One of the major concerns parents at the D6 Family Night had about the tween years was that their children would walk away from their faith. Photo by Chang Duong on Unsplash.

There was a distinct moment in his life when Samuel Law knew he was no longer a tween but a teen. It was the day he stepped into secondary school.

The transition was not one that he nor his parents expected.

The oldest of four boys, Samuel had always been quite good at his studies, or so his mother thought.

Said Lucy: “He is my firstborn. I didn’t know what to expect. He never failed subjects.

“In fact, in lower primary school, the teacher even asked if he had tuition because he was doing well. That was an affirmation for me that he was doing okay.”

But when Samuel received his PSLE score, they realised that he could not qualify for the secondary school he wanted.

“His score was neither here nor there. I was very shocked. Among my four kids, Samuel was the best in his studies,” said Lucy.

Samuel ended up in a school where he knew no one.

Now 24, Samuel Law shared his experience of moving from tween to teen as “scary” as he had to make new friends .

“That was one of the biggest challenges because for teens, it’s all about friends. I had to remake all my friends and it was a bit scary,” said Samuel.

He did eventually make good friends, though.

“The joke was that one of the friends I made actually befriended me because I was big-sized and he thought I was a bully so better make friends with me.

“He turned out to be one of the more popular kids and he became more of a bully. But because I was his friend, I got the protection,” Samuel recounted with a laugh.

Equipping families and churches   

Now 24, Samuel shared this story about the challenges of morphing from tween to teen at D6 Family Night.

D6 is a global movement, founded on the principles of Deuteronomy 6, which focuses on generational discipleship in churches and homes.

Hosted by The Treasure Box SG co-founder Elvin Foong, the Zoom session was part of ongoing efforts on the part of D6 to equip families and churches to pass on a spiritual legacy to future generations. 

Joining Samuel and his mother, Lucy, on the panel was Wee Tat Chuen, principal of Fairfield Methodist Secondary School and father to two teens aged 16 and 18.

(Clockwise) Elvin Foong, who chaired D6 Family Night, Wee Tat Chuen, Samuel Law and Lucy Law shared some tips on guiding tweens into teenhood.

Some 80 participants – parents, grandparents and those who work full-time in church – attended the discussion.

Asked what their biggest fears were about the transition from tween to teen, most participants cited apprehension about the teens mixing with the wrong crowd and walking away from the faith. Addiction to gaming and mental health issues were concerns as well.

As for their biggest hope, maintaining a strong connection with their child/grandchild topped the list.

Together, the panellists shared tips on how to smoothen the transition from tween to teen.

1. Build a strong relationship with your child

Every day, Samuel’s parents would drive him to school. It was a small matter to Lucy. But to Samuel, it was something that he found memorable about his secondary school years. This, along with the fact that his parents were present at key school events made him feel that they supported him.  

The fact that his parents were present at key school events made him feel that they supported him.  

Samuel believes a strong parent-child relationship can be helpful in difficult times.

Asked how he would encourage a troubled teen who was in a secondary school of his parents’ choice, Samuel said: “I think he has to recognise that it is also his responsibility because he also had to agree to the choice.

“But I think what would really help is for his parents to really support him in this journey. His parents can sit down and help him process his emotions and be there for the child.

“I always appreciate when my parents say, ‘We’re still here for you through the bad things and the good things.’ There is comfort that I can make mistakes or I can I suffer, but my parents will be around with me.”

2. Understand your child

Lucy talked about the importance of learning to “read”, or understand, her children well as one way of helping them cope with their teen years.

“Find opportunities for them to build on strengths and experience success.”

“For Samuel, I always make sure that he must have enough sleep (before raising an issue). If not, we will just keep quiet, don’t say anything until he is rested.

“Then we tell him, ‘Okay, you know you did this, right? You shouldn’t do that.’ He will be more willing to listen then.”

In response to a question about guiding tweens to embrace strengths which are different from those of his peers, Tat Chuen said: “It goes back to knowing your child. Find opportunities for them to build on those strengths and experience success.

“Celebrating and affirming their strengths will help them see that these strengths can lead to many other possibilities. You can connect them with various people who have success stories so they can see how those strengths can be a blessing.”

Lucy agreed, sharing how she was glad that she let her children try out bowling even though she thought it was a pricey sport.

“One of my children, he was not so good in his studies. But because he was good at bowling, it helped a lot in his self-esteem. So being willing to let them try things is good.”

3. Know his friends

Lucy encouraged parents to get to know their children’s friends.

“I tell them, ‘Come, come to our house.’  So I’ll see the friend and know this friend is okay.”

This also allows her to counsel her children on how to reach out to friends who are different from their peers.

4. Learn to let go

Give teens freer rein to manage their studies.

“The idea of choice is important as they become teenagers.”

Samuel appreciates how his parents continued to remind him to study hard but did not impose a timetable on him.

“The idea of choice is important as they become teenagers,” agreed Tat Chuen.

“So we don’t want to be too prescriptive. Learn to find ways to give them room.”

This may even mean giving them room to go through difficulties without immediately coming to their rescue.

Said Tat Chuen: “Our job is not to take trials and tribulations away from them but to journey with them.

“It’s important to be discerning. See how God is present, how these are all teachable moments to help them see that actually it’s okay to be weak in God’s grace.”

5. Point them to Christ

All panellists agreed on the importance of not compromising on the faith.

That his parents both served in the children’s ministry made it “normal to serve” once he hit secondary school.

Samuel’s parents consistently encouraged him to attend church service and also to serve in church.

That his parents both served in the children’s ministry made it “normal to serve” once he hit secondary school.

“I thought that that was very good because I was forced to be in a place where I could grow spiritually,” said Samuel.

For the child who is starting to ask questions about his faith, Tat Chuen advocated finding resources that would answer his or her queries.

Tim Keller’s The Reason for God as well as Youth Alpha are excellent for youths seeking to better understand Christianity.

6. Model faith

“The other thing that is important is demonstrating that we are not anxious when they go through their emotions, when they go through their tough time,” said Tat Chuen.

“We should convey the sense that God is in control and that we do have that assurance.”

“It’s important for them to see that we have faith, and that we have that sense that God is not anxious, and therefore we are not anxious, and that we will journey together with them.

“It doesn’t mean that we are not affected, doesn’t mean that we’re not sad. You know, obviously, we can be emotionally saddened when they don’t do well in life. But we should convey the sense that God is in control and that we do have that assurance.”

Samuel echoed the importance of parents’ faith when he shared how, as a teen, he would wake to see his parents praying in the morning.

“It’s like, ‘Wow, my parents are praying for me every day.’”

7. Count on a community

“We are not parenting them alone,” Tat Chuen reminded the participants.

“It’s helpful to connect them with mentors and networks.”

8. Embrace the journey

To the parents concerned about their children’s faith, Tat Chuen said: “It’s important to go back to the idea that their faith has to be one that they own, and they should not be too worried but continue to see, ‘Oh, God is moving in that space.’”

Added Lucy on life’s ongoing journey: “One point of time is not the end.

“For example, my kids at one point may not be doing well, and now they’re doing well. But that also doesn’t mean that they will do well in life later. 

“What I do continually is really to pray for them.”


7 tips on parenting your tween during those unsettling in-between years

6 tips for talking to tweens about the birds and the bees

Home in: Our teens and their life of faith

Day 18: Show the youth a life worth living

About the author

Christine Leow

Christine believes there is always a story waiting to be told, which led to a career in MediaCorp News. Her idea of a perfect day involves a big mug of tea, a bigger muffin and a good book.