By DR. FRED HALL, LPC
QUESTION: My 14-year-old says he doesn’t believe in God anymore. Should I still make him attend Easter service with us, or let him make his own choice?
Thanks for the question, reader. This is an interesting question with no easy or one-dimensional answer. The real question appears to be, should you allow or support your teen who doesn’t believe in God to skip out on a family tradition of going to Easter service? While that seems harmless enough, the real issue is a son who doesn’t believe and then wants to not follow the faith traditions of his family.
People, even teens, struggle with their identity and whether they believe and have saving faith in God. That is not new. What may be new for you, reader, is the fact that your son is now voicing that disbelief or defiantly saying, “I don’t want the God of this family.”
Either way, part of the issue is keeping him in the atmosphere and community of believers who will encourage him yet challenge his faith. Just being around other believers can be testimony and witness enough for those wandering or searching for meaning to come into a real relationship with Christ. I would support this staying around other believers, even if the child does not really want to do it. Part of our job as parents is to shield our children from harm but also to place them in the path of righteousness. Going to church, whether on Easter Sunday or any other Sunday, is good training and witness for your son.
At this point in their growth, children don’t get to opt out of family activities simply with an “I don’t want to” or “I don’t believe in that.” Allowing either of these two beliefs to gain traction will potentially start many more I-don’t-want-to’s that will be hard to quell. It is never a good idea to give youth or children so much freedom that they cannot make good family decisions. Until they leave you, you are responsible for them: mind, body, soul, and especially spirit.
Going to Easter service, yes. Getting to opt out because of your belief system, no. Having additional conversations to investigate your son’s beliefs, in order to know better how to pray, absolutely.
Remember, kids of all ages need structure and their parents’ guidance. They might not enjoy the structure, but they can respect you for it.
Dr. Fred Hall is a licensed professional counselor (LPC), supervisor, life and leadership coach and consultant. He works with individuals, couples, families and organizations in training, speaking, consulting and clinical practice. He does clinical work at Cornerstone Counseling in Jackson.