Those of you who know me well know that I live in a household that contains two tweens. What is a tween? It is a child between the age of 9-12. The term is a play on the fact that they are be-tween childhood and adolescence or the teenage years. The term seems to have been developed by the world of marketing as it was discovered that this age group is very susceptible to outside influence and advertising.
My tweens are at an interesting time in their development. They swing between wanting to be independent and given responsibilty to being childlike and innocent. At times they push the boundaries and at other times crave for more guidelines and structure. There are moments when they are carefree and playful and then everything can turn serious in the blink of an eye.
Dealing with this day in and day out throughout the holidays has made me wonder if we go through a tween stage in our faith life also. We don't magically progress from accepting everything our parents believe to having our own faith. There has to be a transition. There needs to be a time of uncertainty, a time when we might swing between the certainty of Sunday School and the certainty of our own experience. It is no wonder that this is the time when we lose most people from the faith traditions. Of course, this is not restricted by age and can happen at any stage throughout life.
I haven't worked out how to handle my two tweens. I am sure that I mess up at least once a day. I do think, however, that half the battle is recognizing that this is where they are at the moment. I wonder how easily we recognize where those around us are in their faith development. Would we even recognize the signs of a tween growing up? Those who push the boundaries and question authority can often be frowned upon in the faith traditions, but what if we were to see this as a normal part of growing up in faith. We need to learn to help people to explore and find their feet in a safe and accepting environment.