I'm a typical mom. Some days I feel valuable and beautiful, and other days I grope for cosmetic miracles before leaving the house. As a single parent, I turn to my two boys for reassurance.

"Does my hair look okay? Does this outfit work? Do I look like I need to lose five pounds?"

For years, my oldest son has responded with a compliment and added, "You look the same as always. What's different about today?"

More than once, I've explained, "Some days I don't feel as good as others, and I need a little boost to keep me going."

When puberty hits

When my oldest entered grade seven, he sprouted five inches, his feet grew and a few pimples dotted his face.

As we cleared plates after dinner one night, he said, "Mom, remember how you've talked about feeling ugly and pretty on different days? I know what you mean. Some days I feel fine, and other days I feel like a nerd."

My heart sank. He understood. Call it middle school, puberty or just plain life – a crossover had occurred. I set the plates on the counter and wrapped my arms around my lanky tween. It was my turn to dispense compliments.

"You're growing into such a good young man."

The stirrings of self-consciousness

Later, I thought about Adam and Eve after they chomped into the forbidden fruit and awoke to an awareness of good and evil. With one bite, they tasted shame for the first time, felt self-conscious, covered themselves with fig leaves and tried to hide from God.

In some ways, middle school kids face that same moment of self-consciousness. Worried about clothes and hair, they try to hide (or disguise) what they're feeling, especially when they don't think they measure up to a real – or imagined – standard.

As parents, we must help them take their eyes off of muscles, hairdos, clear skin and clothes – and stand before God without shame. Only God's grace can transform their changing emotions into healthy self-esteem. I choose daily to celebrate the life God has given me so I can show my son how to do the same.

From Focus on Your Child's Tween Ages, February 2007. Published by Focus on the Family. © 2007 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

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