Column: Junior high: It’s time to wake up

Deacon Dana Nearmyer is the lead consultant for the archdiocesan office of evangelization and Catholic formation of youth.
Deacon Dana Nearmyer is the lead consultant for the archdiocesan office of evangelization and Catholic formation of youth.

by Deacon Dana Nearmyer

Even if your kids and grandkids live in a wholesome, protected environment, many of their classmates and neighbors do not.

The department of Health and Human Services reported that the average age of first-time marijuana users in 1999 was 16.4 years old. Recent studies have seen those numbers drop down to 12 years old. Additionally, media targets younger and younger teens for health and beauty products, music, movies, and advanced sports development programs.

Junior high is the epicenter of the battleground for the hearts and souls of our kids. There is nothing wrong with kids this age liking a popular song or wanting
a trendy outfit. Those are time-honored traditions. But junior high has become a coveted demographic for selling products and ideologies. It is our responsibility to enkindle and nurture the flame of faith during this critical time.

The archdiocese wants to support you. We have developed a parenting website to assist you; please explore it and share your tips with us.

We know that teens need to experience the power of God for themselves before they will own their faith, so we offer Camp Tekakwitha junior high camps that are designed to reinforce the values and beliefs that you cherish.

Camp is a very powerful experience of outdoor adventure, making friends, connecting with Christ and learning important age-appropriate social lessons. Camp registration opens late January/early February. On Feb. 23, we’ll hold a high energy junior high youth rally targeted at your teen’s questions. We have talented musicians and speakers that speak their language. Come with them; bring a group of friends. Great conversations will be opened up.

Additionally, we have afterschool and special programs for middle school students at our ReachKCK hub.

We recommend that parents and grandparents listen to your young teens very closely. Limit cellphone, video game and headphone time. Eat together, tuck them in, and be present to them.

Parish junior high formation and confirmation prep needs to meet these teens where they are at. We talk in depth with hundreds of middle school students each year.

Many struggle with irrational inferiority complexes, depression and debilitating anxiety. They are confronted with pornography, questions of gender identity and relationship issues that 10 years ago were predominantly high school issues.

Many feel pigeonholed into a social class in their school, locked into a certain track of activities, pressured to succeed in a college preparatory track, and feel the weight of adult burdens in the context of their turbulent adolescent minds.

Spend time together, listen, check out our parenting, camp and youth office Web pages, and plug into the support and activities that support your values.

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