When I look at my children, I see who God has created them to be. When I close my eyes, I envision them walking confidently toward their future while God’s blessings rain down upon them. Then I open my eyes to discover that they have not made their beds, my youngest hasn’t eaten anything but hot dogs for a week, and I have three phone calls from the school to return. Driving to church, we have to stop before we’ve reached the end of the driveway, so that two kids will stop “looking at each other.” One of them is crying, telling us that he hates Sunday school and doesn’t want to learn about Jesus today! I place my head on the steering wheel and wonder where we went wrong.
I worry that they won’t become people of integrity. I worry that they will not love the Lord and that they will turn their backs on God’s people while living alone in isolation with no spirituality whatsoever. Children are designed to push boundaries and discover their own way of doing things. As parents this can feel scary. How can we pass on our own faith while our child blazes their own path?
Where is God?
Do I have to go to Sunday school?
What does God look like?
Am I going to go to hell if I stole my brother’s baseball?
My youngest asks at least 50 questions before breakfast. My teenagers’ questions are a little more challenging. As children grow, parents can feel like the questions are a sign of danger. They aren’t. Questions are a sign of growth. We don’t have to feel pressure to convince our children to believe. Our job is to guide, to listen, and to foster open and honest conversation as our children investigate and ponder their own faith.
Create a Solid Foundation
The world around our children shifts and changes constantly. They will find places that they belong and places they don’t quite fit in. They may thrive in the marching band but feel uncomfortable in their fifth period English class. It is hard to watch our children try on new identities. It is scary to stand back while they weigh the validity of new influences. The one constant should be home. A solid foundation at home provides a safe place to return to each day. Loving parents who listen with love and respond with wisdom create a nourishing place for personal growth and strengthened faith.
Our God created those children we love so much. Jeremiah 1:5 says “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.” They rest in the palm of his hand. As you let go, use this time to pray for your children to see their path clearly and to find their identity in Christ. Pray with your children each day and pray for your children constantly.
One of the things we specifically pray for is that our children will have good friends. A good friend is someone who holds the same values and points us in the right direction. A good friend encourages and assists us in living the life God intended for us. As children grow, they are less focused on what mom and dad think and more focused on their peers. It is vital that our children make healthy friendships.
Second we pray for our children to create relationships with mentors. A mentor is a person who is older and wiser and will help guide the child into adulthood. A good mentor will patiently listen to our child and discuss ideas openly. A mentor will point our child back to the Lord and encourage a strong faith.
Widen the Circle
This part can be so hard! I was my child’s favorite person when they were a baby. I was top of the list until about first grade. It was awesome. But as our children grow, they see outside of mom and dad. The circle must widen. As our children reach outside of our family, it is important to help them develop space for relationships with positive peers and adults. They must have relationships that belong just to them.
Raising a child is all about letting go. My mom always says, “We are not raising children, we are raising adults.” This applies so much to the spiritual development of our children as well. We are raising them to stand firm on their own faith, not ours. It is a delicate balance, but it is one that fills my heart with joy as I watch my children transition from needing my constant guidance to soaring on their own.
What are some ways you are helping your child grow spiritually?
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