When your middle schooler starts questioning God and your family's faith, don't despair. His questions are actually a sign that he's growing up. By the time they reach 11 or 12 years old, kids have begun to move from concrete, literal thinking to an understanding of more abstract ideas and concepts. This is also a time when kids start to stretch toward independence and establish their own belief systems.
And the way they do this is to ask questions.
But before you scramble to come up with the perfect answers to all those questions, think about this: By not answering all of her questions, you're actually providing a better foundation for your child's spiritual growth, says Dave Bowman, head of Navigators ministry at Penn State University. Bowman has found that when kids ask questions and express doubts, they are more apt to seek out God on their own and gain a deeper understanding of biblical truths.
So what should you do when your child comes to you with tough questions about faith? Consider the following ideas:
Ask another question. Frame your response in such a way that it stimulates your child's own thought processes. If your child asks, "How do you know God is real?" you can reply with a question like, "What are some reasons you think God might not be real?"
Point her to the Word. Let your child know that biblical truth is trustworthy and will stand up to examination. Provide her with an age-appropriate Bible of her own, as well as other resources geared toward her questions (see sidebar). When your child finds answers to her questions by herself, she'll be more likely to embrace those answers than if she's simply heard them from you.
Find a good youth group. A good youth leader can provide just the right amount of spiritual guidance for your child as he works through his doubts. Christian clubs that meet at school can also be a safe place for your child to talk about his doubts.
Start with Proverbs. For many teens, the biggest question is usually, "How does the Bible relate to me and my life?" They'll find their answer in Proverbs. Not only are the verses short, they're also extremely practical. Because she's gaining the ability to think more abstractly, your young teen will be able to take the wisdom she finds in Proverbs and apply it to situations she faces right now.
Faith Tibbetts McDonald
Writer, former educator and mother of three
Copyright © by the author or Christianity Today/Christian Parenting Today Magazine.
Click here for reprint information on Christian Parenting Today.