Every phase has unique cultural changes. But you can’t discover everything you need to know about the culture of childhood and adolescence in a book. By the time a book is printed, culture has changed.
The only way for you to learn some of what you need to know is to go to their movies, read their books, watch their TV shows, follow their favorite celebrities, listen to their music, and most importantly, show up where they show up. From time to time, you might even find yourself at an elementary talent show, a middle school football game, or a high school play. Think of it as research.
There are other changes in a kid’s world that are much more predictable than cultural change. Every phase has its own predictable crisis. These crises help shape our identity because they give us an opportunity to navigate new challenges.
In high school, teenagers refine their unique abilities and develop a sense of purpose. The way a high schooler resolves the “Where,” “Why,” “How,” and “What” questions of life provides a compass for navigating the high schooler’s future direction.
It affects the way they pursue community, live out a personal ethic, and contribute to a greater mission. The best way to resolve a high schooler’s relational questions is to mobilize the high schooler’s potential.
Practically speaking, here’s how to do that:
Where Do I Belong?
Freshmen are looking for a new tribe. When adults connect teens with similar interests, teens value community.
Why Should I Believe?
Sophomores want to challenge the limits. When adults listen carefully and respond with questions, teens clarify values.
How Can I Matter?
Juniors are ready to make a difference—now. When adults provide consistent opportunities to lead and serve, teens refine skills.
What Will I Do?
Seniors want to know where they are headed. When adults encourage experiences and simplify options, teens create vision.
This is why kids and teenagers need adults who will discover their world. They need adults who understand and respond accordingly to the crisis of every phase.
When you understand the crisis of every phase, you respond with relationships that meet a kid’s most basic needs. And you give kids a healthy foundation for future relationships. Relationships bring clarity.
Relationships create a safe place to resolve who we are. When kids see themselves the way a loving adult sees them, it changes how they see themselves.
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