Faith evolves in stages. Knowing how to foster your teenager’s faith begins with understanding the unique spiritual food that nourishes an adolescent’s faith-development.
Teens occupy what’s called the “Synthetic-Conventional” stage of faith, but we like to call it the “Relationship & Mission Stage”
Teens are focused on figuring out their place in the world. So, they tend to believe something is “true” if it facilitates their relationships and helps them feel like they can make a difference. In the same way, they believe something’s “false” if it complicates their relationships or seems to be a source of conflict and division in their lives.
When parents focus too much on what our faith doesn’t allow us to do, or who our faith doesn’t allow us to hang out with, teens get the message that faith is an obstacle to either having relationships or discovering their purpose. The stronger they feel that way, the more likely it is that they’ll fight against the faith–or reject it altogether.
Instead of becoming too focused on the “Thou Shalt Not’s,” concentrate on giving your teens experiences that prove their faith can help them have fulfilling relationships AND make a positive difference in some way.
The most important way to do that is to make sure your teens see how your Catholic faith is having a positive impact in your home and family life. They need to see that your faith is helping you get along better–and care for each other more–than other families that don’t live the faith the way you do. Additionally, it’s important to help teens find faithful peers they can associate with, and causes they can put their faith and energy behind.
The more you can help your teen discover how their faith can enable them to build strong relationships and a healthy sense of mission, the more you’ll be giving your teens the spiritual food they need to grow into a faithful adulthood.
Want more ways to help your kids fall in love with the faith? Check out Discovering God Together: The Catholic Guide to Raising Faithful Kids.