Bridging the Faith Gap with Your Teen

As children grow into teens, they begin to find their own way, even if it differs from your choices and diverges from the people they used to be.  Communication is always key, especially when it comes to sensitive topics like faith, religion, and spirituality.  Trying to force teens to believe something that they are against or don’t fully understand will only end in failure.  While facing an ongoing discussion about spirituality and faith might be daunting, you don’t have to figure it out on your own.  Preparing yourself for what lies ahead can help you have realistic expectations and the right mindset.  Learn how to talk to your teen about religion and spirituality by considering the following ideas.

  1. Spirituality makes kids happier. That’s right; studies show that kids and teens that are involved in spiritual and religious activities feel happier.  When teens feel that life has meaning, it makes them feel more valuable.  They also develop the ability to form deeper, more meaningful relationships.  Acknowledging and celebrating this fact from an early age can encourage your child to seek spiritual connections.
  2. Always listen, even if your child disagrees with your religious beliefs. This might be the most difficult piece of advice.  Often, parents feel betrayed, hurt, or angry when their children make choices that don’t follow what the parents think is right.  Giving your teens a safe place to voice their opinions will make them feel comfortable talking to you and will make them feel like they can trust you.  Putting your own feelings aside is tough, but placing your children’s needs before your own is the best way to keep them from pushing you away.
  3. Be involved. Take an interest in whatever your teen chooses.  Do they enjoy going to youth group?  Offer to drive them.  Are they involved in a study group?  Ask them what they’ve learned.  Taking an active interest in their daily and weekly activities will show them how much you care about them; even if they are pursuing something you don’t believe in yourself.
  4. Do research together. Whether you’re Jewish, Christian, Muslim, atheist, or anything in between your child may have different views from you.  Many parents are shocked when their teen chooses a spiritual affiliation that differs from “how they were raised.”  Whatever your children have decided, you can become closer and might even come to similar conclusions regarding faith if you do research together.  Showing your teens that you want to pursue the truth together will help them feel safe to explore what is out there, free of judgment.
  5. Talk about your thoughts and ideas. Once you have both done research, either together or separately, you should discuss your thoughts and findings.  Having calm, intelligent conversation together will open your eyes and your children’s eyes to new possibilities.
  6. Lead by example. Sometimes the best way to communicate faith and spirituality doesn’t involve words.  Lead by example in your actions.  When your teens see how you treat others, priorities you set, and your general demeanor they may find better common ground with you.
  7. Admit when you don’t know all of the answers. Your teenager may ask a lot of tough questions, often questions to which you may not have the answer.  Instead of trying to scramble for an answer, admit that you aren’t sure.  You can always give an opinion, ask what your child thinks, and then seek an answer together.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to talking to your teenagers about their spirituality, but with these tips, you can better equip yourself for what is ahead.  The most important thing to keep in mind is that this should not be a fight or a conflict.  Rather, it should be a discussion or set of actions that you and your teens do together.  Of course, you will not agree on everything, but knowing that you and your teens are supportive of each other regardless of your disagreements will be your key to success.  Be a team, stay a team, reach your teenagers.

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