Lessons from a tween sleepover

A few months ago as I was doing some recovery work, I realize that I had a lot of pain and hurt that I was still hanging onto from my middle school years. This realization actually came from walking with my now seventh grader on her journey. It’s so interesting how my kids’ experiences can so easily trigger things from my past. I realized that to some degree I was still living from the place of my middle school self in some of my current relationships.

So the work began……… it was recommended to me to find a photo of myself during my middle school years. Then I was to put that photo in a place where I could see it regularly and practice giving that little girl all of the love and tenderness that she needed.

So off I went to find my photo. The photo I found was of a group of my friends and I with all the other girls looking at the camera and smiling while I was looking at them. Interesting that is the one I found since that about sums up my middle school years. Anxiously watching others just trying to figure out what I should do, what I should wear, what I should say; really who I should be. There was no sense of self, confidence or individuality. I chose to allow other people to define pretty much every aspect about me.

Like many other females, my middle school years were some of my worst. As I looked at that photo on my bathroom mirror day after day, I realized there was deep grief and deep anger toward that 14-year-old regarding the choices she made and the circumstances she endured.

It was wildly uncomfortable, but I began talking to that little girl the same as I would to my own daughter. I expressed my sadness for the difficulty that she experienced and my anger about some of the decisions that she made. I started to develop some compassion, sympathy and forgiveness for that girl.

I realized that much of my parenting of my middle schooler was coming from a place of guilt, shame, fear and pain. As I have experienced more healing in this area, my parenting has gotten much healthier and I am able to relate to my daughter so much better.

The climax of this journey, occurred when I wrote a letter to my middle school self expressing all the things that I wanted to tell her and then read that letter to a few other people. I had no idea how emotional and healing this exercise would be. With the help of God and a few safe, trusted people, I was able to get to a whole new level within myself, which has resulted in new attitudes, words and actions.

I would like to share the letter with you……..

Dear 8th grade Shannon,

I see you! Believe me I do. It may seem like no one sees you, but that’s not the truth. I see you in the sea of floral dresses and flat party shoes (This was “cool” outfit of choice in the picture I found. Hey it was 1994, what do you expect?). I see that you are looking around at the other girls just to notice you, just to give you a look or a kind word to reassure your craving, wondering heart.

Honey, I cry tears for your pain. I feel so sad that you are caught in the middle, a tug of war between your true self and the realities of the world around you. I just want to run to you and embrace you and hold you and tell you everything I see in you. I want to open your eyes to your beauty both, inside and outside. I want to tell you about all the gifts I see in you – working with young children, writing, sensitivity, kindness, strength, endurance, determination and hard work.

I want you to know that you are just right the way you are. You will make a great impact on the world. It’s not your fault that life has been so tough for you. It’s not your fault that things and people are the way they are. It’s not your job to fix and change things, plus you aren’t capable of it anyways. I know things are hard right now and you are doing the best you can. Things won’t always be like this. You will be OK.

Shannon, I forgive you. I forgive you for abandoning your true self. I forgive you for compromising and selling out. I forgive you for not seeing and recognizing your own beauty. I know you are in survival mode, I know that you don’t know any different. I know you are doing the best you can. I know you think there is something wrong with you. That is the furthest thing from the truth. You were created by God’s hands, it was Him who breathed life into you. God is incapable of creating junk. You were created as His masterpiece and you are just right in His eyes. He smiles on you always. It’s OK that you often feel like you don’t fit in. You weren’t meant to because you are special. You are set apart for things beyond what you can imagine. Your life will be like a stone tossed into the calm waters, there will be a ripple effect that will go far beyond what you think.

I wish that I could be there with you, I wish I could go back and put my arms around you and hug you and encourage you and tell you that you haven’t been forgotten. I wish I could tell you the truth each and every day about yourself and your life. I wish I could have done something to help you. I know you felt alone and forgotten and that breaks my heart. I know you desperately tried to be lovable and feel loved by others. Even to your own destruction with drugs, alcohol, isolation, dishonesty and perfectionism. I know you were desperate. I’m so sorry you went through all that.

I now see Ella as she is finishing her 6th grade year at a new school and desperately pray that God will guide her along a different path than mine. I see that I can make amends to you by the way I parent her. The only way I can do this is by God’s wisdom, strength and grace.

Shannon, you are safe and protected today. I know the middle school girl mentality pops up for you and all the old fears and insecurities surface. That’s OK. There is no need to be scared and slip back into old behaviors of people-pleasing and abandoning yourself because you fear rejection and abandonment from others. The lies may scream loud and feel true, but they aren’t! I am with you, holding and loving you and God is with you strengthening and protecting you. It’s OK to be you. That’s why we love you. We love to see you free and unhindered. We want you, all of you; it brings us great joy. So please lean in Shannon, we are here with open arms.

We love you immensely! You are a treasure!


God, Your Heavenly Father and Me, your earthly self


I would recommend this exercise to anyone who desires more healing in a certain area of their lives. But do not do this alone! Let in at least one safe, trusted person who you can lean on during this process. From my experience, it brings up a lot of emotions and I can’t imagine carrying it alone. Also, there is so much more healing when we share our journey with others. If you would like to talk about this more or need someone to walk this journey with, please email me at shannonstedman@hotmail.com or contact me on social media. It is a joy and a privilege to encourage others on their path to healing.

I love to hear from you! Please leave a comment, send me an email or connect on social media! Sign up to get all the latest so you never miss a post. See you back next Wednesday!