In our group counseling sessions at Daystar, we have around six girls who regularly attend second-to-fourth- and fifth-to-sixth-grade groups. In the group for seventh and eighth graders, we have fifteen. Why does this happen? Because middle school is the time when these relational longings begin to surface.
In elementary school, girls want friends. They want to have friends over, and they want to be invited to slumber parties. They even cry, at times, when they are not included. They may have "boyfriend" relationships that last about an hour at school. These girls are already experiencing and investing in relationships.
I (Sissy) counsel a precious, precocious fourth grader named Erin. As Erin and I talked during our first session, she told me about several girls in her class who had made fun of her—for her shoes (which happened to be red and green striped Converse high-top tennis shoes). We discussed the fact that these girls were most likely jealous—and they didn't feel good enough about themselves to wear anything that might be different. We talked about the fact that difference is really a good thing.
A few weeks later, the class cross-stitched Christmas gifts for their moms. Erin's mom came in to tell me about what Erin had made for her. Most of the kids did obvious things like "I love you" or "Merry Christmas." Erin, on the other hand, wisely cross-stitched the words, "Difference is beauty."
In middle school, girls often stop thinking difference is beauty. For many of them, difference becomes an embarrassment. Difference makes you stand out which makes you not look like everyone else, which makes you weird in a middle school mind. Difference can keep you from the thing that beginning in middle school takes on the very highest degree of importance—relationship.
In contrast to Erin, we recently spoke with Allison's mom. Allison is thirteen and had decided with several of her friends to participate in a walk for children in Africa. After Allison had decided to walk, she and her mom watched a television program outlining the mission of the event, and the sponsors asked each participant to write or draw a picture for their senator, to help the government have the participant's concern documented in writing.
Allison was really excited and motivated to do the walk with her friends, but when her mom told her they would be writing their senator, Allison burst into tears. "NO, MOM!!! None of my friends will be writing the senator. You just can't make me do that. You don't understand."
Her mother's wise response was, "Allison, you don't understand the point." Allison's benevolent heart was more social in its motivation than philanthropic. She wanted to be a part of the walk because her friends were, and she sure didn't want to do anything different. Her tears were tied up in her longing for relationship and her fear of looking weird.
We see a lot of girls in middle and high school struggle with depression. Much of this has to do with these longings for relationship. The dam has broken. These girls want relationship, and that wanting can be awfully uncomfortable.
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