Tween Identity Crisis
How is your tween (ages 9 to 12) developing his or her sense of self-identity? Tweens typically rely on the influence of peers, the media, and parents to construct their understanding of their place in the world. Media and Values Magazine says that “In this century, the mass media have come to rival parents, school, and religion as the most influential institution in children’s lives.” There are three key messages about themselves that tweens internalize during this important developmental stage:
Value: Tweens are in crisis about their value. They may be told by the media that their value is tied up with the gadgets and accessories that they own or even their sex appeal. They may be told by teachers that their value is equal to their intelligence or industriousness. Friends may make them feel as if their value is how funny and likable they are. But the truth is that tweens are valued by God and deeply loved by him. A biblical foundation for tweens to know that they have this kind of value sets the stage for their understanding of their identity and purpose.
Identity: So many tweens are confused about their identities. There are a variety of labels that a tween can place his or her identity in—as a student, a friend, a Justin Bieber fan, a son, a basketball star, an attention-seeker. The media can especially pigeonhole tweens into a stereotype (jock, goth, nerd, etc) or excessive identification with a music artist or actor that they admire. These ways of self-expression are formative for tween’s self-identities. All of us, not just tweens, have many identities that we juggle as we encounter different situations in our lives. But Jesus offers a secure identity in him. Christians have all been chosen, adopted, and redeemed by Christ and now bear his name. This identity in Christ is the true, underlying identity of Christian tweens, and this foundation can set the tone for how tweens see themselves and for every interaction that they have every day.
Purpose: How many tweens feel a sense of purpose? As they progress from age nine to twelve and increasingly develop the capacity for abstract thought, purposefulness can begin to take hold. Commercial media outlets foster a consumer mentality—creating a mentality that asks “what can I obtain?” or “how can I be entertained?” rather than “what can I accomplish?” As Christian parents, we dream of our kids taking to heart the higher purpose that God has for their lives.
Robert Beeson feels the tensions discussed here: “As a father, I became concerned about what pop culture was feeding my kids about their priorities and values.” Because of this, he founded iShine Ministries, a ministry which offers healthy alternatives for your tweens to experience media in a way that is healthy and safe for their minds and hearts. And in particular, he had a vision for the iShine Bible for tween guys and girls. “iShine Bible is about connecting to tweens’ hearts, to help them find their value, their identity, and their purpose in Christ.” Tweens will see how they are valued by God, how their identity is found in Jesus, and the purpose that they have because of this. The iShine Bible even includes QR codes and URL links to healthy, positive additional content designed for Christian tweens on the iShine website. This Bible is a great tool for parents and youth pastors to offer to tweens, as it helps tweens answer questions relating to many of the issues that they face every day and features the clear and understandable New Living Translation of the Bible.