Our younger daughter is only 13 and loves to make friends. This is great except once she becomes friends with someone,, she cares so deeply she starts to take and internalize any struggles or pain they may be going through. Brad and I had no idea how deep her stress was until Christmas day when I felt prompted to check on her and found her with many many cuts on her upper legs. She had held her stress and worries and pain in so much she wasn't sure how to overcome the struggle. Cutting became her answer and to our surprise we have come to learn cutting seems to be the coping mechanism of choice for her generation. This is a straight A, talented, beautiful, compassionate and obedient young woman. She has parents who are happily married and has great support. And yet it still happened. If you are reading this and you think all is well with your teen...take time to dig deeper, ask more pointed questions, read your teen's texts messages, emails and keep track of them on social media. You will quickly learn what type of friends are influencing your teen. There may be nothing to worry about, but what if there is? Then you start talking and talking and talking some more. You watch differently and pray harder. You gather as a family and support your teen (or as in our family....teens).
There have been many tears from all of us and many sleepless nights. But we are also gaining a stronger relationship, a greater understanding of what our teen and others face at school every single day.
Here is what we have found out about life of a middle school student. Not all of this has happened to our daughter but all of it is happening to someone's daughter or son.
- Boys are asking girls out, asking them for nude photos or even sex and when the girl keeps saying No No No....the boy says "If you don't go out/ send me the photo/have sex with me I am going to kill myself." Pure manipulation!!!
- Then we have boys who use their sad life (and I am sure their lives are sad at home...too many reports of abuse and neglect etc) to manipulate a girl they like by getting their attention through their "poor me" verbiage. The boys cut their arms or stomachs to deal with their pain but then they tell the girl they like all the details and they tell her they just want to die.
So if the girl is like my girls they worry and stress over what to do, how to fix him, how to help him. But truthfully their young minds don't realize....they don't have the power to "fix" or "help". The only power they have is to tell. Telling an adult who can then call upon the people who have the power to help. My girls are learning not to allow boys to manipulate them emotionally in this way and they are talking and telling and then Brad and I talk and tell the people who have the power to do something
The words said to students by their peers at the middle school is horrible.
- One teen is talking in class and another teen decides to say "Shut up! Go die in a hole!".
- Phrases like "oh, look at it!" will seep through a mean boy's lips as he and his friends laugh at the girls expense.
- Girls are gossiping about other girls, spreading rumors and lies.
I have watched my girls grow stronger the past 3 weeks. Brenley is getting out of her shell and being much more social and worrying a little less about everything. Haley is starting to see she is worth more than what her friends have given her and she is making new friends. Both my girls are getting help and moving forward. Our whole family is in the process of learning and healing. We are pulling back from things that are not as important and choosing our family. We only have one shot at this and we hope to do it right! With the Lord's help we know we will get through this stronger and more unified!!
As our family has talked through the issues we are facing we have developed a new phrase.
So as a friend to most of my readers I am telling and sharing with you the few things I have quickly learned the past few weeks. As I learn more I will share more. I write this post with permission from my daughters and husband. These are hard trials and writing is my coping skill. It is our family's hope that this post and others to come will help your family.
*Note to family: We would rather not go over this again on the phone or through a message. Please send your prayers and positive support but please don't call to call to talk about this. We are coping..and writing is my way of doing that. (Grandparents excluded in this).