Raise your hand if you loved middle school! I mean, you really hit it out of the park as your most confident self with no problems or conflicts whatsoever. Yeah, me neither. Middle school can be a difficult time for our children as they discover who they are and what defines them. (Not to mention a whole lot of hormones and some awkward growth spurts thrown into the mix.) I’m so glad it only lasts a few years, aren’t you? They are, however, a few very critical years. I remember a particularly rough year of middle school when I encountered some bullies on the school bus. I wasn’t much for confrontation back then, so I would turn the other cheek and pray for the ride home to go quickly. I would think, “If I can just get home, I will be okay.”

Home was where I felt loved, understood, and accepted— where who I was made sense, like a perfectly fitted puzzle piece despite my imperfections. It was where I belonged. In many ways, I understood the goodness of God because I felt it first from my parents. I am always amazed how the harsh words and lies of this world so easily chip away at years of strongly formed character and identity. We have our work cut out for us as parents: to battle for the souls of our children.

The earlier you start conversations about identity with your children the better. Talk with them about who they are as members of your own family and what that means. (Perhaps there are rules, values, mottos, and even traits specific to your family.) Also tell them that they are children of God, adopted sons and daughters and heirs to His throne. When they are young it can be as simple as, “I belong to God, and He loves me, just like I belong to Mom and Dad, and they love me.”

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1)

Talk with them about their value as sons and daughters of the King and that they are “fearfully and wonderfully made,” with grand plans and bright futures. Tell them that these truths come from the Bible, and show them how to find the passages themselves. Tell them that the God who created the heavens and the earth loves them and thinks about them every moment of every day. When I was young, these truths rang out in my soul, combatting the lies the world pressed on me. As I matured in my faith I recognized this as the voice of God who, through Jesus Christ, lived in me and was shaping and defining my true identity.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

Make no mistake about it—the world will pull at your middle schooler, and temptation will come seeking to define him or her, saying, “Come this way. Do these things. Be like us.” Teach your sons and daughters that they can always access Christ and His power to overcome evil. Remind them to draw on all they know to be true about themselves and place their confidence in Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of their faith!