How Physical, Mental and Cultural Changes Affect Kids

Every kid, in every phase, is changing in six ways. They’re changing . . .

physically.
mentally.
culturally.
relationally.
emotionally.
morally.

We can’t talk about all of those changes in this short blog post, but we do want to talk about a few of them.

Let’s start with some of the obvious changes.

PHYSICAL CHANGES

As kids grow, some changes are easier to see than others. Like . . . when you see that preschooler take a step for the first time. When you could swear that elementary-aged kid grew a foot since last week. When you think it might be time for that middle-schooler to try deodorant. When you realize that high-schooler is growing a full beard.

Most of the time, a kid’s physical changes are pretty easy to observe.

But kids are changing in other ways, too—ways that we can’t always see, or hear, or . . . smell.

MENTAL CHANGES

In every phase of a kid’s life, the ways they think, learn, and see the world are unique.

We know this intuitively, of course. It’s why we don’t talk to a preschooler about the Bible in the same way we talk to a middle-schooler about the Bible. It’s why we don’t teach our first graders apologetics and why we don’t make our high-schoolers do crafts about Noah’s ark. But while you probably already understand this, sometimes we all need to be reminded of exactly how kids and teenagers think. As adults, we’re pretty familiar with the ways we think and learn and see the world, but if we’re not careful, we might miss out on the unique ways that kids and teenagers learn in each phase. So here’s a quick summary:

Preschoolers think like artists. Artists experience the world through activities that stimulate their five senses. Preschoolers blend reality with imagination, and learn through participation.

Elementary-age kids think like scientists. Scientists understand the world through concrete evidence they can test repeatedly. Elementary-age kids discover how things work through repetition and clear application.

Middle-schoolers think like engineers. Engineers solve problems by connecting concepts so they work together. Middle-schoolers personalize abstract concepts by connecting ideas.

High-schoolers think like philosophers. Philosophers seek to understand what’s unseen and what can’t be measured. High-schoolers want to discover meaning and learn best by processing out loud.

Even over the course of eighteen years, that’s a lot of change for one body and brain to handle! But these physical and mental changes aren’t the only ways kids and teenagers are changing.

CULTURAL CHANGES

On top of all the changes happening inside a kid’s body and brain, the world around them is changing in some pretty big ways too.

Zayn left One Direction.
Kanye and Taylor are feuding.
Harry Potter is now a play.

But the cultural changes a kid is experiencing are bigger than just pop culture, of course. In every phase, kids and teenagers experience some pretty unique changes that alter their world in significant ways.

They’re born.
They learn to walk.
They get potty-trained.
They go to kindergarten.
They hit puberty.
They go to their first dance.
They go through their first breakup.
They get a driver’s license.
They graduate.

These changes in a kid’s world are good! They’re important. They’re necessary. But they’re also stressful.

So here’s our challenge to you: Pay attention to what’s happening in the lives of the kids and teenagers you influence.

Pay attention to the ways they’re changing. Pay attention to the crises that they’re facing.

Because the point, remember, is this: If we want kids and teenagers to know God, then we need to know kids and teenagers.

This blog article was adapted from the e-single Faith Through the Phases by Dan Scott and Elle Campbell. Get this entire e-single for free with a subscription to GoWeekly—a library of resources for church leaders. Learn more about GoWeekly at goweekly.com.

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