Q. Our daughter is in second grade and she's already starting to notice that other children see movies she's not allowed to see, talk about sex in ways she's been taught are wrong, and use language she knows is inappropriate. How can we help her hold on to her Christian values when many of her peers live so differently?
A. All Christian parents wish they could protect their children from the dangers of our secular culture, but the truth is you can't. So rather than simply pulling children away from the world, I encourage parents to create a "parallel culture" where their children can discover a different way of living in a world that doesn't always honor their beliefs. In doing so, we can help them become agents of redemption who bring their best into a world that desperately needs Jesus. Here are some ways to start:
Create a safe place for questions.
Give your child the freedom to talk about her concerns. Do your best to help her understand why your family chooses to live the way you do. Ask her what she thinks about the language she hears or the topics others are talking about. Use these family conversations to help your daughter begin to develop her own filter for what's appropriate and what isn't.
Make church a family habit.
Expand on what your children experience while they're at church with questions, prayers, and real-life applications. Commit to your Christian community and involve yourselves in the lives of others you meet there.
If your child is feeling left out because her peers are watching movies she's not allowed to see, help her discover the positive movies out there (go to dove.org for suggestions). Encourage her to invite friends over for family movie night. As she gets older and music becomes more of a concern, steer her the huge variety of Christian alternatives. (You'll find great information at www.christianitytoday.com/music.) Or skip media altogether and spend an evening telling stories. Talk about how Grandpa became a Christian, read about one of the heroes of our faith, or tell each other about times when you've felt God at work in your life. One study found that the average child spends just 12 minutes a day in intimate conversation with parents, so just hang out and talk.
Build new traditions.
When my friend Amy was young, her father bought her an expensive pen that would be hers when she grew up. Every Christmas and Thanksgiving he would use the pen to write her a letter telling her why she was special and to share his dreams for her. Now Amy has the pen and is doing the same for her son. This kind of tradition helps a child feel connected to something bigger than the world of peers and popularity.
Model good stewardship.
Show your kids how to share what they havetime, talent, moneywith others. One man I know, Caleb, says he's never forgotten the year he and his family saved enough money to buy a mule for their missionary friend, Ed. Brainstorm ways your family can give of your resources and help your children see that this is part of bringing God's kingdom to life here on earth.
Connect with other families.
Building relationships with other Christians can help your children understand that there are plenty of other people who do share the values they've been raised with. Get together with these friends often to talk about the ways God is working in your lives and to encourage each other as you seek to impact the world for Christ.
Marlene LeFever is the Director of Church Relations at Cook Communication Ministries.
Copyright © 2003 by the author or Christianity Today/Christian Parenting Today magazine.
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