The results are in
Not sure that parents can really do this, or not convinced of the overwhelming value that faith gives to life? Here are some quick takes from some substantial research to help assure you that parents play the most pivotal role in the faith development of their children, that faith plays a gib part in our children’s ability to live joyful and meaningful lives, and that there are some simple ways that parents can help their kids, starting no
Overwhelmingly, evidence suggests that youth raised in faith-filled families are more likely to be faith-filled than youth raised in faith-filled families. Why is that? Parents who create a culture of faith at home. Parents influence their children’s faith in many ways, including modeling, encouragement and reinforcement, creating an environment of curiosity, seeking, and conversation, and by providing of faith-based experiences, including prayer and opportunities with a larger faith community.
Vern L. Bengtson, Susan Harris, and Norella M. Putney, Families and Faith: How Religion Is Passed Down Across Generations (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017)
Loren D. Marks and David C. Dollahite, Religion and Families: An Introduction (New York: Routledge, 2016).
Christian Smith and Melina Lundquist Denton, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009)
Faith has real, lasting value. We know that having a relationship with the Lord changes everything, and some studies have even been able to “measure” the difference that faith can make. The “bigger picture” and purpose-giving love found in faith can play an important role in adolescents’ lives as they form their identity, and it manifests as well-being. Religion, faith, and values enable youth to make sense of the world and understand their place in it. Living a life of faith has been associated with substantial mental health benefits, including lower rates of depression, anxiety, suicide, and substance abuse.
Pamela Ebstyne King, “Religion and Identity: The Role of Ideological, Social, and Spiritual Contexts,” Applied Developmental Science 7, no. 3 (2003)
Harold G. Koenig, “Research on Religion, Spirituality, and Mental Health: A Review,” The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry 54, no. 5 (2009)
Erik H. Erikson, Identity: Youth and Crisis (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1968)
But… how can I help my kids to want faith for themselves? Curiosity is Key. Parents and adolescents reported that, when religious conversation was focused on the adolescent child’s needs and interests, the adolescents were engaged, interested, and enjoyed discussing religion. In contrast, when the conversations were tailored more to the parents’ desires and needs, the adolescents were more likely to be disengaged and uninterested.” For example, religious conversations that involve a parent lecturing their child about religion are not as effective as when the child is involved as an active participant. This may be especially important as children grow older and enter developmental periods marked by a desire to demonstrate competence and explore their identity.
-David C. Dollahite and Jennifer Y. Thatcher, “Talking about Religion: How Highly Religious Youth and Parents Discuss Their Faith,” Journal of Adolescent Research 23, no. 5 (2008).
Research on why young people leave the Church: https://cruxnow.com/church-in-the-usa/2018/01/new-study-seeks-understand-young-people-leave-church/
Articles on a parent’s role in their child’s happiness and faith development: https://www1.cbn.com/family/a-parent%27s-influence