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 big 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 now.
Overwhelmingly, evidence suggests that youth raised in faith-filled families are more likely to be faith-filled than youth raised in families that are not faith-filled.(1) Why is that? It’s because of parents who create a culture of faith at home.(2) Whether they recognize it or not, parents have great influence on their children’s faith including in the following ways…(3)
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.(4) Religion, faith, and values enable youth to make sense of the world and understand their place in it.(5) Living a life of faith has been associated with substantial mental health benefits, including lower rates of depression, anxiety, suicide, and substance abuse.(6)
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.(7)
(1) 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).
(2) Loren D. Marks and David C. Dollahite, Religion and Families: An Introduction (New York: Routledge, 2016).
(3) Christian Smith and Melina Lundquist Denton, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American
Teenagers (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009).
(4) Pamela Ebstyne King, “Religion and Identity: The Role of Ideological, Social, and Spiritual Contexts,” Applied
Developmental Science 7, no. 3 (2003).
(5) Erik H. Erikson, Identity: Youth and Crisis (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1968).
(6) Harold G. Koenig, “Research on Religion, Spirituality, and Mental Health: A Review,” The Canadian Journal of
Psychiatry 54, no. 5 (2009)
(7) 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).