It’s a scenario that’s almost bound to happen at some point. Your teen is asking sensitive and tough questions about their faith. How should you, the parent, respond?
We had the chance to talk about this situation with Mari Pablo, a Catholic speaker and writer who has worked in youth ministry for over 15 years, including being a youth minister in New Orleans and a high school theology teacher in Miami. She’s also one of the new presenters in the updated course from Ascension, Chosen: Your Journey to Confirmation.
First of all, she said, “It’s a good thing that they’re asking these questions!”
It shows that they’re really thinking about their faith and they care enough to seek answers. “They just want to understand the reasoning behind what the Church says, and why it applies to their life and how it can make a difference,” Pablo said.
Asking you these questions is a positive sign about the state of your relationship with your teen. “It’s great that they’re asking tough questions, because that already shows that you have a good relationship with them.”
Next, be confident that our faith can stand up to these questions.
Catholicism honors the unity of faith and reason. We know that what we believe in faith and what we discover by reason are fully compatible, because God is the source of both faith and reason.
Any questions your teen asks can lead you both to a deeper understanding and appreciation of your faith.
Keeping all these good things in mind, here’s how to respond in the moment to your teen’s tough questions about faith.
1Be calm, open, and welcoming of questions
You want your teen to feel comfortable asking you anything, so respond accordingly.
“This is a really big thing,” Mari said. “Don’t overreact and don’t freak out if your teen is asking something that may be not what you’re used to. As adults, we need to encourage them to ask whatever question they want. Allow them to feel loved, allow them to feel comfortable enough to ask those questions.”
2Research and find answers, together or on your own
Mari pointed out that sometimes we think questions are tricky just because we may not know the answers ourselves.
“Start off by doing your own research,” she said. “Make sure that you know the topics that are being asked, especially when it comes to things of morality. Understand the ‘why,’ dive into the Catechism, dive into how this makes sense from a rational perspective. How you can explain this to your teens really makes a big difference.”
It can be especially powerful to point your teen toward good resources and then let them read and research for themselves. This gives them the sense of finding their own answers and helps them fully understand and embrace what they learn.
3Share what you love about your faith
Your own witness and example as a parent has the greatest influence on your teen. So don’t hesitate to share the things you love about being Catholic, or some ways that your faith has helped you through life.
“Teens’ deepest desire is to feel known, to feel loved, and to understand who they are and what they’re created for. God desires to give all this to them,” Pablo said. “And he wants to do it through you, through the family, through the parents, who are the primary catechists.”
Ultimately, it’s a beautiful thing to learn more about your faith together with your teen. Allow your child’s questions to open the door for growing in faith as a family.
“Just be there for them, love them, and walk with them, and discover truth together and let that truth change all of your hearts.”