Is your pre-teen or teenage son starting to ask questions like, “Is God real?” “How much of my parents’ values are valid?” “Is there really a spiritual dimension to life?”
It is not unusual for an adolescent boy to start asking hard questions about his faith.
Don’t panic. Take a deep breath.
Although it seems that these doubts and questions are the road to disbelief, they are actually an important part of your son’s journey to adulthood. Questioning the most fundamentals are a part of his efforts to make his faith his own.
The great heroes of history also went through this phase, probably more than once, and it opened the way to new understandings of God, His ideals and His principles. So, congratulations! Your son is starting out on his own journey to become a hero in God’s history. This is probably his first of many where he will come to deepen his relationship with God and his faith.
This important stage is probably heightened by the physical changes he is going through. It is scientifically proven that the testosterone spike during adolescence and young adulthood not only causes physical changes, but also stimulates the desire to feel the thrill of pushing boundaries, whether it is rule boundaries, physical limits, or safety.
This stage in their life could last months, even years.
And during this time, he is going to need you more than ever.
Here are six things you can do to help him along the way.
- Remember. God is bigger than any question that your son can pose. God’s love doesn’t change. God’s truth doesn’t change. Don’t let your son’s questions intimidate you. His questions may actually lead him closer to God in the end.
- Pray for your son. In many ways, your son is starting to venture out of your proverbial “nest” to see the world. It can feel very scary for the parent as your son flexes his mental and spiritual wings to see if he can fly. Your first impulse may be to put out your hand to prevent him from falling out, but more than your hand, he needs your prayer. Your prayers will help you connect to the long-term perspective God has for your son, and His wisdom. Your prayer can also support your son, and open his heart and eyes to see God and his faith actively working in his life.
- Listen to your son and give him honest answers. The temptation may be to give your son quick and strong answers. But, your son needs to feel that you are with him on his quest for understanding. Some of the questions you may not be able to answer to his satisfaction, but give him your most honest and sincere answer. That aside, his questions may be stemming from other challenges in his life. He could be struggling with fitting in with a circle of friends at school, he could be feeling unsure of his own self-worth. When you listen closely to your son’s questions, you may be able to uncover the real root of his questioning.
- Create a place for him to explore his questions.
- Some families have started family study circles with other families where their adolescent sons are able to study, listen and ask questions with other family parents and peers. This support circle is helpful not only for your son, but parents as well. Sometimes someone else can give an answer that is better accepted than you can. It’s okay to borrow mouthpieces. This place with understanding and little judgement will provide a place for your son to bring up his question.
- Other families have said that a circle of brothers of faith who walk through their journey together is extremely important. Every boy will go through their course in making their faith their own. Having each other will provide a place where they can openly express their questions, provide support during their highs and lows, and discover God together
- Encourage him to make efforts in his search for answers. Asking the questions and uncovering doubts is just the first step to finding the answers. Encourage your son to invest in his search. Along the way he can develop tools that will help his spiritual development. He can try things different things to see what helps him on his journey. He could go into nature and challenge his physical limitations as he searches for an answer. He could a time period where he devotes time to prayer and or study. He could commit to a time period to attend family study circles or youth group to ask his question. But make sure he understands important things can take investment over time.
- Remind him how much you love him and how you will love him no matter what. God gave your son you, to show the unchanging, eternal and unconditional love of God. So, no matter what he says, does or asks, don’t lower your expectations of happiness for him, but also remind him how your love will never change.
Be excited, but also patient. As he experiences growing pains in his move from childhood to adulthood, this is also chance for you to grow as parents. You will be pushed to express your love in different ways, share and affirm your faith in new ways, and grow closer together as a family.
“I need to talk to my dad more,” Jin said with a relieved smile.
It had been months since Jin could have a deep father-son talk but Dad had just returned from a business trip and that evening the two of them spent almost 4 hours catching up. From financial planning, future goals, mom’s health and recent life lessons, they had a lot to talk about.
Between school, work, social events and the demands of everyday life, they had been too busy.
But the last hiatus was important. After talking with Dad, Jin realized how many thoughts, worries, and inspirations could build up inside when he didn’t check in regularly with Dad. He also realized how many things could be resolved simply by talking things out with Dad.
It was kind of a realignment when they talked; a time to get on the same wavelength. Dad, being on the outside of Jin’s life, could present a different perspective. When they talked, they identified the priorities, the large rocks of life, which helped map out where the smaller, but just as important things could go, and which ones he could just let go of.
Talking to Dad also made the impossible seem possible. Most recently, Jin had been contemplating the next few years of his life. Should he go to school right away or not? If he did, could he be financially responsible? Along with those questions came the bigger questions that impacted those answer – like did he know what he wanted to do with the rest of his life? And was he where he wanted to be at this point in his life? As he talked to Dad, these stressful questions that sat in Jin’s gut got unraveled, reformed, and made into an opportunity for growth.
He realized that life didn’t rest merely on what he did, but how he grew from his different experiences. He realized that more than making the “right” choice, he should take responsibility for his choices. He also affirmed his long-term goals which included family life and career. After talking to Dad, the next few years seemed less daunting and more exciting. The past few years looked less ambiguous, and more purposeful.
“God was wise to give each child parents,” reflected Jin.
The parent-child relationship is one of unconditional, absolute and eternal love. Such an unmovable foundation is the wellspring of confidence, innovation and solutions.
Parents, have you talked to your children recently?
Children, have you talked to your parents recently?
Don’t be “too busy.” You may be surprised what fruits can come out of that conversation.
Being married and raising kids is hard work. Sometimes we get lost in the hustle and bustle of keeping up with our “to-do” list. Pradit and Niyom, who have four kids and a busy working life, remind us that taking a moment to be grateful helps us see all the ways that our lives are blessed.
“In our lives it feels like we are busy 24/7,” said Pradit. “Sometimes I think, ‘I don’t have money.’ But I have a car and a house. I thank God for giving me a beautiful wife and these four children. When I think about this, I am humble before God. I can’t even thank God enough for what I have accomplished. I have a billion things to thank God for. In that way, I am actually a billionaire.”
His wife, Niyom, chimed in, “God has really shown me that a husband is very special.”
She’s also real about the challenges of life. “Daily life is not easy. I myself try very hard to feel God but it’s not easy, like climbing a mountain every day.”
She reminds us of the intentional effort it takes to building personal relationships, with God and our family. As we climb these mountains, taking a moment to say, “Thank you,” allows us to appreciate the journey of the climb, and the blessings that surround us: family, friends, personal and the opportunities God presents to help us grow into stronger, more loving people.
It also helps us marvel at the view when we get when reach the top, which is almost always worth every step it took to get there.