The long anticipated (and sometimes dreaded) moment has arrived —your child has come to you with questions about your belief in and/or relationship with God.
If you are anxious about answering — perhaps even paralyzed with the fear of saying the wrong thing, and sending your child spiraling down a lifelong abyss of confusing, anchorless spirituality — fear not. Yes, it’s a BIG TOPIC, but here are some ways to get through this trepidatious occasion.
Congratulate yourself! You are officially the parent of a child who has recognized and begun to grapple with the universal questions of life. More important: Your prodigy is actually interested in your beliefs. Mazel tov! Act like this is perfectly normal, and the two of you regularly mull over the meaning of life together.
Take a deep breath, and express your opinions and beliefs freely. Regardless of whether your religious beliefs are firm — grounded in the logic of science or steeped in the amorphous nature of spirituality — let it all hang out. Every human being is entitled to their beliefs, and expressing them to your child is not to be confused with indoctrination. It is simply modeling the concept that you are a person who has given these questions the hefty thought that they deserve. This is a good thing, and important for your child to know. Completely disregard any and all eye rolling (alas, this moment is not about you).
Keep in mind that you do not have to give the “right” answer. (And if you know what the “right” answer is, let me know, OK?) Remind yourself that if all of your words had lifelong impact on your child, his/her room would remain spotless at all times, and he/she would be showering you with the gratitude you clearly deserve. Instead, this conversation about God will be much like all of your others: You will express your deepest, most heartfelt thoughts and platitudes, and your child will add this information to the ginormous bucket in which he/she is collecting drops of knowledge and opinions, before arriving at his/her own conclusions. The same conclusions that he or she will arrive at, with or without your input. However, what does matter, is that you model the importance of taking the time to contemplate these significant matters.
Understand that your child is struggling with the exact same things with which you struggle. Your kid is wondering: Why is there injustice in this world? Why do bad things happen to good people? How can I make a difference? What is my purpose on this earth? If these questions sound familiar, it may be due to your own continued search for the answers. You both have this in common.
This brings us to the shared journey for answers. Just let your child know that you are both on this path — along with pretty much all of humanity. There is comfort and inspiration in companionship, even when provided by the least cool parent in the world (and yes, sorry to say, I’m talking to you). Once you have pointed out that you share the journey, just listen. A lot. When the opportunity arises, ask many open-ended questions designed to elicit a full, meaningful answer, then listen some more. Your child is trying on his/her opinions for size by expressing them aloud. They are far from being fully formed.
Begin the kvelling — you have earned it! Though you may be deeply uncool (see: Step five) take pride knowing you are raising a thoughtful, inquisitive future adult who also cares what you think. You must be doing something very right, so sit back and wait for the compliments about raising an amazing kid to roll in. You have nailed parenting once again!