As our kids get older opportunities to talk with them can seem to diminish. They get busy with school work, sport, music or friends and there seems to be less time available for a casual chat. But actually, as our kids get older, this is the time we need to be talking with them more than ever.
As they process the big life questions, we want to know what they are thinking, engage with them and know what they are wondering about.
Our kids do wonder. I remember going through a 12 month period of asking my then 12-year-old son, what he was wondering about at least once a fortnight. It started out as an experiment after chatting with a friend who had started a similar habit, with fantastic relationship payoff with his daughter. I was constantly amazed at the many wonderings that went on in my boy’s busy mind. I remember thinking how much I appreciated these opportunities that only came about through asking this simple question. I would never have been given this glimpse into his thoughts without this simple prompting. These conversations were sometimes pretty shallow and one-offs while others would require chewing over a few times. They paved the way for conversations into the future that had a significant influence on decisions he had to make and as he began to process some big life questions.
Our kids have a lot of processing to do. Research into child theology tells us that around the age of 8 or 9, children start to process faith ideas differently. They begin to have significant questions and will begin to seek to find the answers. Sometimes as parents, this can be really daunting and we sometimes start to worry that our kids are having a faith crisis. But we don’t have to fear as these questions are generally a positive sign that our kids are starting to really engage with their faith. What we need to worry about is that they have somewhere these questions can get answered. In Deuteronomy 6, God instructs parents to talk about Him with their children throughout the day. The last thing we want is for our kids to find the answers to their questions through Google. It’s interesting to note that verse 20 says “When your children ask about ….” God knows our children will have questions and he wants us, as parents to be the ones engaging with our kids. We may not know all of the answers and that is totally fine. In fact when we seek the answers together we show kids how faith and understanding is a life-long process.
If we want meaningful conversations when our kids are older, then we need to engage in conversations with them from a very young age. Paving the way for a culture of regular faith talks takes intentionality. We live in a world filled with distractions and busyness so we need to be in the moment with our kids. Putting our phone or iPad down, or turning the radio off in the car, gives a message of availability to our kids.
Sometimes our faith conversations happen during an intentional devotional time as a family, and these conversations can be very rich. But often the most engaging conversations around faith happen in our day to day life as things happen. Having conversations in the moment as our kids share their daily struggles, challenges and triumphs are rich in opportunity. When we capture these times for speaking of our faith to our kids, it makes faith relevant to them. It takes their life and shines Jesus into it.
The moment when our child is anxious about a test at school is the moment we can point to the assurance we have in Jesus that he will never leave us. The moment our teen is struggling with self-confidence is the moment we can affirm them with Psalm 139, that they have been fearfully and wonderfully made. The moment our kids wake in the middle of the night with a nightmare is the moment we can speak of God’s power and encourage them from Isaiah 43 with “Do not be afraid for I am with you”. Our lives are full of these moments with our kids and when we point to Jesus and our faith in these times, we help our kids to see the relevance of God for their lives.
There is so much joy in sharing faith with children through talking with them. As you disciple your kids to grow in their faith I really do hope you enjoy each one of those special little moments of connection that enrich not only your relationship but help to brings our kids closer each day to Jesus.
Ps Tracy Valentine, Generations Pastor, Gateway Baptist Church