You may not realize it, but you have a great deal of influence over your teenager’s faith and belief in God. After all, your child sees you every day and watches how your faith intersects and informs your attitudes, choices, and way of life. This can feel like a great responsibility, especially because you might have doubts and fears associated with your own spirituality.
As a parent, you matter to your teen’s spirituality. However, you are not required by God, or by your teenager, to be perfect in order to be effective. Your perfection is not a job requirement where God is concerned. Knowledge of your own feelings does not disqualify you from presenting your faith. So before you can pick up the baton of faith and pass it along to your teenager, you need to accept that you’re in the spiritual race with your teenager and that it’s yours to pass. You’ve got to get in the game, the spiritual formation game, when it comes to your teen. Especially if your teen is struggling with issues including depression, self-esteem problems, eating disorders, or addiction, their relationship with God is of utmost importance during this phase of their life.
Know that you don’t need to have an answer for everything; you don’t and you won’t. Saying “I don’t know” is not a spiritual indictment; it’s an opportunity for growth and understanding and spiritual maturity. Doubt doesn’t mean there isn’t an answer; it just means you don’t happen to have it. When your teen asks spiritual questions and you always have a definitive answer, whether you feel that way or not, you are giving a fish. But when you start allowing your teen to see how you handle it when you don’t have an answer, you’re teaching your teen how to fish.
As a Christian parent, you and your teen need to come into spiritual sink. This means you’re going to need to match your face to your teen, and that can be a struggle. If you go too fast, your teen is going to have a hard time keeping up. If you were going too slow and your teen is raring to go spiritually, you may get left in the dust.
You cannot know where your teen is spiritually if you don’t ever talk about it. Keeping pace means keeping the dialogue open. Keeping the dialogue open means answering difficult questions. Teenagers on a quest for truth can be extremely vigorous in that pursuit. They can bring all of their high expectations in youthful energy to the task. You may need to spiritually speed up to keep pace with that kind of energy.
Ultimately, however, it is important to realize that we don’t have control over the personal faith of our children. We have influence, but we do not have control. Personal faith is by definition, personal, and every person must stand before God on his or her own. You cannot transfer your faith to your teenager, but you can let your teenager know your own faith journey, how you came to your faith, and what it has meant up to this point in your life.
For some of you, this is extremely difficult because it will reveal struggles, mistakes and circumstances you have been trying to shield your child from. It also may force you to confront things in your past, or weak spots in your own spirituality that you have glossed over for many years.
If sharing your faith with your teenager is creating undue turmoil for you and your family, there may be deeper issues at hand. At The Center • A Place of HOPE we intermix spirituality into all aspects of our recovery and renewal programs. Fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to get more information or to speak confidentially with a specialist today.