A part of being a teenager is to sift through the things we’ve told them, even the things they seemed to have believed beforehand. They start to question and play around with ideas to find out what they believe for themselves. Regardless of how confronting this can be, it is very important for them to do this – they cannot live off their parent’s beliefs, faith, or values – they have to develop their own.
One of the defining moments in my last year of school was a devotion led by the school chaplain; he talked about how Isaac had to dig his own wells – regardless of what his father had done before. This challenged me that I needed to dig into God for myself; I couldn’t just get by on my father’s back I had to decide for myself. (Read more on this here).
This is why the teen will start to ask questions.
When my kids started questioning things, even though I’d heard this advice not to take it personally, everything welled up inside me and screamed “how can you possibly…?” Then I would take a deep breath and remind myself that maybe they don’t actually believe what they are saying, they are just sifting through ideas. They are just asking a question. I cannot hold them ransom to their questions. They have a right to ask questions.
They also have a right to reasonable answers. If I am all tied up with my emotions of “I can’t believe you don’t believe etc” then I won’t be able to give them a reasonable answer. I won’t be able to defend my beliefs, my choices, and my values. They want good answers. They don’t want to waft around with indecision, they want to believe something. I cannot afford to let my emotions, doubts, fears get in the way of giving them good, solid, answers.
Preach the word;
be ready in season and out of season;
reprove, rebuke, and exhort,
with complete patience and teaching.
2 Tim 4:2
Understanding this Scripture verse has helped me stay unemotional and yet helpful towards my teens when they have questions about their faith.
How to Respond when your Teens question their faith
This does not mean to give a lecture, to stand up front and go on and on. No, to preach means to proclaim God’s word. Regardless of my children’s questions I have to stay true to God’s word, they need to hear it as they sort through their beliefs and values. I need to remember to be gracious and gentle and not condemning. The Word of God convicts – not condemns.
Be ready in season and out –
My child’s heart is too precious for me to not be available. I have to be ready to talk to them – ready emotionally and ready with my time management. People say toddler years are the hardest but really we need to be ready, 100% regardless of the age of our children. Their needs change with growing up, we still need to be available.
We need to be available (emotionally and physically) and spiritually. Even though parenting is time consuming, we must fill our own heart and mind with God’s word – we must continue to build a relationship with God ourselves – for it is out of what is in our heart, will come words of truth and clarity as we answer our children’s questions.
Reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching –
How easy it is to reprove and rebuke but this will not win them over. No, our words need to be with complete patience. This is hard! But it is so necessary. I have found myself having to excuse myself at times, with a promise of coming back, if I lose that patience.
The other truth in this last phrase of this verse, is that we are to continue to teach. Teaching is not just the words we say, but it is our actions as well. There may come a time that they don’t want to hear our words, our answers, our thoughts – but we are to continue ‘teaching’ by our actions. We need to have complete patience, and continue to live our life of faith in their midst.
Overall, the thing we need to remember is that our relationship with our children needs to stay our utmost priority. We will gain nothing, and certainly not their heart, if we alienate them at this stage – they need us, after all they are directing their questions to us! How quickly we can turn them away by judgemental and harsh words. Patience should indeed guide us.
Another verse that comes to mind is:
The wise say very little,
and those with understanding stay calm.
We need to understand what is really going on here – and don’t over-react. This verse seems to be in conflict with the 2 Timothy verse where it says to speak out. The key here is balance and sensitivity. Not only do we need to speak out in truth (as per 2 Timothy 4:2) we also need to listen – listen with our hearts. This is being wise. Scripture often expresses two things that seem at odds with each other, but when we think about it there will be a time to exhort and there will be a time to listen. This verse reminds us that if we approach our teen’s questioning with wisdom and understanding, then we will remain calm (as opposed to over reacting).
I remember having many such conversations with Josh. One particular time he started to question something and the idea was abhorrent to me – maybe that is a bit strong but you get the idea! I couldn’t believe he was thinking that way. But as we talked about it I started to understand that he was just questioning something and he was running it past me. I would have done him a disservice to ignore it, or react to it. He was coming from a different premise than I would and yet his heart was to learn from his mum. He wanted me to share with him my perspective. We were able to talk this through – it was a matter teaching and yes, I did need patience because it frustrated me that he missed it on this one (I expected him to know this). But the end result was that he was exposed to some truths that he hadn’t considered. Our conversation changed his thinking. He may not have come to a conclusion immediately, but he was now thinking in line with the Bible and he had something to pray about instead of making a decision based on what he saw as the wisdom of man.
Don’t Take it Personally
When our teens begin to question things – our family beliefs and practices especially – the thing we need to remember is that they aren’t necessarily challenging us but rather tying to see what they believe for themselves. This is a good thing, not only because they start to think and believe for themselves, but because we can also begin to see what they believe, where they are at.
When they talk to us about the question in their heart – we have an opportunity to give them further information, give them a different perspective. We also have the opportunity to pray for them (sometimes they won’t want to pray with us, but my kids have always been happy to know that I was praying for them regardless.) It is much better to know their questions, to know where they are at, then for them to keep it locked up inside because they are scared of our reactions.
Don’t take their questions personally – don’t be afraid of the questions – walk with your teen in their journey, with patience, grace, and love.
So if you have teens, and they start questioning the things you hold dear, I encourage you to listen to them – listen to what is really going on in their hearts. Are they really rejecting something you hold dear, or are they just questioning it? Don’t take it personally, but take the opportunity with both hands and with patience find a way to talk through their questions and help them find answers. But most of all accept them for who they are and where they are at. They are on a learning journey; they are not out to get you!
Post note: Sometimes our kids will go through this process and choose to believe something different than we believe, something different than what we taught them. And as hard as that is, that still has to be their journey. Remember, “Relationship First”. My mum used to say, “What will be important in 10 years time?” Relationship. Relationship with your kids is the number one thing. Ultimately it is God who has to grab hold of their heart. Don’t think it is all up to you. Don’t make your relationship with them based on their relationship with God. Your direct influence may change as your older teens make choices for themselves, but you are still their parent – you are still the one in their life who can love them unconditionally.
Over to you:
Have you had your teens start asking questions on things you thought were sorted? How’d you go? Do you have any tips to share? Any questions to ask?