Creating a spiritual framework with teens or adult children
If you come to Parenting for Faith when your children are older it may not feel easy to start using the tools and ideas.
After all, your kids may not even live with you any longer, they will have made up their own minds about lots of things (which may include religion) and they may even be parents themselves. So when we talk about ‘creating a spiritual framework’ for our children, it’s easy to see how this might work with younger children, who are still around and learning to do life from you and who are probably always asking questions! But what about if they are older? This is a process that takes time and it may be that you won’t see what’s going on underneath the surface for a while. Just be yourself, be intentional and share as much as you can.
If you are new to faith or come to a more intentional stage of faith, this is a great opportunity to tell them – I’ve changed and this is why. Frame the change – talk about the fact you’ve become a Christian or explain that because of x you’ve realised you want to take your relationship with God more seriously. Kids are always interested in the things that make their parents tick, and actually never stop learning about how to do life from you.
Or you may have have been a Christian forever, but just never thought about creating a spiritual framework for your kids. Firstly, don’t worry or feel guilty! You probably have been spiritually framing a bit, or around some things like why we go to church, when God’s answered prayer, how beautiful creation is. All you need to do is to gently start becoming more intentional.
Here are some ideas to get you thinking about things that might help you start to create a spiritual framework for your kids – of whatever age.
- Don’t worry about getting God into every conversation. Instead, allow this to happen naturally. I have found that just by thinking about being more intentional and reflecting on where God is and what he’s been doing in my day, it has become easier over time for this to come out in normal conversation.
- How receptive are they? They may be fascinated and want to know everything or they may think it odd or embarrassing. Tailor your response to them and where they are at.
- If they are interested, you could invite your child to ask you questions about your faith – why you decided to become a Christian, why you go to church instead of the car boot sale, how has it changed you, etc.
- If your children are unreceptive or even hostile to your faith, you can still frame why you do things in such a way that they will see the values behind them. For example: ‘I know we probably won’t persuade everyone, but I’m going to that meeting about increasing accessibility because it’s important that we treat everyone like we’d want to be treated and at the moment it doesn’t seem fair that if you have a wheelchair you can’t go in so many places’; or ‘I’m determined to use less plastic because we’ve all got a responsibility to look after creation – that’s one of the reasons we are on the planet.’
- Give your child an insight into your faith by intentionally creating windows into your life with God now. For example, leaving your Bible out after reading it, or playing the worship music you normally listen to when they are around, or not putting off delivering that meal to someone at church because your kids are coming round. These ‘windows’ all help your child see what a life with God looks like and may result in questions that will allow you to frame things for them.
- Consider debriefing. There may be something in your family’s past that you wish you’d created a spiritual framework for at the time. This could be something like someone’s death, why you moved house and took your teens away from all their friends or where God was in that sticky patch in your marriage. If the subject comes up or if you feel the time is appropriate, it might be the right time to reflect on that together.
Don’t worry about seeing instant results. This is a process that takes time and it may be that you won’t see what’s going on underneath the surface for a while. Just be yourself, be intentional and share as much as you can.