I remember the first time I heard the word "tween". I was at lunch with two good friends from a women's Bible study, who were also fellow homeschooling moms. I had no idea what tween meant and really didn't even care to know. At the time, my oldest child was just 5 years old and words like school-age and kindergarten were more familiar to me. But as the conversation my two friends were immersed in grew more passionate, I decided it was time that I ask what this word "tween" meant. So I carefully interjected into this intense conversation - and I will never forget what my friend said, "A tween is what I call the stage in life where your child feels like they are all alone. They are delicate and must be ministered to carefully."
Fast forward four years - and now my oldest child is turning 9. Gone are the days where parenting was uncomplicated - and enter the season of focused, intentional parenting. Not that I haven't always been intentional about my parenting, but the ages of 9-12 present a very unique challenge in child rearing. Now don't get me wrong, I am enjoying this season of life with our daughter, but nothing but God could have prepared and guided me through this precious time of parenting.
Here are five ways that you can minister to your tween's heart allowing for a beautiful time of bonding for this stage of development:
Take the time to learn and speak their love language. One of the things that I have learned in my journey as a mother - regardless of your child's age - is the necessity to speak to your children through their love language. It it easier to do this when they are little, but as they grow up and have their own ideas, begin to shape their own identity, and start to pull away from the need for their parents 24/7, it can become difficult. The difficulty lies in the simple fact that we are having to trust God to show us when and where to let go of things...little by little. I am grateful for resources that will show us and teach us countless ways to identify and speak to the heart of our children through their individual love languages. Tip: If you have never read the book The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers , I really suggest you pick up a copy and do so.
Carve out some special time in your day just for your tween. For me this is a highlight of my day. I absolutely look forward to the time that my (almost) 12-year-old daughter and I are able to spend together. For us this time can consist of a variety of things. From reading to singing, my daughter and I just make the most of our rare daily moments alone together. Making this a priority has helped seal the gaps where division may have come if I was not loving her the way she needed during this developmental stage.
Show them you trust them. In some small way each day, show your tween that you trust them. This is vital to your relationship. No, they are not adults, but they are not babies anymore either. Allow your child to take on some responsibility - which will be unique to your child. For instance, the other day we allowed our daughter to cook dinner for her brothers, her dad, and I. Although she has been cooking since she was little, to allow her to cook a real meal, from scratch was a bit of a stretch for me. But I knew in my heart that she was not only capable, but it would show her that I trusted her to use the equipment and supplies necessary to serve her family. It turned out to be an amazing 3-course vegetarian meal complete with a dessert! Score!
Always have a relevant Bible devotional for your tween. We do this for every stage of life, but I am seeing just how important it is for your tween to be ministered to where they are at. I have watched our daughter develop a sweet time of fellowship with the Lord by using the devotionals we have picked out for her over the last couple of years. You can see what our family is using for our 2013 devotionals over at Managing Your Blessings.
Love them unconditionally, even when they fail. As we know, this is easier said than done. However, it is the single most important part of the equation and formula for ministering to your tween's heart. It is imperative that we learn to speak words of encouragement and love to our tweens (and other children) as often as possible. I wrote a 5-day series on my homeschool blog giving some practical insight about how to do this. If you'd like to read more about it you can find it here: Speaking LIFE into Your Homeschool.
There you have it. Five simple, yet essential ways to minister to the heart of your tween-age child. While I know there are countless other ways, if you start out with these 5, you are off to a wonderful start to a loving and lasting relationship with your tween!
In Him, Carlie Kercheval www.soyoucallyourselfahomeschooler.com
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