Tweens and Spirituality…

Tweens (kids from 8-13) usually grades 4 -8 are confronted with all kinds of decisions… Who to hang out with…what to wear, where do they fit in? Sports or Band… Science Club or Theatre?

Are they popular enough to be on the ‘inside’ or do they have to retreat to being on the outside, looking in? Have they given up on the popular crowd, taking bitter pride in their independent status as non-conforming and creatively superior?

Or maybe you catch them trying on different styles, looks, and attitudes like a fashionista – exchanging one interest or hobby after another, desperately searching for their niche. Anxious to find a place to ‘fit’ in the overwhelmingly tense structures of modern-day tween-teen social life. tween-slumber-party

These anxieties are centered around school and the elusive ‘popular’ designation and looking to peers as the ultimate validation for their identities. To find that affirmation, our kids are mixing it up with social media consumption at an average of over 9 hours a day, and check their ‘status’ now over a 100 times per day (*13 year olds – see study here) !

YIKES.

Seeing our kids struggling to sort it all out is painful to watch. As parents we remember what it’s like to get caught in the awkward transition from kid to adult. The tween years are painful, ugly, and intense under the best of circumstances…. add to the mess an uncontrollable surge of media and social critique and suddenly we’re in uncharted territory.

There are dark and unpredictable threats to even the most stable families, the most grounded kids are wrestling with personal value, sexuality, and self-worth.

Parents must step further into the adolescent equation than ever before. Gone are the days of ‘protecting’ your kids privacy, letting them form identities as they grow up through trial and error. Gone are the days of simply trusting your kids to have a ‘good-time’ with their friends at the game.

Today, parents must take regular and intrusive steps to review or monitor the social media on their kids phones… educating ourselves about the severity of the assault on our kids hopes and dreams. Attacks that hit everything about our kids that we love… accusations that undermine identities, self-worth, modesty, purity, character, personal beliefs, and of course… spirituality.  teary-teen-image

Kids need to explore their spiritual beliefs every bit as much and more than all of the ‘other’ stuff around them. For the churched kids, they learn to adapt, responding as expected to whatever questions pastors, parents, and religious kids throw at them. Not rejecting the faith completely, just slowing and taking a guarded – wait and see – approach to spirituality.

IF we don’t ask.. our kids just won’t deal with it.

As the parent of a tween / teen, you voice is the greatest voice in your kids life! Not the youth pastor, YouTube, or their friends. YOU!!!

So, take full responsibility and authority and face the uncomfortable silences as you wait for your tween to answer. ASK them about their faith. ASK them to articulate what it is they believe about God. About themselves… about how they see faith in their school stresses and how God helps in their relationships.

We have to connect the dots between church and real life. Our tweens must see and experience their faith in the day-to-day – struggle of being alive. It’s how true faith is formed for all of us.

Something to consider.

Pastor B.

 

2014! Year of the Selfie !

Can’t help but laugh every time I see a selfie on social media. Almost without exception there is a slight lip pucker on the face of whoever just shared their own photo-portrait. It’s like a subconscious personality quirk that’s become the national ‘norm’ for teens and tweens, freely shared millions of times a day. National media icon’s like Kim and Bieb’s are training an entire generation of tweens and teens to just ‘put themselves out there”.

Kim K -courtesy of the New Yorker

Kim K -courtesy of the New Yorker

National statistics on social media photo sharing are growing so fast it’s impossible to keep up. 100’s of millions of personal pics are flooding instagram, twitter, pinterest and facebook…not to mention the videos on snap chat, the numbers are enormous and growing. So much so 2014 has been declared the year of the selfie.

For parents in this emerging digital age, the selfie is a rite of passage that pre-teens take to like bees to honey. Kids are naturally impulsive, self focused and all about attention, affirmation and love. The use of an engineering marvel like the smart phone is almost exclusively dedicated to personal pics, posts and of course… ‘selfie’s.

Parents are beginning to notice the affect the selfie may be having on their children as they enter the adolescent years. The need to exhibit themselves, to show what they are wearing, newest hairstyle or latest fashion coup, may be stunting our collective social and emotional maturity…not to mention the erosion of concepts like modesty, self-control and personal sacrifice.

If your wondering if I’m going a bit judgmental on a little photo fun… I understand. So I dare you, just google ‘selfie“. Look under ‘images’. Ok, see what I mean? Notice the absence of proper clothing….YIKES!

Selfies are becoming more than a unique statement of who we are…. they are morphing into a desperate cry for approval, love and affirmation – at almost any cost from almost anyone but us. 

I’m not being a downer here, simply observing what is and making some educated guesses as to the how and what  of it all ! How societal trends are subtly nudging our kids away from the principles of our faith. It’s time for us to consider how we need to adapt our role as parents of tweens, struggling already with the normal –coming of age -drama of adolescence and family. 06e1ec9

These modern, mobile, wonder devices are changing society and the emotional-spiritual development of our kids in new and unique ways. It’s important for us to be aware and interactive with our kids about technology as they make the transition from kid to young adult. 

Bieber, courtesy of Huffington Post

Bieber, courtesy of Huffington Post

So… next time you see a family selfie float into the cloud, remember to check in with your tween. Ask them about their value, identity and purpose… remind them they are more than a great pic in the social media tapestry of life.

They have unique and irreplaceable value to you, their family and to God.

Redirect their adolescent grip on narcissism to expand to the needs and concerns of those living around them… help them see the world is so much bigger than just ‘them.

As Christians, we have counter-cultural values and beliefs. Ideas like, “those who lose their lives will find it and “I’ve come to serve and to give my life away’ – we know the bible, we can quote it… but if our kids don’t learn to use their faith as a real-life filter, we’re allowing society to train them.

Something to think about.

Pastor B.

PS – would love to hear other parents ideas and thoughts on this one… lots of smart families already sorting these things out. Time to share with the rest of us 🙂

 

What goes in…

The old saying… “What Goes In… Must Come Out” is especially true for our kids. Media consumption for the average pre-teen is WAY UP, while parents available free time is WAY DOWN.  The net result… our kids are absorbing thousands of hours of television, video and music each year without a parents protective presence to monitor what they watch and hear!

thechart.blogs.cnn.com

thechart.blogs.cnn.com

“We often note that children and teens spend more time with media than they do in any other activity except—possibly sleeping.In fact, the average time spent with screen media among 8- to 18-year-olds is more than twice the average amount of time spent in school each year (Sources; Common Sense Media.org 2012, Kaiser Family Foundation, 2010; National Center for Education Statistics, 2008).

Recent studies with Pediatric Psychologists and US Medical Universities, suggest the amount of pre-teen media consumption is up to 7.5 hours each day and trending higher! Such behaviors pose significant problems for pre-adolescent educators, pediatric health (Obesity) and attention deficit disorders !

For families of faith, we have an additional issue to consider… the development of a moral compass for our pre-teens. It’s a major problem confronting modern families who recognize we can’t just ‘ban” all electronic devices from our lives, in a futile attempt to avoid the dangers of media!

So what can concerned parents do?

1- Set some healthy boundaries;  It’s your home, protect it as a ‘safe’ place for your family. Keep TV’s and wireless devices with unfettered access to the web and video in the common areas of your home. Family room, kitchen etc…. remove the opportunity for pre-teens to have ‘private’ viewing or gaming areas in your home. Be clear with the rules you have on what’s acceptable content for them. PG-13 / TV 14 – language – sexuality – violence… etc.

2- Watch and listen; Be familiar with what your child is reading, watching and listening to. Keep a running conversation with them about their favorite artists, TV shows and books. Make a point to watch movies with them, understand the ideas and themes that capture their attention.

3- Construct a Media Filter; Sit down regularly to watch popular movies, TV shows and videos with your pre-teen. As you do, take the time to gently point out where the false realities of video production edits exist; point out where directors create unrealistic life scenarios that seem to be ‘true. Comment on ‘half-truths’ and total fantasy, ask your pre-teen to start to notice the seemingly ‘perfect families, with ‘perfect complexions, hair and the latest in designer outfits all while living socially popular lives without the limitations of finances etc.

interhomeopathy.org

interhomeopathy.org

As tweens get better at ‘noticing’ the fake superficial stuff, dig a little deeper. Note the morality being portrayed as ‘normal”, point out the rationalization of sin and the subtle vilification of anyone who suggests a moral code of conduct in the story-line. In time, they will begin to catch on for themselves, and start to “FILTER” the lies and half-truths from the real. 

The long-term goal of every parent is to help our kids navigate the transition from child to adult safely. As Christians, we also hope to transfer our faith and the basic truths behind our biblical heritage.

Helping our kids learn to sort through the mass of media they consume is an ESSENTIAL issue for modern parents to wrestle with and adapt to.

May God give us all extra wisdom and strength as we parent this generation into a new digital age!

Pastor B.

 

 

Summer Time Parenting & Drive In Movies

Looking for something summery to do with your family this year ?

Let me recommend making the effort to go “Old School” and suggest going online and find a drive-in movie theater near you.

Drive in movies are almost extinct, but they are still out there if you look. I’ve recently re-discovered the fun and excitement of piling eight people into my Honda Pilot and driving 40+ miles to the nearest outdoor venue. SO CRAZY and SO FUN!

Hi-way 50 Drive In - Lewisburg TN

Hi-way 50 Drive In – Lewisburg TN

It’s not just one thing, but a combination of a bunch of things that makes for a fantastic family experience at a drive-in.

The anticipation of making a special road-trip to get there is part of it, the ability to “customize” the event is also very appealing to tweens and teens.  Bring along some blankets, folding chairs, pizza, food snacks and bug spray! Then off you go! Summer weekends are my favorite and usually include a double-feature of the latest in Hollywood first run films.

Budget friendly, most drive-in’s are half of the price of a conventional indoor movie ticket and include a space all your own to park and play. Dusk is the start time so arrive early for a good spot to see, tune your radio into the broadcast frequency and settle back for a super fun, unique – memory making summer night with your friends and family! 

Most teens and tweens have NO clue what a drive-in movie experience is like and at first may hesitate at the invite, but if you persist and get them in the car…it will be worth the effort in the end.

Kids of all ages love the freedom a drive-in provides, the ability to get up and move around, a chance for everyone to horse-play before the show!

Try the $3 for 5 fried oreo’s, a culinary adventure available at Lewisburg  TN’s Hi-Way 50 Drive in, or simply take the time to make some new friends with the folks in the car next to yours… it all adds up to one awesome family night. Oh and Don’t forget to check the weather before leaving…. !

If you’re looking for a fun and unique idea to reconnect as a family, experience something new and enjoy the summer-time together… a drive-in movie is a MUST ! 

Peace out,

Pastor B.

Teens skin their knees too…

gigmasters.com-

gigmasters.com-

I remember my kids as they came stumbling, bumbling… crying into the kitchen…hobbling on their one good leg, while holding onto their skinned knee and wailing between chest shaking sobs… “I WANT MY MOMMYEEEEE !”

It seemed nothing could console the anguish and pain of the nearly life ending wound on my 4 year olds knee… until my wife would sagely grab a neon frozen slushee from the Frigidaire and simultaneously kiss their little skinned, pink and red knee after blowing on it with the breath of the angels.

The tears would instantly stop, as the combination of supernatural mommy powers and chemical laced frozen sugar would hit their little brains like Tinkerbell’s magic fairy dust.

Once mom’s super-powers saved them from certain death, they would wipe their snotty noses, smearing green food coloring gathering at the corners of their lips and rush back out to whatever precocious activity injured them in the first place. Completely healed and un-affected by their five-minute brush with disaster.

Those magical kitchen moments started slowly fading as our little ones became “in-between” ones and then suddenly….they were teenagers.

What’s become clearer as I’ve raised three teenagers (2 girls and a son) is the continued need for mom and dad to be aware and ready to fix their little one’s hearts.., gone are the bony skinned knees and neon ice pops, but the five-minute nearly life ending disasters keep on coming in the house when my kids do.

michaelagarstin.com-

michaelagarstin.com-

It’s remarkable how similar the process of “crisis-containment” can be for a 16-year-old as it was for a six-year-old, and it’s critical that we as parents are ready to wipe the tears and blow our magic breath back into the wounded pieces of our teens.

Our kids are getting seriously dinged up by life out there. The surge of private-instant-mobile technology opens vast Pandora like doors for bullies, sexual temptation and outright hurtful communication to smash the confidence, purpose and values of our emerging young adults.

Their world is full of evolving fears, deep insecurities and wounds that lie much deeper under the skin. At any age, I believe all they need is to know that Mom and Dad are going to be there. Ready to reassure, ready to hold them… wise and strong and loving, like we’ve always been. (Doesn’t matter we don’t know exactly what we’re doing, it just matters that we care and we’re still in their lives)

Parents, let’s be extra careful to stay engaged with our growing up kids. If we don’t, we might start to believe our teen doesn’t skin their knee’s anymore…

Pastor B.

 

 

 

 

Parents, how old… is old enough ?

Smartphones, cell-phones… ipods-pads-tablets and snap-chat, common currency in today’s pre-teen cultural exchange. From the school bus to the family sofa, kids are using technology younger and younger every year. The tsunami of media has fully crashed into the pre-teen world with a vengeance and we parents are left trying to learn how to sink or swim in the backwash. As a media executive (Bema Media – Franklin TN) I work with video, music and online assets every day. I live this stuff and I’m all too aware of how much I don’t know.

How do we navigate this rushing wall of water we call media ?

Netflix, Hulu… snapchat, twitter, vine, instagram, YouTube and megashare all providing instant and mature content for anyone with a wi-fi signal to download, stream or snap. Kids today are not only being bombarded with millions of new home videos, selfies and R to XXX rated images…more often than not, an average ten-year old will get to “decide” for themselves today what is or isn’t appropriate to ingest with just a smart phone and five minutes un-supervised.

As parents, we are often left confused and disoriented by the almost infinite variety of online options being marketed to our pre-teens and teens. The viral marketing of ideas, brands and values is becoming the daily hot topic of every kids conversation. From the latest music video to the funniest pet or baby post on twitter, kids are combing through the very best and the very worst of mankind’s creative extrusions.

It’s a frightening landscape for parents to traverse safely and for most of us, no matter how aware we think we are of our kids online activities… we’re woefully out of touch and way behind their learning curve.

Knowing the patterns of an average pre-teen and their use of technology might be a good thing to consider before you go and sit down with your sixth grader to ask some basic questions.

Basic Facts:

Media activities make up more than a quarter of a 6-12 year-old’s waking day. (*source DIS magazine – tween tech article) It’s clear that our pre-teens are now entering a virtual world that we may not even realize exists.

Other sources suggest that tweens are now consuming an average of 80 hours of media a week, and doing so with three separate media forms simultaneously. (Mobile phone- iPod – laptop – TV – PlayStation/Xbox etc..)

birmingham.myscoop.us

birmingham.myscoop.us

Pre-teens are consuming media faster than we ever have… they are experimenting and learning how to visualize, create and share their lives, ideas and passions with technology. The smart-phone is not going away, and the use and abuse of these amazing micro-wonders must be at the top of any parents awareness at all times.

Setting some Ground rules:

Parents we will need to consider carefully at what age we “allow” our kids to have access to these mind-bending portals of poetry, art, history…culture and stranger danger. How amazing will be the world our kids inherit, and how deep and dark it may become.

As long as they live with us, we’ll need to help them understand the dangers and avoid the pitfalls of an online mine field. Keeping a close eye on their browser histories, online “friends” and file sharing… is a MUST. To develop your own ground-rules is an important step in raising pre-teens and teens in the digital age.

A clear sign of responsibility, privilege and independence… granting a pre-teen or teen the right to have their own smart phone is a huge rite of passage today and for parents not a decision to be made lightly or from a consumer “peer” pressured perspective 🙂

Take the time to understand your child’s world, listen to what they listen to… watch what they watch and pay close attention to their social patterns of communication. Everything from sexting to homework cheats and dangerous bullies are in those lives… it’s our job to discover those “good” and “bad” influences and enforce some clear-cut boundaries appropriate for their age.

iShine For Tweens ishineministries.com/

iShine For Tweens ishineministries.com/

Having “the TALK”

This blog is a reminder to re-engage and have the “talk” – no not the sex talk, the “tech” talk. Helping our kids learn and grow is always a parents priority – but in our world, teaching them safety and protection online is a first step in developing their own “thinking process” for filtering out the bad and allowing the good.

What an amazing opportunity we have to help our kids discover truth and faith and values… don’t hate technology, embrace it… WITH them.

FYI – I didn’t get my girls smartphones until they went to college. My son, a junior in High School… still uses a flip phone cell. You can slow this down…but it’s very hard. In the end, instant communication can be a bit too much drama for the average parent to endure, but you know your kids the best. We can’t police their every action…but we can be clear on what’s right and wrong and work with them to “filter” out the crud and protect their hearts and minds for adulthood.

May God provide you with deep reservoirs of wisdom and insight as you seek to keep your kids on the path of life !

Peace and Grace,

Pastor B.

Teaching them to “filter”

Cyber Bullies

You hear the horrific stories of 12-13-14 year olds who take their own lives as a last resort from being bullied. Overwhelmed and devastated by the shame, hate & ridicule of their classmates. Seems extreme until you factor in the 24/7/365 nature of technology and a new tween culture of instant communication and social development. Strange days indeed….

Spencer Kane - iShinelive.com

Spencer Kane – iShinelive.com

A friend of mine at iShine is Spencer Kane (Ft. Wayne IN) who struggled with his own abuse as a tween and used it to turn his life into a positive direction with music and sports, helping other kids who feel… displaced, isolated and alone.

His first EP was just released and titled “Be one of the Kind” in a direct attempt to throw troubled and bullied kids a life line and to challenge other kids to be more aware of their own actions impact on others. Spencer is one of the good guys, as a sophomore in High School he gets it and if your tween is struggling, make sure you check out his encouraging music, testimony and support for families struggling with Cyber-bullies.

Bottom line, if you have a tween – ask them about cyber-bullies. Don’t assume because they haven’t talked openly about it, they are not struggling with it. Remember as our kids make the unavoidable hormonal – identity challenging transition from child to adult, they are more at risk than ever. Cyber Bullying is not a new fad, it’s a new tech-generation danger that parents need to add to the list of “real threats” to protect their kids from.

I have copy/pasted the recent blog from CommonSenseMedia.org below on the subject of bullying and ask that you take the time to read it or share it with someone you know who might need it.

Blessings, Pastor B.

October: National Bullying Prevention Month —————

 Join the movement to end bullying by sparking kindness and compassion at an early age.
 October is National Bullying Prevention Month, an effort led by The PACER Center to raise awareness of bullying prevention through events, activities, outreach, and education. That — and the recent death of teenagers like Rebecca Sedwick — force us to take a hard look at what’s happening with our kids, not only on the playground but at home, on the computer, on mobile devices, and everywhere else they’re turning to connect with their peers.

 

Check out the resources below for guidance, tools, and even entertainment to help teach kids to be kind, prepared, and proactive in changing the landscape. It’s up to all of us.

Tips for Parents

Resources for Educators

Tools for Kids

Whether your kid is 2 or 12, your being informed and taking a proactive role in her complex online life is key. It’s not just about turning off devices or encouraging responsible use. It’s about creating a culture of empathy, starting at home. It’s about knowing what to say and do when your kid is at risk, monitoring (without spying), and knowing the difference between bullying and just “kids being kids.”

We hope you’ll share these resources with others who care about kids.

Author- Taryn Degnan – Common Sense Media’s Interactive Marketing Manager