get back on track with patience and grace. Whatever you do, don’t allow your child to identify themselves by a failure! God’s mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23), and as parents we reflect the mercy of God. Think about the words of blessing you want your child to remember for years to come. My dad/mom always said _______. Repeat these blessings often!! Your messages are helping to shape your child’s identity, for better or for worse.
Sticky Faith by Kara Powel and Chap Clark
Spiritual Parenting by Michelle Anthony
The Me I Want to Be by John Ortberg