Last week, the Youth Nights Team sat down with TYN’s upcoming speakers Dr Frankie Tan and his wife Tina, a couple who love and care deeply for Gen Z.
Frankie and Tina are parents of three boys. Their second son has ADHD, Dyslexia and ASD, and their youngest son struggled with anxiety and suicide ideation two years ago.
Tina is a stay-home mum while Frankie holds a Ph.D. in Sport Science & Physiology and works at the Singapore Sport Institute. Both are active volunteers with various community groups like SPARK, SAFRA, Dads for Life and in their church. Volunteering has enriched their lives as they reach out and support other families in similar situations like themselves.
Frankie and Tina are going to be speaking at the next Thir.st Youth Night, so join us on 16 March, 7:30pm at Bethesda Bedok-Tampines Church as we listen and learn from them about building strong families together.
“The first thing we want you to know is that we are sorry,” began Frankie and Tina.
The couple elaborated that, in the Singaporean context, most parents don’t say sorry (it’s certainly often counter-cultural here to apologise to a child!).
However, Frankie and Tina shared that one cry of the younger generations is this: they sometimes feel unjustly treated by their elders or misunderstood simply because they are young.
To that, the couple says: “You are seen and heard.”
We then asked if they considered themselves to be successful in raising their children the “godly Christian way”.
“When Christianity is all you do, you don’t really do ‘Christian parenting’ because your whole life and everything you do is about following Christ,” they said.
For the Tans, striving to be a “model believer in Christ” as parents is something that should be “automatic”.
“It’s all part of the discipleship process,” they continued. “Discipling children from the heart and from the start, learning to make hard decisions… We do not live out of convenience.”
“Parents need to own the responsibility to raise their own children according to the values they believe in.”
It was quite clear that Frankie and Tina are not parents who are happy to subcontract parenting out to their church or their children’s schools.
“We don’t believe that we need to send our children to good Christian schools to make them better people,” they said. “Parents need to own the responsibility to raise their own children according to the values they believe in.”
The couple shared that as parents, they seek to enjoy every moment with their kids in every stage of life. The hope is, that as God leads them, their children will fulfil God’s destiny for each of them.
The fears we have as parents
“There is a common fear that as parents, we must send our children to a ‘good’ school so that they won’t have bad company in order to ensure they would have positive influences, and then they can get into ‘good’ secondary schools more easily,” said the Tans.
Believing that every child has different strengths, Frankie and Tina questioned what such a mindset does to a child: “Are we implying that only a few schools with brand names are good? What about kids that did not manage to get a place in these schools?”
While many would move homes to be near certain schools in order to increase the chances of getting their children in, the Tans’ encouragement is to question what such practices reveal about the things we value as parents.
These were considerations Frankie and Tina had thought about when they choosing schools for their children.
Their children ended up attending schools close to home, as opposed to “branded” schools.
The Tans found that attending a school close to home gave their family the opportunity to be more actively involved with the school community, without the hassle of a long commute.
It also gave them the chance to contribute to the school as a family through being active in the Parent Support Group, going on prayer walks around the school and being a blessing to people on the ground.
The more we listened to Frankie and Tina, the more we were struck by how counter-cultural their approach to family life is.
We were also challenged about our views on education: what is studying truly about? What is God’s plan for students and their families?
How can youths better understand their parents?
This was one burning question at the back of our minds that we posed to Frankie and Tina.
“Realise that you might not understand us,” they shared. “Children feel that adults don’t understand them. It’s the same both ways — the generation gap is real.”
As we reflected on what Frankie and Tina shared, we realised that, sometimes, things may not be the way we see them.
So, just as we don’t want our parents to misjudge us, we shouldn’t be too quick to misjudge our parents.
The Tans also shared that parents would simply appreciate their children asking about their day and initiating outings, whether that’s meals, shopping or even a simple chat.
‘That’s how you bridge the gap, rather than assuming that your parents are not interested in the things you like,” they said.
Their encouragement was that in doing so, those with busy parents might be surprised that they would put aside time for the family out of love.
One reflection that we had was this: In schools, cooperative students provide conducive environments for teachers to excel in their craft.
How can we do the same for our parents?
What if your child came up to you and said “my friends know me more than you”?
Over croissants and coffee, we witnessed Tina tear up slightly as she thought about the question. “It’s hurtful,” she said.
While she had never heard this from her children, as a parent, her heart went out to those who did.
“Please understand me as I try to understand you. I may not always get you, but I’m trying,” she said, in response to the hypothetical scenario.
“As much as I’m trying not to hurt you with my words, please do not try to hurt me with your words.”
Tina explained that “scolding” comes from a place of hurt, while Frankie shared that being loving children helps parents love them better too.
As such, what’s needed in many families is reconciliation.
In schools, cooperative students provide conducive environments for teachers to excel in their craft… How can we do the same for our parents?
That tied in to our last question for the Tans: “Sometimes we try our best to reconcile with our parents, but they just don’t seem to be able to reciprocate that. What then?”
Their response and encouragement was simply to emulate Christ, who was no stranger to suffering.
To the Tans, a “huge part of becoming more and more like Christ” is to continue to wash the feet of our parents, even when they hurt or fail their children.
“Even if you haven’t seen restoration, will you be able to relate to them as if you feel their love?” the couple challenged.
“Can we live like Christ even when we are tormented by our parents’ inability to reciprocate in a way we recognise?
The Tans believe that where there is family hurt, God wants to bring healing.
Sometimes, however, the healing comes first through us, and in time — everyone else including our parents.
So, even though nothing may seem to be happening in our families, we should not write off what God may be doing and we should continue striving to love our families well!
As someone from Gen Z, listening to Frankie and Tina’s responses made me realise that, just like us, our parents are human and will make mistakes.
We need to be kind to one another, and we need to surrender not just our grievances but our entire relationships with our parents into God’s hands.
To all parents who are reading, your Gen Z kids are sorry too. There is so much we have yet to learn about being Christlike children and we hope you know that we love you too.
So thank you, dear parents, for doing everything you can to help us prosper and for your wisdom and guidance.
I pray that my generation will not give up loving you. God commanded us to honour you and so I pray that we will learn to be children you delight in!
Let’s journey together, not just as different generations, but as one big family in Christ running this race on earth together!
If you enjoyed this article and would like to know more about God’s heart for parenting, then absolutely join us at our third Thir.st Youth Night on 16 March, 7:30pm at Bethesda Bedok-Tampines Church! In addition to sharing, we will be having a time of worship and discussion in relation to loving our parents!