Many discouraged parents have asked us this question: How should we respond to our child who doubts the reality of God?
When children suggest “there is no God” it’s natural for parents to immediately try to convince them otherwise. It’s a good intention, but one that often deepens the chasm between kids’ doubts and their movement toward God. If this is your reality, understand that there is probably little you can say, (because they’ve probably heard all the arguments before) but much that you can DO to make it safe for your kids to struggle back toward Jesus when they have doubts.
What’s your family all about? What’s your family’s purpose? What kind of family do you want to be? How do you want to treat each other?
At Connected Families, we often talk and write about these kinds of questions because having a vision of what kind of family you want to be can change everything.
One great way to work together to have a shared vision for your family is to choose a family Bible verse!
As parents, we want what’s best for our children, including a life of strong faith, values, and prayer.
Sometimes it can seem like a daunting task — how do I teach faith to my children? How do I help them understand things that sometimes I don’t even understand?
We may search for the “right words” to say, or the “right book” to recommend, or the “right youth group” to send our kids to — and these things are not unimportant. But the most powerful way for us to teach our kids faith, values, and prayer is to live them.
Kelly Sikkema | Flickr
For most of human history, values and faith have been passed along by the spoken word in the context of one’s closest relationships. Telling stories and integrating values into daily conversations was a primary way youngsters learned from their parents.
Research on many fronts shows the impact when parents spend time talking to their children about important issues. This research shows dramatic influence related to language development and educational success[i], faith development[ii], chemical use[iii], and a host of other issues. The bottom line is, if I want to pass my faith and values onto my children, talking about deeper issues with my children becomes a high priority.
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13)
I remember the sign on the men’s dorm wall during my freshman year at a Christian college.
A spiritual disciplines checklist was posted for us to keep track of our “progress” (monitored by a well-meaning resident assistant). I am wired for variety, not daily routines, and I felt ashamed every time I missed checking off the boxes in the “Jim J.” section: daily devotional time, prayer, fellowship, witnessing, tithing. (At least I got tithing – 10% of 0 income.)
I felt ashamed that I wasn’t measuring up, even to the point of checking boxes just so no one would know that I wasn’t making very good Christian progress. Good thing there was no check-box about honesty.
Jesus said that “smart carpenters” build a sturdy house on solid rock. Then when the storms of life hit, nothing will move the house.
This doesn’t mean storms won’t pelt the house from time to time, and even inflict some damage. It means the house will stand strong, able to endure even the most ferocious of storms.
When I extend this metaphor into parenting, I realize that before I get too worried about the “house” of parenting skills, I need to build a strong Foundation.
Recently we received this excellent and thoughtful question from David, a long-time follower of Connected Families, about why we have “You are SAFE with me” as our foundational message for parents to communicate to children:
Why is ‘safe’ the foundation to work with? I feel like it is important, but why #1? When I think back to psychology 101, I remember Maslow’s hierarchy has it as a base to work off – toward self-actualization. And I know in Scripture God is giving us His peace, and His presence… but I feel like God doesn’t start with us in the message of “I am Safe.”
Thank you, David! A good and deep question, with a good and deep answer! We don’t have space for a theological treatise here, so we’ve broken it down into a few digestible chunks…
When kids make a mistake, especially when they hurt others, most parents would agree that it’s important to learn repentance — for kids to feel sorry for what they’ve done.
But in our pursuit of this goal, many parents settle for the appearance of repentance — a quick and skin-deep “Sorry.” This approach does NOT teach kids to repent. It only teaches them that conflict can be “resolved” by going through empty motions, or saying the magic words even when their hearts are not in it. This actually hardens hearts to true repentance.
Recently we received this question from a parent:
Q: How should we respond to our children (middle school, high school and college) who insist there is no God?
My first impulse in responding to people who “insist there is no God” is to show them how wrong they are to hold that belief. I mean, look around, right? It takes a lot of faith to believe everything came from nothing. But “people” denying God’s existence is much different than MY KIDS denying that God exists and turning from their (our) faith. That creates sleepless nights, desperate pleas and crying out to God. It also tends to lead parents into anxious lobbying for their point of view when in fact, there is probably very little new that parents can say.
Aside from the conventional wisdom about this (which we fully embrace) to pray, to speak truth, and to love them, here are some less common ideas that have been shown to have powerful influence with children over time.
Parents ask us questions nearly every day. In this ongoing series, we’ll answer some. Have a question? Ask it here.
Recently we received a question from a parent who, after reading this [previous] blog post, was confused about how to use scripture to talk with her kids about sin.
Q: How can I talk to my kids about sin?
I think the word sin is lost in our culture, since most people generally don’t like that word, other than some adults may use the phrase, “I was living in sin.” My children don’t really have an idea of when they ever sin. This [previous] blog post is a little confusing as I feel I use scripture for reproof so that my children can see when they are grieving the heart of God. And, that leads to confession as it’s hard to confess when you don’t feel you have done anything wrong in your life.