I have never liked the term “tween.” I guess I should say I’ve never liked the determining ages for the “tween” years. Depending on where you are googling, the tween years can start as early as 7. That’s first and second grade. I don’t know about you, but my kids are not mentally close to being a teenager at that age. I understand that kids mature at different ages, but when something is six years off, it seems a little far fetched to call them immerging teens.
That being said, I do have two girls that fall into the tween category. It’s a little bittersweet to me, as is every stage my children enter. This stage really gets me though, because it wasn’t a super fun time in my own childhood. Don’t get me wrong – it wasn’t awful or anything like that, but it isn’t a place I would want to relive. And I want to do my best to make it better for my kids.
You see, I was kinda dorky. I didn’t know where I belonged or fit in and so I was just wandering. It went so far in my life that I started wearing things and doing things that weren’t my favorite, but I did them because I wanted to be a part of a group. It took me a long to time to decide for myself what I enjoyed and where I fit in.
Human nature wants to belong to someone or something. This is not a sinful thing in and of itself. It’s a fact. We were created for fellowship and belonging. In these “tween” years though, we can look for acceptance and belonging in all the wrong places.
I desire my girls to be assured that their deepest longing for belonging is found in Christ. Not in me. Not in their dad. Not in friends or even their church, but in God alone. When the gospel is applied to their lives in every area, it is a game changer.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” Ephesians 1:3-6
I like how the King James words the last part of verse 6. It says that Christ has made us “accepted in the Beloved.”
This is a word most women yearn for, let alone girls. To be accepted. And here’s the crazy thing: we ARE ALREADY accepted by Christ. We belong to God. He adopted us. He chose us. He wants us.
The truth of the matter is this: I don’t need to be accepted by my peers because I am already accepted by God. I belong to Him if I have trusted Christ as my Savior. When we embrace this truth and help our girls to embrace it as well, we can raise our tweens to be beautifully confident women who aren’t shaken by whatever trend or friend or circumstance prevails at the moment. We belong to the Creator and there is an immense amount of security in that.
So, besides teaching this beautiful truth to our tweenagers, what else can we do, as parents, to enforce this point?
Bring it home. Literally.
Make your home a place where they feel secure and accepted. I know this can be difficult, as times will come when their emotions don’t line up with reality. (Who hasn’t been there?)
Home ought to be a place where they don’t have to feel part of a clique. Where they can be who they are and learn to be comfortable in their skin. Adolescence is a time of awkwardness. Let them be awkward. Give them a safe place to talk about what is on their hearts and minds without fear of rebuke. Encourage them when their emotions get the better of them. Remind them of the life-affirming truth of God’s Word.
The other side of the balance is use this space for instruction too. Not condemning lectures, but how to handle mind, emotion and will. How to not take themselves too seriously. How to honor their parents and yet begin branching out to confirm their convictions and purpose. This all sounds lofty, but it really isn’t. It just involves being available, listening and excessive prayer for wisdom.
This also isn’t a license to accept sin in their lives. No, as a parent your job of rebuke and correction is not complete. We must steer them to the truth that we can’t let sin abound so grace abounds. (Romans 6)
I’m still figuring this tween thing out like many other parents out there, but I am determined to help my kids make it a time to enjoy and not loathe. And I think a huge hurdle to that goal is making sure they know they are accepted and loved. It isn’t necessarily about boosting self-esteem but more about growing a God-esteem in them. When they love and esteem God, they are going to love His creation – themselves.