Middle school kids present joys and challenges to their friends, parents, teachers, and ministry leaders. It’s all part of the fun and mystery of being around kids who are going through often awkward physical, emotional, and social changes as they continue to bloom and grow as children of God. I mean, we all remember that stage and how challenging it was, right?
Even with that, it’s a great age and stage of life to connect developing cognitive and language skills to faith in positive ways that can support their sense of self and sense of community.
While the words, “thank you” have hopefully been in their vocabulary since they were little ones, actively supporting and practicing two-way gratitude with your middle school youth will affirm they are capable of giving and worthy of receiving thanks – and understanding how that practice fits into their lives of faith.
Give them gratitude
Thank kids for being who they are – the way God created them! Express gratitude for their smile, for their humor, for their heart towards others. These relatively small things may be the most memorable part of their day and something they remember as they struggle through the inevitable changes they are going through at this time.
As a reminder (and an important one – it can be hard in today’s device-driven world!), give middle schoolers your full attention when speaking to them. Ensuring that kids this age feel seen and heard is an act of gratitude that they may not show appreciation for (eye rolls galore, anyone?), but it is something that will be appreciated, even if they don’t vocalize that’s the case.
Help them show gratitude to others
In today’s world, written notes are rare – and priceless. It’s not an act that occurs often – and for your middle schoolers, it can be an easy way for them to show gratitude to those in their lives that they love.
We all know that middle schoolers have a unique and creative sense of humor. Challenge them to create a new way of saying thank you to each other (and you) in non-literal ways. An emoji, a made-up word, or hand signal can help make expressing gratitude more intentional as they keep looking for someone to surprise and thank next, just for being who they are.
Expressing gratitude to God and others is one way of living out the greatest commandment to love God and love others. Practicing two-way gratitude with middle schoolers supports their growth as young adults in the world while celebrating each other as children of God.
Look for more blog posts on giving thanks, practicing gratefulness, and expressing gratitude for all ages this November!