Advice on talking with children about difficult topics
By Joy Allmond
When it comes to uneasy topics like same-sex attraction, natural disasters, human trafficking, or suicide, parents can feel intimidated about engaging their children.
This year’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) conference, themed “Christ-Centered Parenting in a Complex World,” featured a panel designed to help parents and church leaders deal with the tough issues.
Don’t be intimidated. “You will fail. But Jesus will prevail,” said Naomi Overton, national director of World Vision’s National Leadership Council. “The motivation for talking with our kids is love, which conquers fear.”
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary professor and author David Prince added, “When your child brings up an issue that makes you uncomfortable, your first thought shouldn’t be, ‘Oh no, I have to deal with this.’ Instead, praise God your child came to you first instead of someone else.”
Foster a mission-focused church and home. “It’s very important to keep student ministries centered on discipleship and living on mission,” said Chip Dean, a pastor of Liberty Live Church in Hampton, Virginia.
“When we actively engage our students in reaching the lost, it keeps the questions in the framework of not only what do I think about this, but how do I reach my friend?”
Overton said families should also live on mission in caring for the vulnerable. This will not only serve the least of these but also open up conversations about these hard topics within families and faith communities.
“We often talk about kids who leave the faith when they leave their parents’ home, but I’ve heard of some studies that have shown kids who keep their faith knew around five faithful adults,” she said.
“So get with your faith community. Choose a place where you develop a relationship with someone in need, and serve.”
Be present and approachable. “One of the things we try to get the parents in our congregation to do is be proactive and intentional, not just reactive,” said Prince, a pastor at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky.
“You may not know the answer to your child’s difficult question. But you want them to believe there’s no issue they can’t come to you about for biblical instruction,” he said.
“These conversations will challenge children and shape how they think.”
Stay engaged in gospel community. “When talking about difficult issues, it’s not a one-time thing,” said Phillip Bethancourt, executive vice president of the ERLC and co-author of Christ-Centered Parenting.
“It is an ongoing conversation. And people would rather have a mentor instead of a map. So when parents have to shepherd their children through difficult conversations, they need someone to come alongside them.”
JOY ALLMOND (@JoyAllmond) is managing editor for Facts & Trends.