Families With Grace

Helping Christian moms create homes filled with grace, love & faith

Advice to my younger self

Words of wisdom for tweens and teens

Affiliate links are used in this post, if you make a qualifying purchase via my link, I receive a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products and services I use and love. It helps support my blog, so thank you for your support! Read my full disclosure here.

When I think about whether I’d go back and tell my younger self anything if I could, sometimes I think I would. Other times, I think I wouldn’t. After all, the life I’ve lived has formed me into who I am today. However, as my daughter is officially in the teen years, I have been thinking more of advice to my younger self.

Advice to my younger self Pinterest image 3

These nuggets of wisdom garnered over four decades of life have been hard-earned and oftentimes hard-learned. I want to pass along words of wisdom as much as I can to my children. I know they won’t always listen. Some lessons they’ll have to learn the hard way. And they’ll learn lessons that weren’t even relevant to me as a teen, especially as it relates to social media. As a xennial, social media wasn’t on the scene for me in middle or high school.

I also realize that neither of my children are replicas of me. I see parts of myself in both of them, but they are fully and uniquely their own people. So in thinking of advice to my younger self, I stayed away from specifics. Instead, I came up with 10 main points I wish all tweens and teens could embrace and take in.

1. Don’t take everything so personally.

Honestly, at the root of not taking everything so personally is more this message: Not everything is about you. Here’s what I mean. If you have a friend who isn’t as talkative one day, chances are he or she probably isn’t mad at your. Most likely your friend is tired or having an otherwise off day. If your mom snaps at your for something small, she is most likely just juggling multiple things or having a rough day. It doesn’t mean you’re awful.

I’ve always been incredibly good at taking things personally. I see the same attribute in one of my children, especially. But really and truly I’ve learned at least 90% of the time, the action or words I take so personally don’t really have anything to do with me specifically. I wish I would have learned that sooner. I could have saved myself a lot of grief and anxiety.

2. Learn to speak up for yourself.

It took me into adulthood to find my voice. And even now, I still struggle to speak up for myself. Advocating for yourself is important. If someone is treating you poorly, speak up for yourself and let them know it’s not OK before it’s too late.

In fact, I had a friend I was close with through middle school and most of high school. She would often say hurtful things that I let slide. And then one day, I’d had enough. I decided we were done. Our friendship ended (for this and other reasons) when it might not have had I spoken up for myself and worked out the issues sooner. Being a people pleaser never leads anywhere good. You can’t make everyone happy all the time. Don’t be afraid to respectfully speak up for yourself and your needs. And remember nobody can read your mind. If you have an issue with someone, talk to them plainly instead of passive aggressively.

3. Know you’ll find your people.

Some people make lifelong friends early on in life. My husband, for example, has a great friend who he met in fifth grade, and they have been friends ever since. But not all of us are those kind of people. When it comes to friend “luck,” in fact, I’ve struck out more often than not. If I were to give advice to my younger self, I’d tell her to hang in there.

During the tween and teens years, you’re mostly just with the kids you know from school. Maybe you’ve found your people during these years — and that’s awesome. But maybe you haven’t. Or maybe they are sort of your people but not quite. Know you will eventually find your people who “get” you and accept you for who you are. As you get older and into college and work, you’ll meet more people. Some will be part of your life for a season; others will remain for a lifetime. Don’t worry if you’ve not found your lifetime friends, yet. You still have plenty of time.

4. Stick with friends who stand by you.

Friendships are constantly shifting and changing when we’re in middle and high school. I have a plethora of stories just from my own middle and high school days! But, if you find a friend who sticks with you during hard times, keep them.

I will never forget the day in my senior year of high school when a group of “friends” spent the entire lunchtime talking negatively about me. One of my friends got up and left the table. She didn’t engage in the conversation and came to find me instead. She gave me support and encouragement. To this day, she is still one of the only people from high school I see on a regular basis. When you identify your true friends, hang on tight.

5. Ignore other people’s opinions of you.

During middle and high school, I was very aware of other people’s opinions of me. I think that’s pretty normal. But sometimes we need to just ignore what other people think and live our lives. Don’t be so busy worrying about what other people think of you that you let it shape the decisions you make. I know that can be easier said than done. I wish I would have learned sooner to not care about other’s opinions too much, though.

A great piece of advice I see floating around online is to not take criticism from people who you wouldn’t go to for advice.

6. Remember everyone has a story and a struggle.

To some degree, I think we all are aware everyone has more going on than we know about. Yet, we can easily forget that in the midst of dealing with our own challenges. In giving advice to my younger self, I’d remind her she doesn’t know everyone’s story. Some people need more grace than anyone gives them. Some people need to be loved. Others need someone to call them on their actions.

Remember if you’re going through a difficult time, it doesn’t mean your friends aren’t. We can be very good at acting like everything is fine when it isn’t. Sometimes the people who seem the happiest and most bubbly at school are the ones who cry themselves to sleep each night. Give grace, compassion and love to the people around you. Do they always deserve it? Nope. But, that’s what grace is – giving someone something they don’t deserve.

Give grace, compassion and love to the people around you. Do they always deserve it? Nope. But, that's what grace is – giving someone something they don't deserve.

7. Don’t be so stressed about academics.

Growing up, I put so much pressure on myself to do well in school. I have theories about why I did this, but they don’t matter. What I’ve learned is nobody in my life as an adult cares what my high school GPA was. Did having a great GPA help me land a full scholarship to college? Absolutely. But, did I need to stress as much as I did over it? Definitely not.

My advice to my younger self would be to just let it go sometimes. To do well, do her best and get good grades, but don’t make that such an important part of life. I completely missed my 16th birthday because I had a band concert that night. My band director threatened to dock my grade to a “C” if I didn’t go to the concert. So instead of celebrating with my family as planned (and as I wanted to), I went to the concert. I didn’t want to risk my GPA. Looking back, I should have just stayed home and celebrated. And that leads to…

8. Relax and enjoy life.

I know life seems stressful and busy when you’re a tween and teen. I do remember that, but I can also promise you are in a phase when you can choose to just enjoy life. You have some responsibilities, sure. However, you aren’t in charge of everything in your life. While that is sometimes frustrating, it’s also freeing.

Middle and high school are the perfect times to enjoy life. Try new things. Take up a new hobby and see what you think. Spend a Saturday reading through an entire novel. Don’t get so caught up in the stress of life that you forget to also enjoy it!

9. Life will never go according to plan.

Poor younger me. She was a planner. In fact, I still am a planner. I love to have a plan and to-do lists. They make my heart sing. But my best advice to my younger self is to know that life won’t go according to plan, and that’s OK. Your tween and teen years are a great time to learn to embrace the unpredictability of life. Get upset about the change in what you had planned if you need to. However, don’t get stuck there. Move forward into a plan B, C, D or however many letters it takes!

One day, you’ll look back and understand why your original plan not working out was for the best. Or at the very least, you’ll see lessons you learned as a result. And more times than you would guess, you’ll be thankful your original plan fell through because the alternative was so much better. Make plans, but know they won’t always turn out exactly as you envisioned, and it really is OK.

10. Give yourself grace.

Yep. I do harp on this a lot, but it’s something I wish my younger self knew sooner. I’ve spent a lifetime excelling at being hard on myself. I’m nice to people around me. In fact, I love encouraging other people and always have, even as a tween and teen. But, whew! I am mean to myself. My inner voice says awful things and has no patience for mistakes.

I’m continually learning to quiet this voice and remind myself I’m doing the best I can. I truly wish I had learned this lesson from a younger age. It would have saved me from so many negative feelings and given me self-confidence.

See the video of this post here and on the Families with Grace YouTube channel:

15 Cyber safety tips for parents

Tips to stay safe online from a cyber security expert

As a child in the 1980s, I didn’t do much at all with technology. That’s not at all true for my own kiddos. They’ve been using tablets and computers since preschool. And that’s just at school. Unlike other parenting strategies my husband and I can draw from our own childhood experiences, online safety is all new. Parents like us have to figure out how to keep our kiddos safe online and navigate the challenges that come with technology. Knowing some cyber safety tips can help.

Let’s go a step further than basic cyber safety tips. Instead let’s take a deeper look into how to keep our kids safe online. I recently sat down with my husband, a cybersecurity expert who is a certified ethical hacker, and talked with him about cyber safety for families. These 15 cyber safety tips come through him and what works for our own family.

15 cyber safety tips for parents from a cyber security expert

1. Be aware of what you post about your children.

We parents get the blame for everything. But the truth is when it comes to cyber safety, we have to be just as careful as our children. While social media may be your outlet, be aware that what you post about your kids can impact them and affect their safety. Gulp.

I have some strict rules in place for my family that we all adhere to. For example, I don’t share on any public platform our specific location, the name of my children’s school or even the full names of my children. I’m very protective of their information and their photographs. I try to always consider how what I post could impact my kids if the wrong person got that information. And I assume the wrong person will get any information I post publicly in order to keep myself on track.

2. Set up their email accounts to go to yours as well.

One of the settings offered in Gmail (and pretty much any email service you use) is mail forwarding. Our daughter, who is 13, has been using her email address for the past two years. The rule from the beginning has been that all messages are forwarded to her dad’s email address. She doesn’t get anything that he doesn’t get as well. While we trust her, we also want to be aware of what she’s doing and with whom she is interacting. The biggest thing we’ve found with getting her emails is what kinds of things she’s signing up for online, which is important.

(Check out these directions for how to automatically forward messages on Gmail.)

3. Check their direct messages.

While teens still email, they do much more when it comes to direct messaging. For any account our daughter has, she has to give us her username and password so that we can check in on it. Right now the only social media she has and uses is Pinterest. She and I are connected so I can see her boards, but I can also log in and check her stuff.

For a while, especially during quarantine, she was really into a writing app that I didn’t use. I had the app on my phone and set up with her account so any time she got a notification, I did, too.

4. Utilize YouTube Kids.

Kids love videos, and YouTube Kids is a great way to let them have access to videos without worrying as much. We started both of our children with YouTube Kids and only in the past two years let our daughter have access to regular YouTube. While it isn’t completely locked down, it does keep the content mostly child friendly and help keep your kids from accidentally (or intentionally) getting onto a video that is inappropriate.

Whether they are on YouTube Kids or the regular version, periodically check their search history and the videos they are watching. Last year, my daughter was talking about a pastor she really enjoyed watching on YouTube. I checked out the videos to make sure they were solid and was pleased that they were. In fact, when Sarah Jakes Roberts came to a city near us earlier this year, I got tickets and the two of us went to see her in person. But it could have been a different story if the “pastor” wasn’t Biblically sound or was otherwise a negative influence

5. Know their passwords.

Anything that requires a login and password is something that our kids are required to give to us as well. If there is ever a question, problem, issue or a need to do a random check, we are able to do so. The same is true for their devices. If they have a lock-screen, we have to know the passcode to get in. We haven’t had an issue with our kiddos (really just our 13-year-old right now) not sharing this information or keeping us updated, but if we did, the consequence is loss of technology.

When it comes to cyber safety tips, one of the most important things for both adults and kiddos is to keep passwords protected. Find a system that works for you. My husband trusts Bitwarden to manage passwords, so I use it as well. I like that I can have it installed as an extension on my laptop and on my phone, so I always have log-in information and passwords easily accessible. Consider using a password manager to more easily keep track of your kids’ passwords (and your own!).

6. Pick the correct usernames.

Usernames for apps and games are public. Help your kids choose an appropriate username that doesn’t reveal personal information. Our rule is that usernames can’t include their real name. My daughter uses favorite fictional characters to comprise her usernames. We have also used variations of favorite animals. Regardless, definitely don’t allow usernames that include their name or their full name for games, apps or social media.

7. Approve of their profile photos.

Many apps and programs require a profile photo, even if it isn’t social media. Be sure to approve of your child’s profile photo for apps before they post them. Our rule is photos of themselves are typically not allowed. There are so many fun alternatives they can use instead. In fact, my daughter’s Pinterest profile picture is a funny meme.

8. Talk about liars online.

A huge cyber safety tip for parents is to talk about online stranger danger. Most adults these days know to be cautious on who you trust online, because people aren’t necessarily who they say they are. But, kids don’t know that as well. Our 13-year-old has gotten tired of hearing it, but we still remind her that you never know who you’re talking to in many situations. Just because someone seems like a fellow fan of a book who is also in school doesn’t mean they are. Instead of being a 13-year-old girl, the person could be a 30-year-old man looking for an inappropriate relationship.

15 cyber safety tips for parents from a cybersecurity expert

9. Remind them of the permanence of online content.

Just like we talked about in what we post about our kiddos, we all need to know that what we post is always online, even if we delete it. Someone can access it. My husband’s online philosophy is that he assumes anything he posts will eventually become public, even if he is sharing it to only friends on social media. Chances are that won’t actually happen, but it’s a good rule of thumb to make sure that you aren’t oversharing or posting inappropriate things. Our kiddos also need this information and reminder.

10. Utilize filters and device managers.

Figuring out what to use for filters and device managers can be a challenge. I’m fortunate in that my cybersecurity husband is on it. I can’t tell you what’s best, but I can tell you what works really well for us and both are free. Our kids’ computers have Microsoft Family Safety installed on them that filters internet content and generates reports.

What we use the absolute most, though, is Google Family Link. It works on both Apple and Android devices, including Chromebooks. This allows us to see what our kids are doing on their device, set time limits and prohibit them from installing apps (even free ones) without password-protected permission from us. The time limits include being able to set times that their device shuts down. For example, our son’s tablet is set so that he can’t use it before 7 a.m. or after 7:30 p.m. We can go in and modify that for one-time or ongoing instances.

11. Don’t allow them to install apps without permission.

I trust my kiddos. Neither of them have given me a reason to not trust them with technology, but for right now, neither of them are allowed to install apps on their devices without permission from us. Through Google Family Link (see the previous point), their devices are set so any app installed on their phone requires password-protected permission from us.

The biggest reason we’ve instated this policy is to keep them from installing apps that will fill up their devices or are otherwise spam-y. But it also serves to make sure they aren’t able to install nefarious apps to hide things. I know there will come a point at which they are allowed to be responsible for their own app management, but right now they are 9 and 13. I don’t see that happening any time soon.

12. Keep passwords and passcodes secret.

Our kids want to be good friends and trust their friends. And they should be able to, but they also need to understand that sharing passwords and passcodes is not OK. In order to stay safe online, our kids’ devices and accounts need to be controlled by them (and us). Allowing anyone else access to them is asking for trouble.

13. Don’t let friends have free reign on devices.

This goes right along with protecting passwords. Nobody else should have free reign on our kiddos’ devices. Again, friends should be trustworthy, but not everyone has the same rules and standards for cyber safety.

For example, a couple of years ago, a friend of my daughter’s nabbed her tablet and starting messaging with someone on a writing app my daughter was using. Our rule was that our daughter couldn’t use her real name on the app at all, even in private messages. Her friend started to send a message to someone that mentioned her real name. There wasn’t an issue in the end, but even just those sorts of things can happen without malintent.

14. Talk about what information is OK to share and what isn’t.

When it comes to cyber safety tips, this is sort of a no-brainer. We all know we shouldn’t share personal information online. But our kids don’t have those years of experience or even always think about how what they are sharing could be used against them. In our family, our kiddos aren’t allowed to share where they live any more detailed than the geographic region of the country. They also cannot share their school name or their real names. Those are our rules for their protection.

15. Keep lines of communication open.

Being able to talk with your kiddos about what they’re doing online and any issues they encounter is important. We want our kids to come to us with questions. We also talk with them about various situations and how to be safe online. Technology is part of their world, and we can’t pretend it isn’t.

My husband and I are doing our best to help our kids navigate technology and the internet in safe ways. That means giving them chances to use technology and not forbidding it. It means trusting them, but arming them with information about how to stay safe. And it also means having consequences in place for breaking our technology rules.

One of the other things we do in communicating with our kids about cyber safety is to be sure to praise them when they make the right choices. I’ve seen my oldest handle direct messages with well when the sender seemed suspicious or was telling her something required more help than she could give. I complimented her for her responses to highlight to her what she did well. Giving praise is just as important as doling out criticism and advice.

A Family Christmas devotion book, volume 2

25 Days of 5-minute family Christmas devotionals for older children

Affiliate links are used in this post, if you make a qualifying purchase via my link, I receive a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products and services I use and love. It helps support my blog, so thank you for your support! Read my full disclosure here.

The Christmas season is a busy one. As we work to keep up with everything on our to-do lists, we can miss out on connecting with our families. That’s why a family Christmas devotion book is a great way to help families connect and remember the reason for the season. And having devotionals that only take about five minutes is even better!

And that’s why I put together the original “A Family Christmas” devotion book. It released last year and is filled with 5-minute devotions for Dec. 1 through 25. The first volume was written simply for young children to really understand. This year, my own family was ready to go a bit deeper and so “A Family Christmas, Volume 2” was born.

How the family Christmas devotion books are the same

Both devotion books help families connect throughout the Christmas season in only five minutes a day. With one or two daily Bible verses from Dec. 1 through 25, you’ll read through the Christmas story. Each day includes follow-up questions and a prayer as well.

Volumes 1 and 2 both offer flexibility for whatever works best for your family. Take turns reading the verses, the questions and saying the prayer. Or have one person do it each night. Talk as much or as little as your family wants to. Some days you may talk longer and other days you may not.

Both of the family Christmas devotion books have questions designed to help your family apply the lessons of the Christmas story to your own lives. My family had some great discussions as a result of these questions last Christmas!

The devotion book is great for dinnertime, your children’s bedtime or whenever works best for your family. Both volumes of “A Family Christmas” are written with busy families in mind — because my family is busy during December, too. My goal was to write a simple Christmas devotion book that we could use for a few minutes a day to connect with one another, slow down and keep our focus on Jesus. And that’s what both devotion books are all about.

How the family Christmas devotion books are different

The original “A Family Christmas” devotion book is geared toward preschool through early elementary children. The Bible verses all come from the International Children’s Bible. Each day has one or two questions. The prayers are straightforward and simple. My own family often added to our discussions, which is how the book is designed.

“A Family Christmas, Volume 2,” is geared toward upper elementary through teens. It still has a Bible verse or two a day to go through the Christmas story, but the verses come from the New International Version. Daily there are a couple of questions and a bit of additional text as well. Each day also has a new section called “Go Deeper” that includes more in-depth questions for your family to delve into.

While both books ask questions to apply the lessons of the Christmas story to our own lives, volume 2 goes a bit deeper. For example, some days include questions about why God did things a certain way in the Christmas story. The questions let older kids get into discussions about the significance of certain elements of the Christmas story while also relating it to their own lives.

What formats are available

When “A Family Christmas” released last year, I released it only for Kindle. But with “A Family Christmas, Volume 2,” I wanted to give the option for a paperback version. So I added a paperback version for both through Amazon!

And, here’s the other good news. The Kindle version is a part of Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited service. If you aren’t familiar with Kindle Unlimited, for a monthly fee, you have access to more than a million books that you can read on your Kindle or through the Kindle app on your device. (My son and husband use the Kindle app on their tablets. I use the Kindle app on my phone when I’m away from home.) You can have up to 10 titles at a time.

My husband gifted me with Kindle Unlimited for Christmas a few years ago. I was a bit dubious, but I love it and continue to subscribe. I’m an avid reader and I’ve never had an issue with finding something to read.

However, if you aren’t sure, you get free 30-day trial. I mean, technically, you could sign up in time for December to read either volume of “A Family Christmas” for free. And then if you don’t like it, you can cancel. But it is really a great service to have if you like to read. The selections include children’s books as well. My entire family has found books to read on Kindle Unlimited.

Connecting at Christmastime

Overall, both volumes of the “A Family Christmas” devotion book are written to help your family connect at Christmastime. It’s a great way to be intentional about spending time together throughout December.

Don’t miss these other ideas for your family this Christmas season as well! If your family isn’t ready for a devotion book, yet, be sure to check out “8 Simple Christmas traditions to bring your family closer.” It includes a free printable version of Bible verses for kids to go through the Christmas story in the month of December.

Looking for more from Families with Grace? Don’t miss our products page that includes lots of FREE resources as well!

Connecting with Grace: A Mother and Daughter Shared Journal

A giveaway of a faith-based way for moms and daughters to connect

Affiliate links are used in this post. If you make a qualifying purchase via my link, I receive a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products and services I use and love. It helps support my blog, so thank you for your support! Read my full disclosure here.

A couple of years ago, my daughter and I discovered shared journals. We fell in love with the idea of being able to write back-and-forth to each other. It was a great way to connect, but we were disappointed that we couldn’t find one like us: a bit serious and a bit silly. So, we decided to create own. Thus the idea for “Connecting with Grace” was born.

And now “Connecting with Grace” is completed and ready just in time for the Christmas season!

What is a mother and daughter shared journal?

A mother and daughter shared journal is a journal that a mom and daughter both write in. Instead of all blank pages, however, the journal includes writing prompts and questions to get the conversation flowing. The mom and daughter then pass the journal back and forth to each other after they’ve written in it.

Lexi and I usually leave it on the other one’s bed for them to see it. We read what the other one wrote and then write as well. Sometimes we make comments specifically on what the other one wrote, but mostly we move on to the next prompt.

Mother and daughter journals can be a great way to connect without having to sit and talk face-to-face. It gives you a chance to think about your words before you write them. You can be more contemplative and honest. Though Lexi and I both enjoy writing, the benefit of a mother and daughter shared journal is that the writing prompts make sure we have something to talk about each time we write so we don’t get repetitive or somehow run out of things to say.

How “Connecting with Grace” is different

Faith is a big part of our lives, so we wanted to have a mother and daughter shared journal that included a faith component. But at the same time, we didn’t want something all serious, all the time. Because we are a mix of serious and silly. And sometimes we are seriously silly!

When we were working on “Connecting with Grace,” we wanted to make it something we would love and use. Most prompts include a Bible verse. A few have inspirational quotes instead. And each topic has a page for a mother and a page for a daughter. (If you have more than one daughter you want to do this with, you can always use “Connecting with Grace” with a separate journal or notebook as well.)

The 50 different prompts include topics like school, the Bible, relationships, friendships, womanhood and more. We also added in some blank journal pages throughout that you can use for whatever you most want to do. And there are five Q&A sections throughout to help you get to know each other even better.

Lexi and I know each other well, so we tried to come up with things that we didn’t actually know about each other. We worked well together in writing questions. For example, Lexi let me know when my questions sounded too much like a Sunday School teacher!

We also didn’t want to add pressure to busy schedules, so we didn’t date the journal in any way. That way you can complete on your own timeframe. We have written in ours daily sometimes and weekly other times. It really just depends on what’s going on in our lives.

Another component we really wanted to include was ideas for one-on-one time together. We’ve called them “Face-to-face with Grace” and included 10 of them throughout the book. Because while we love the idea of getting to share with one another through writing, we also think it’s important to be intentional about spending time together.

Where to buy “Connecting with Grace”

Right now “Connecting with Grace” is available on Amazon as a paperback for $12. It is part of Amazon Prime, so it will ship quickly and free to you if you are an Amazon Prime member. The journal is 8.5 x 11 inches so you have plenty of space to write. We went with white paper to make writing with any writing utensil easy to show up.

A chance to win a “Connecting with Grace” gift basket

We’re so excited to share “Connecting with Grace” with the world. So, we are doing a giveaway to get it into the hands of a lucky winner. And we’re adding in some other items for a perfect mother and daughter bonding gift basket!

(This giveaway is in no way sponsored by the makers of the products we are including in the gift basket along with our book.)

Along with a paperback copy of “Connecting with Grace,” the winner will also receive the following:

A set of 6 magnetic inspirational bookmarks to use for marking your page in “Connecting with Grace” and extras for any other book you’re reading.

A set of 4 glittery ink pens you can use to write in “Connecting with Grace.”

A box of Russel Stover chocolates to snack on while you’re journaling. (Or any other time, because there’s never a bad time for chocolate!)

A blank journal you can use to make additional notes, include a second (or more) daughter or even just to write your insights for “Connecting with Grace” in case you don’t want to write in the journal itself.

Giveaway entry

In order to enter the giveaway, you MUST “like” Families with Grace on Facebook and complete the giveaway form (below). You can earn extra entries by signing up for the Families with Grace email list (which will also give you a free copy of the 7-Day Acts of Grace Challenge Devotion AND 10 Ways to Start Living as a Family with Grace Now!), follow Families with Grace on Instagram, follow Families with Grace on Twitter and follow Families with Grace on Pinterest. Just indicate those options on the giveaway form. (You do not have to be new to Families with Grace to participate!)

The giveaway starts at 12 a.m. EST on Nov. 2, 2021 and ends at 12 a.m. EST on Nov. 15, 2021. A winner will be randomly selected and, once confirmed that they fulfilled the mandatory guideline of “liking” Families with Grace on Facebook, will be announced on the Families with Grace Facebook page by 2 p.m. EST on Nov. 16, 2021.

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Back to school clothes for middle schoolers

10 Great options for back to school clothes for middle schoolers you and your parents will love!

Affiliate links are used in this post, if you make a qualifying purchase via my link, I receive a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products and services I use and love. It helps support my blog, so thank you for your support! Read my full disclosure here.

Clothes are one of the hardest things to some up with ideas for. Today I decided to do the shopping for you, and came up with 10 awesome finds for back to school clothes for middle schoolers! I looked for pieces that would be easy to mix and match while also being comfy and practical for a day of middle school.

These four shirts, four bottoms, one dress and one jewelry set will help you get through this upcoming back to school season in style.

First, try this cute graphic tee with back jeans. And I love the reminder to be kind! We need more kindness in middle school — and everywhere!

This cute T-shirt dress comes in about 40 other colors. Pair it with leggings or shorts for added comfort and modesty.

Another option is this cold shoulder style shirt, which also has a color variety. I think it is quite cute and a great way to kick it up a notch from a plain tee!

This adorable pullover jacket, which I like best in pink, also comes in other colors.

I also found this long-sleeved top I liked. The only other color is green!

When it comes to back to school clothes for middle schoolers, being able to buy staples in bulk is a good thing. And, according to me, you can’t go a year without black leggings! You also can’t have too many of them!

Jeans are also a necessity so I thought I would list a pair! I love ones that are comfy and soft. They work for so many outfits!

Back to school starts out hot most places. These shorts are another great option, which you can get in lots of different colors.

I also like this skirt, which yet again comes in multiple colors. I’m a fan of black because it works with so many other colors and options.

And we can’t forget accessories. Check out this super cool jewelry set that would work well throughout the entire school year.

Looking for more ideas for tween girls? Don’t miss these posts!

Girls with Grace, a tween blog written by a tween girl, has new posts on Tuesdays two to four times a month. Find out more from Girls with Grace:

Talking to your tween

Ideas from a mom and daughter on talking to your tweens and connecting with them

Affiliate links are used in this post, if you make a qualifying purchase via my link, I receive a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products and services I use and love. It helps support my blog, so thank you for your support! Read my full disclosure here.

Caught somewhere between being a child and a teenager, tweens (kiddos age 10-12) are growing and evolving in ways their parents often struggle to keep up with. Talking to your tween is a bit different from when they were younger kiddos and requires sometimes being intentional — and patient!

With that in mind, Lexi from Girls with Grace and I (Stacey from Families with Grace) have put together our ideas about talking to your tween based on our own experiences. Lexi is a couple months away from turning 12. We don’t always have our stuff together and communicate like a tween dream team. But we have found ways to change and grow our relationship and communication as Lexi has gotten older.

Ideas for ways to talk to your tween from a tween

Lexi: Talking to your tween can go so many different ways depending on your tween’s personality. Therefore, the first step is to figure out exactly what that is. Starting off, decide if your tween is the open, talk-about-it type or the type that will NOT talk about it.

If he or she is the open type, then just ask your questions head on. (EX: Do you think the new kid is cute?) If that doesn’t go well, try a more indirect approach. (EX: Who is the new kid?)

If he or she is less open, try out a trade-off journal. You can find journals with prompts to write about and exchange, or just use a blank journal. Ask the questions on the page and let the other person write about it.

If that fails, try just leaving a book or something in her room about the topic you are trying to talk about (EX: boys). In order to get her input on the subject, leave three to six (depending on the length of said book) notebook pages with one question each throughout the book. Ask her to read and then answer them. Make it clear you will read the responses and write a paragraph or two on anything you want reply. For example, maybe her response to a question is “Conner is kinda cute.” Then maybe you respond “When I met him, Conner seemed very nice.” Give her the option to respond or not.

Ideas for ways to talk to your tween from a mom

Stacey: One of the things I’ve learned these past couple of years is to find time when my tween is feeling chatty to talk with her. There are certain times of day Lexi feels more like opening up about what’s going on in her life. Right now, the best time for us to talk is in the evening before bedtime. While I’m an early bird, I understand that my night owl kiddo wants to talk in the evening, so I’ve made that a priority as much as possible.

We have been intentional about having one-on-one (or two-on-one when we include my husband) time throughout the week to check in with Lexi. Reading relevant nonfiction books together has been a great way to connect and talk. American Girl (yep, the doll maker!) has a terrific selection of “A Smart Girl’s Guide” to everything from cooking to puberty to room organization to boys to clothes to friend drama. We’ve read through a few together and had some great conversations as a result.

Another way Lexi and I have connected as mom and daughter is through the shared journal she mentioned. I can more easily write about my feelings than talk about them, so it’s a natural fit for me. Lexi has inherited my love of writing and reading so it works well for us. We talk about random things and deep things in the journal with prompts. We’ve enjoyed the shared journal so much that the two of us are working to create one together.

Check out and download this sample of our journal for free to try with your own tweens!

Advice for moms of tweens from a tween

Lexi: Try to take time out of your day to make her feel special. (Especially if she has siblings.) Take her out to go get ice cream, or watch an episode of her favorite show with her. Even if it is as simple as making or ordering our favorite food, it does make us feel better. Also, we love compliments. (Check out these compliment pencils from my most recent blog post!)

Advice for moms of tweens from a mom

Stacey: Having quality one-on-one time together is often the best way for connecting with and talking to your tween. We’ve found being in the car together is a great time to chat. And we’ve had some mom and daughter dates. Neither of those things happened as often or as easily during COVID-19. But once the weather got warm again this spring, Lexi and I went to Dairy Queen and shared an order of chicken wings and each got ice cream. We sat outside in the sunshine and just enjoyed chatting together and being out of the house. I really do think usually the small stuff makes the biggest difference!

Advice for tweens from a tween

Lexi: Remember your mom is with you to the end and your one friend from class probably won’t be. Therefore, talk to her. Tell your mom about your day, give her a card (and maybe a gift) on her birthday and other special occasions. Even if you just make your mom dinner or draw a picture for her, it still counts. Maybe even start a Bible study club with each other! Just do stuff together, because it really does make all the difference.

Advice for tweens from a mom

Stacey: Be patient with your parents is my biggest advice. Just as you are figuring out how to be an older kid with more mature tastes and interests, we are figuring out how to be your parents. We still remember how tiny you started in the world. And we are doing our best to let you grow up. But sometimes we mess up. Know we are always doing our best to love you and connect with you.

After patience, I offer the reminder that your parents were once your age. We may not have lived your exact experiences, but we do have experiences to draw from. And we love having a chance to talk with you about any and all of it. Mostly, though, we just want to connect with, talk to and love on you.

Why talking to your tween is important

Lexi: Parents and tweens do need to stay connected. Whether you know it or not, this is the phase of life your tweens are deciding to keep you or not. It is possible we decide you are annoying and don’t engage with you any more than necessary for the next five years. Maybe instead we decide you are awesome and hang out often. It all depends. Staying reasonably connected can make us keep you.

Stacey: Honestly, Lexi’s comments on this floored me. When I think back to my own tweenager days, what I wanted most was to feel heard and understood. My parents weren’t perfect (and neither am I!), but they were there for me in so many ways that our relationship stayed in tact.

As a mom, I do my best to make sure my kiddos feel heard and understood. It isn’t always so easy. I want them to be able to come to their dad and me with everything they have going on. I want to be their support system as they grow and change. And none of that happens without talking and connecting on a regular basis.

How to make a better connection

Lexi: Parents can do things they don’t even realize kinda break it for us. First of all, don’t push something. If you think something is wrong, then you can ask if we are OK. But if we don’t tell you anything is wrong despite your efforts, then please realize we either honestly don’t want or need to talk about it or nothing really is not wrong! If you have done well as a parent, then we will be open with you when we want or need to be, OK?

Also, when picking something that has to do with us, ask us what we want. You want to take me somewhere to celebrate my half birthday? Yay! You took me to McDonald’s, the one place I didn’t want to go? Boo! Point is, just ask what I want instead of trying to guess, because it is very possible you will get it wrong.

Stacey: Making a connection with your tween is about more than talking to your tween. It’s also about really listening and taking an interest in them. And it’s about knowing when to back off. For me, backing off can be the most difficult, because if my kiddos are upset, I want to know what’s going on and try to help! However, I also know that for me personally someone being too pushy with me is going to result in me being even quieter. So, I do my best to give space to my kiddos when they need it.

Aside from talking, doing special things for our kids is important and helps them feel valued, but we need to do the things they enjoy. For tweens, we also have to realize that what they enjoy may not be the same as it was two years ago (or even two months ago!). My husband and I started a policy early on in our marriage that asking isn’t a bad thing. Neither of us are mind-readers, so sometimes we just have to ask what the other needs or wants to do. The same is true with our kids. Just asking what they’d like to do for a special moment together can make all the difference on whether it’s successful.

Makeup for tweens and teens

Light facial care and makeup tweens and teens will love

Affiliate links are used in this post. If you make a qualifying purchase via my link, I receive a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products and services I use and love. It helps support my blog, so thank you for your support! Read my full disclosure here

I have always been interested in makeup. I would play it as a young kid — and end up looking like a clown. Now that I’m a bit older, I get to look human instead! But I want the makeup to look natural and my skin to be healthy. I know I’m not alone, so I’ve put together a list of makeup for tweens and teens that are reasonable and light. I even included some perfect face care product ideas as well.

When it comes to makeup, you want the right amount. You don’t want too much. Instead, you want to enhance your natural beauty. It’s something we all have! If you’re interested in makeup just because YOU want to wear it, ask for permission from a parent or guardian. I put together lots of options that are great ways to get started with makeup.

None of these are like some of the crazy full coverage, expensive makeup tutorial that I know you have seen online. Whilst in some situations these may be helpful, nobody is actually going to wake up at 5 a.m. every single day to apply primer and foundations 1, 2 and 3, and then add concealer, highlighter, bronzer, blush, eyeshadow, lipstick, etc. There is literally no point, and you don’t need to do all of that! So without further ado, these realistic and practical makeup ideas for tweens and teens to help you use makeup without looking like a clown.

Foundation options

Instead of full-on foundation, other products are great for younger faces. Whilst foundation is nice and all, if you are under age 17, you probably shouldn’t be using high coverage foundations. There are other alternatives though

Tinted moisturizer

Whilst you are still evening out your skin tone, your skin still shows so that you aren’t masking your face. Even better, go for tinted moisturizer with SPF to protect your skin from harmful UV rays.

Light concealer

Concealer may be a good option if you only need to cover small blemishes. Pick a shade closest to your skin tone.

My favorite option for concealer is this Neutrogena skin clearing blemish concealer because it also treats pimples to help them go away. Double duty!

Mascara options

Mascara can also be heavy, but fortunately other options are available.

Petroleum Jelly

It doesn’t get much more basic than petroleum jelly, which lengthens your lashes with just a small amount. Keep it around for treating dry skin as well!

Clear Mascara

Clear Mascara doesn’t add any harsh color, and gives a much more natural effect. My favorite is e.l.f. clear brow and lash mascara.

This is my mom’s favorite mascara, though she uses black instead of clear. She’s been using Maybelline Great Lash mascara since before I was born!

Lip color options

Lipstick is intense and not exactly perfect for teens. A few other options can add a bit of color without overpowering your face.

Lip gloss

Lip gloss is nice because it adds a nice shine and, depending on the kind, even some color to your lips.

This L.A. Colors high shine lip gloss comes in clear and 17 other shades.
This Neutrogena lip soother not only offers a shiny tint in three shades but also SPF 20.
This lip gel from NK Makeup comes in three different options to help moisturize and care for your lips. You can buy them in a variety pack of six or packs of six with only one type.
If you’re looking for both tint and clear, check out this super affordable 5-pack of NK Makeup’s lip gel.
Burt’s Bees lip shine is all natural and available in five shades.
This Rimmel Stay Glossy lip gloss has 29 different shades.

Tinted Lip Balm

Tinted lip balm adds color without adding any heaviness. It’s also a great option if you are newer to adding any color and just want to try something light.

This Chapstick Total Hydration is available in at least six shades.
This Covergirl tinted lip balm comes in 10 shades.

Tinted lip oil

Tinted lip oil is great if you want a bit of hydrating gloss, as well as some color.

This Almay lip oil-in-a-stick comes in six shades.
This Burt’s Bees tinted lip oil pen comes in six shades.
The tinted lip oil from e.l.f. comes in two shades.

Other face care and makeup for tweens and teens

Other things you may add to your makeup routine include:

Face cleaning wipes:
Yes to clear skin
Neutrogena oil-free
Dickinson’s with witch hazel and aloe

Moisturizer (unless you use tinted):
Neutrogena oil-free acne moisturizer
Cetaphil daily hydrating oil-free face lotion with hyaluronic acid
Clean & Clear morning burst gel moisturizer for acne-prone skin
Neutrogena soothing clear Tumeric gel moisturizer

Acne cream:
Burt’s Bees spot treatment
Clean & Clear persa-gel-10 spot treatment

Bioré clarifying toner
Neutrogena oil-free acne stress control toner
Dickinson’s Enhanced Witch Hazel Hydrating Toner with Rose Water

Hydrating lip balm:
Aquaphor lip repair ointment (for chapped lips)
Burt’s Bees moisturizing lip balm
Chapstick Total Hydration

Makeup brushes:
Bestope 16-piece makeup brush set
Luxaza 15-piece makeup brush set
Syntus Makeup Brush Set 16 Makeup Brushes, 4 Blender Sponges and 1 Cleaning Pad

Physicians Formula Butter Bronzer
Maybelline Master Bronze Kit
Rimmel Natural Bronzer

Profusion Cosmetics on-the-go blush palette
Covergirl Cheekers
Physicians Formula Happy Booster Glow and Mood Boosting Blush

Eye shadow:
U Can Be eye shadow palette
Revlon Color Stay eye shadow palette
Rimmel Magnif’eyes eye shadow palette

Makeup remover wipes:
Garnier Skin Active

Face masks:
Yes To Tomatoes Detoxifying Charcoal Peel Off Face Mask
Yes To Cotton Comforting Paper Mask
Bioré Charcoal warming clay mask for oily skin with natural charcoal

Girls with Grace, a tween blog written by a tween girl, has new posts on Tuesdays two to four times a month. Find out more about Girls with Grace:

6 tips for protecting your teens on social media

Ivana Davies, from Find Your Mom Tribe, has some practical ideas for keeping kids safe online.

This guest post is part of the Families with Grace’s Social Media Savvy series that covers a commonsense approach to handling social media as a parent.

Social media has its positives, but like pretty much anything else online, it also has dangers. Scammers and predators are always on the prowl, and online bullying has risen significantly in recent years. Teens are constantly bombarded with ads, threats, frauds and general bad influences.

If you’re a parent, you’re probably familiar with the little gnaw of worry whenever you think about the darker corners of the web. How do I keep my child safe? What can I do to protect them without smothering them?

You aren’t alone. Many parents have these concerns, but a few tips and tricks can help keep your teen safe online.

1. Get familiar with social networks.

Most teenagers don’t use Facebook. Studies have shown that it’s less popular than sites like Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and Snapchat. Teens also do most of their browsing on their phones rather than traditional computers or laptops.

Knowing these things are important if you want to understand what your child is doing on social media. You don’t have to be a technological genius, but you should have a working knowledge of the problem if you want your actions or advice to carry any weight.

To put it another way, your child isn’t going to let you deal with Snapchat bullies if you don’t know about or can’t even operate Snapchat. Your first step in becoming a social media warrior is learning what the battlefield looks like.

2. Protect their identity.

We live in a world where our GPS-enabled smartphones can track and analyze our locations. Our social media accounts are full of names, addresses, schools, workplaces and family pictures. Most people don’t even think twice about letting an app announce who they are or where they’re going. They might even help with things like vlogs and livestreams!

Make sure your child understands the danger of giving out too much information on the web. For example, they might complain about a late ride, but they shouldn’t share street names or broadcast the fact that they’re a stranded minor at a particular location without any adults around. Don’t let them ask their followers for a lift or accept any offers from accounts they don’t know.

You should also warn them against divulging personal information just because people ask for it. You might be stunned to realize how easily teenagers are willing to share their bank information just because someone claims to need it to resell them some concert tickets.

“Could a weirdo use this against me?” is the golden rule of posting things on social media. Tell your child to memorize it and ask it of themselves before they post anything. A little diligence today can save them a lot of trouble tomorrow.

3. Remember the internet is forever.

People don’t always understand the permanency of things posted online. While this applies to both kids and adults, impulsive, short-sighted teenagers are particularly vulnerable to it.

If they make a questionable post that gets taken out of context and publicly shamed, they could be haunted by the screenshots for years to come. If they share racy selfies that get passed around, both sender and receiver could be in trouble under child pornography laws.

The “delete” button is pretty much useless on the Internet. Make sure your child understands this. If necessary, remind them of all of the silly or embarrassing things that they might’ve posted before, and ask if they would still want to be known for these things five years down the line. Remind them that whatever they post today will have to pass the five-year test someday.

4. Watch out for stranger danger.

Unfortunately, lots of predators are on the web. Some are scammers or identity thieves; others have more nefarious purposes, especially for young people.

The simple truth is you can’t protect your teenager from every creep on the Internet. You can, however, teach them how to recognize the signs of one, and make sure they’re comfortable coming to you if they suspect someone is trying to take advantage of them.

Here are a few danger signs:

  • Anyone who offers to send them money or buy them things
  • Deals that are too good to be true
  • Deals that require them to give personal or financial information to strangers
  • Weird links, ads, promos or direct messages

You should also teach your kids to never trust a profile of someone they don’t know. It’s way too easy for a 40-year-old man to pretend to be a 16-year-old girl! It’s called catfishing, and people do it for money, power, influence, sexual gratification or personal amusement.

If your child doesn’t understand the dangers of catfishing, try registering for a fake account yourself to show them how little effort it takes to lie on the Internet.

5. Install controls and blockers.

Lots of parental control software is on the market and doesn’t have to be a bad thing that your child rails against.

For example, your teen might not appreciate any programs that monitor his web activity or limits her screen time, but he or she shouldn’t be bothered by adblockers or virus blockers. As long as you’re not butting into their conversations, they probably won’t care if you know who’s on their friends list.

Content filters are usually the biggest argument. Teenagers don’t want to be restricted from seeing “inappropriate” content like they’re little kids being denied access to an R-rated movie. Try sitting down with them and seeing if you can agree on reasonable content filters for things like violence, pornography and hate speech. R-rated sites might be okay for older teenagers, but you can draw the line at X-rated.

You should probably stay away from things like keyloggers. Unless your child is being punished, that level of scrutiny is only going to foster resentment.

6. Always be willing to listen.

At the end of the day, there’s only so much that you can do to protect your child on social media.

Your best bet at staying “in the know” is to keep an open line of communication with them. Emphasize that you’re always available if they want to chat, discuss, whine, rant or ask questions about something that they’ve seen. Even if it’s just complaining about spam accounts or a bad website design, it’ll build trust between the two of you, and they’ll be more likely to seek you out if and when they have a real problem.

Rome wasn’t built in a day. You won’t have a rapport with your child after a single conversation. Just like parenting classes would tell you, it takes consistent, everyday effort to maintain an open and honest relationship about their online activity, but it can definitely be done.

About the author:
Ivana Davies is an educator turned stay-at-home mom to a beautiful 7-year-old girl and a playful 5-year-old boy. She found so much parenting information online that she started her own blog, Find Your Mom Tribe, to share her experiences and struggles as a mom. You can connect with her on Facebook and Pinterest.

This post is part of Families with Grace’s Social Media Savvy series that covers a commonsense approach to handling social media as a parent. Check out these other posts from the series:

Seeing the past, present and future in my 9-year-old

Recently, my daughter and I were out to dinner in between her play practice and gymnastics class. Though we are very protective of our kids’ schedules and let them pick only one extra-curricular activity at a time, the school’s K-12 production of “The Wizard of Oz” has made us change our tune slightly since play practice only lasts a couple of months. This happened to be an evening that was especially busy and out of the ordinary.

The two of us were chatting over chicken nuggets for her a cheeseburger for me at McDonald’s. I love having one-on-one time with my kiddos when I can and this opportunity to visit with my daughter and enjoy her company was a treat. I was struck sharply with the versions of her that I see. At 9 years old, she is on the cusp of becoming a young woman. And I see that in her. I see her maturity. My daughter has always been more of an old soul who has maturity beyond her years. Last year, her second grade teacher told me how excited she was to see my daughter bring in a doll to play with during free time because it was such a kid activity. Her teacher was worried that she was too grown-up all the time.

It’s been like this almost from the beginning. My daughter started talking really early and really well. By the time she was 2-1/2, she could basically converse like a miniature adult. That hasn’t changed. We can still have conversations that surprise me with their depth. I find myself praying for wisdom as we talk about big topics and try to help her handle emotions for concepts she understands but isn’t quite ready to handle. It’s a tricky balance sometimes.

As we ate our dinner, I marveled yet again at her maturity. We’ve had so many people remark on it, and I’ve lived with it for so many years, but I’m still struck by her maturity and by her. I see so much of the young woman she is growing into. She is strong and funny. She is smart — so smart! — and compassionate. She is honing her leadership skills. She cares about the kids around her at school and her little brother. She is so beautiful and stunning inside and out. I see all the growing up that she has done and is doing. I feel like I keep getting these glimpses of her future and what she’ll be like.

But then I also still see my baby girl. I see facial expressions that I’ve been seeing since she was an infant. I see her silliness and giggles. I see her playfulness and imagination that are still so very much childlike. I see her as she’s been. I will never stop seeing her as my sweet little redhead who loves to chatter incessantly (she still does!) as she toddles around. She has years behind her and experiences far behind her that I still glimpse sometimes as I listen to her and watch her.

And then there is how she is now. She is a mix of both. I see her excitement at getting a toy in a Happy Meal and being thrilled to have soda with her food as a treat. There’s my little girl. Then I see her waiting patiently in line to inquire about getting a different Happy Meal toy because she got something she didn’t want. I watch her wait for her turn and listen to her politely talk to the employee. I marvel that she is old enough to do these sorts of things on her own and without a reminder of her manners. Then I find myself with a lump in my throat when she returns to the table with a toy that she knows her brother will like because they didn’t have anything she liked but she saw something he would like.

She is such a mix of little and big and somewhere in between right now. This is the age before she’s into boys and before she thinks I’m boring. This is the age where she loves spending time with me and tells me how annoying boys are when I ask if she has a crush on anyone. This is the age where Happy Meals are still exciting but so is having a chance to wear some makeup. This is the age where she brings along dolls to pretend to feed when we go out to eat but also is responsible enough to tell me she can take care of her brother when he has play practice with her. She’ll make sure he gets his snack and does what he’s supposed to.

I’m not in a hurry for my daughter to grow up. That will happen. But I also don’t want to hold her back and treat her like she’s still a toddler. So while she is perched on the fence between childhood and adolescence, I am as well. I am sitting beside her trying to figure out how to give her more freedom, responsibility and information but also not put more on her than she is ready for. It’s quite a balance for both of us. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I am her mom and not her friend as we chat. Other times, I am quite clear that I am her mom who needs to teach her.

While I know that when I look at her, I will always see my baby, I also know that with each passing year, we are farther away from that and creeping much closer to the young woman she is becoming. I am so excited to see her make her mark on this world. Her teachers last year and this year told us at parent/teacher conferences that they can pair her with any child in her classroom and know that child will learn more and come out better for having partnered with my daughter. That’s such high praise, but I can see that’s how the world is going to be. The world will be better for having my daughter in it. She has great things in store. She has already made my world a better place for being in it. Now I’m hanging on tight for the ride!