There are not many universal truths out there. People will argue about whether God is love, or if all people are created equal, but few care to challenge this truth: parenting a teenager is difficult. I am certain it always was difficult, because just looking at what is happening inside teens’ bodies and minds is enough to make any parent pray for reinforcements, but I think it has gotten more complicated over the years. Now not only are teens changing quickly, but society with it as well, and it can be very hard for parents to figure out how to parent teens when the world around them is shifting so rapidly.
You all have a hard job, possibly the world’s hardest. You get few thank yous and no raises, but you are expected to do your job anyway. So please stop reading this and take a minute to give yourself a pat on the back, because just trying to be a good parent is a monumental task.
Now I want to focus the rest of this article on one small but important part of your parenting task: your child’s faith development, and particularly how to engage your teen in conversation about their faith. I have learned from my own experience with teens that it can be hard to get teens to talk about anything, much less the important topics. A lot of teens avoid discussing anything heavy with people, and their parents in particular. Let me tell you that this is NORMAL. At this stage in their development, they are going about the task of individuation. Their whole lives up until this point have been largely directed by others (parents, teachers, pastors, coaches, etc.), but now they are starting to take a second look at how they have been living. They want to figure out who they are, what they believe, and who they can trust.
All of this may seem scary, especially to parents, but I think it provides a special opportunity for parents and other caring adults to minister to teens. They may not be asking for it, but they desperately want and need people who will walk alongside them as they navigate this new world they are discovering and trying to make sense of, the new self they are discovering and trying to make sense of, and the new God they are discovering and trying to make sense of.
So how can we better engage our teens in their lives and faith? Here are some principles and tips I have learned over the years:
These are just some principles and ideas I have found to be helpful as I have worked with teens for the last decade. In addition to the link I share above, I have come across these other resources that are tremendously helpful:
Many blessings to all the parents out there who are striving to disciple their kids! And please post any questions or suggestions you may have about your family's faith conversations in the Comments section below.
Director of Youth Ministries