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If you ask me, my 11-year-old son Noah is one of the coolest kids on the planet. He is off-the-charts intelligent, quirky and, I think, absolutely hilarious. If his self-concept was based on his mama’s view, there would be no limit to his confidence.
Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. Our kids are surrounded by voices telling them who they should be and criticizing them when they don’t fall in line. That’s why it is so important that parents are intentional in the messages we send our children, particularly in the tween years.
From their first breath, our kids are on a mission to discover who they are and what their place is in this world.
As infants, they learn whether they are worthy of the love of their families. In toddlerhood, they begin discovering whether they are good and competent. When they head off to school, kids start to define themselves in relationship or comparison to others.
Suddenly their sense of value is influenced by their grades, sports abilities and friendships. When typical elementary age kids have healthy homes and supportive school environments, they are usually able to develop a healthy self-confidence but even the most well-adjusted kids can struggle as they transition from kids to tweens.
The chaos of the tween years (8 – 12 years old) often takes both kids and parents by surprise. Strong family bonds begin to feel forced. The pressure mounts to perform in school, on standardized tests, on the ballfield and on social media.
The roller coaster of hormones mixed with a rapidly changing social landscape can leave kids feeling unstable. They often begin to question who they are and struggle with their beliefs about the world.
As the world becomes a more confusing place for tweens, it is critical that home remains a safe space.
We parents must purposefully remind our kids of their value on a regular basis. They need to know that even when they are moody or make mistakes, we are still in their corner. There will be heartbreaks and lost friends along the way but your tween needs to understand your love won’t waver. It may seem like they should just know your love is unconditional because you’ve been there all along.
You stayed through the horrors of potty training, why would you leave now? That isn’t how the tween brain works though. Everything in their world is changing and they doubt themselves; it’s easy for them to believe that you don’t care if you aren’t saying it on a regular basis.
Every day tweens make devastating decisions when they face rejection or fear they will. Depression and anxiety are prevalent in this age group, especially for kids who break the mold. In fact, the rate of suicides among tweens has tripled in the past 15 years and continues to rise. (To learn more about suicide among children and adolescents, click here.)
When your tween comes home from a day of feeling like they don’t matter, they need to hear you say you’re still on their side. Even on the good days, they need to be reminded of how much you love them. I look for opportunities to connect with Noah and build him up but I also have one statement I make sure he hears everyday: There is nothing you could ever do or say or be that would make me love you any less.
There is nothing you could ever do or say or be that would make me love you any less.
I know that my son will make mistakes, even big ones, but they won’t make me love him any less. I need him to know that too. There will be moments when he says things that wound my heart but I want him to understand he is worth hurting for. I’ll keep loving through the pain.
As he finds himself in the coming years, I know there will be times when our ideas of who he is and who he should be will contradict each other. I will do my best to guide him as he grows into manhood while giving him the space to learn who he really is because, above all else, he is my child whom I adore. There is nothing he could ever do or say or be that would make me love him any less.
Parents, I invite you to join me in explicitly reminding our tweens today that they are valuable and our love is unconditional. Even if they roll their eyes and act like they aren’t listening, pull them close and say “there is nothing you could ever do or say or be that would make me love you any less.”
Le Shepard is a counselor, adjunct psychology professor, and writer. She’s also a mama by birth and adoption to kids with superpowers and special needs. Le lives outside a one-stoplight town in Texas with her husband, three kids, three dogs, a lizard, and some cows. Le writes about epilepsy, orphan care, faith, and pure exhaustion at Mom* and would be pleased as punch if you followed her on Facebook or Instagram.
Please stop by and visit Le at Mom* for more encouragement and resources on EPILEPSY, ADOPTION, RELATIONSHIPS and MORE!
This was Day 19 of 30 Days of the Tween Parenting Encouragement Blog Party!
What a beautiful example of how important it is to remember to express our unconditional love to our tweens. It is my heart’s desire to create that safe and special place for them and yet I know how everything else can get us distracted from our good intentions! Because of this, I wanted to create a FREE printable reminder for us to hang in our homes so we can see it and be reminded of the tween hearts in our lives who are waiting to hear it.
You can access this printable and all other printables, worksheets, scripture cards, stickers and more by joining our Encourage Community FREEBIES Hub HERE!