Tuesday, July 17, 2007

When Children Ask Hard Questions

When children ask hard questions, I believe they are opportunities. I also realize that they can be very, very difficult moments when the questions our children ask hit on the very questions we have ourselves. These in my mind are pivotal mini-crossroads moments. It's important not to sweep their questions under the rug (and FWIW, I hope it's clear that I'm not advocating this). We can acknowledge their concerns (even commisurate with them as appropriate). The fact that they care and are asking questions is a good thing, and we want them to always feel they can. But I think the opportunity comes in helping them look and live beyond their questions. Rather than leave them with their questions hovering in their minds, we can add a "but" to our "I don't know" or "I have the same questions sometimes."

"But do you know that God cares about your questions and you can talk to Him about them anytime?"
"But can I share what I do know?"
"But even though I don't understand everything and sometimes wish I knew more, I do feel peace about...."

Our children are so observant with what they see, but without our teaching and guidance, they may not know to what Source to look for help in their moments of confusion, fear, pain, sorrow or questioning.

I guess for me I know of no other satisfactory way to approach ANY of the hard questions of life -- the ones my childrens have, or the ones I have. When they come to me with questions (even those that I myself have, and this has happened), I try to explore faith with them, to teach what I hope for and believe in in the eternal scheme of things, and to hope that the Spirit will help them (and me!!) find peace and reconciliation in spite of the pain and struggle and unfairness, real or perceived. (Sometimes it's in the teaching that the Spirit can help us as parents increase our own faith in our own questioning and struggles!) God cares about our pain and questions (I'm learning this more and more and believing it more and more)and I think we need to help our children learn that turning to Him is always the best answer, no matter what the question.

(The following was added after the original post went up because I think this talk is relevant. Besides, I want the reminder and think it's a good one for any parent!)

Elder Holland's talk reminds us that we can't speak enough of our faith to our children, even if it's solid and firm (and especially, I would suppose) if we struggle a bit along the way. The whole talk is well worth a read.

I think some parents may not understand that even when they feel secure in their own minds regarding matters of personal testimony, they can nevertheless make that faith too difficult for their children to detect. We can be reasonably active, meeting-going Latter-day Saints, but if we do not live lives of gospel integrity and convey to our children powerful heartfelt convictions regarding the truthfulness of the Restoration and the divine guidance of the Church from the First Vision to this very hour, then those children may, to our regret but not surprise, turn out not to be visibly active, meeting-going Latter-day Saints or sometimes anything close to it.... [YIKES!]

Live the gospel as conspicuously as you can....And bear your testimony! Don’t just assume your children will somehow get the drift of your beliefs on their own....

[M]ight we ask ourselves what our children know? From us? Personally? [Read through his list of what they should know and see and feel from us...testimony of scriptures, prayer and fasting (for them as well as for other things), temple, prophets, and especially of God and His Son.]

...Brothers and sisters, our children take their flight into the future with our thrust and with our aim. And even as we anxiously watch that arrow in flight and know all the evils that can deflect its course after it has left our hand, nevertheless we take courage in remembering that the most important mortal factor in determining that arrow’s destination will be the stability, strength, and unwavering certainty of the holder of the bow.

When I read this talk several months ago (and again refresh my mind on these sobering teachings), I realized that I can - indeed, must - do better. And I once again resolve to take moments when my children ask hard questions (and even when they don't...to find every opportunity I can) to testify with "powerful heartfelt convictions" so that there is NO question in their minds how I feel about the gospel, and so their tender seeds of faith (and my growing tree) can be fed at every possible opportunity.


SilverRain said...

Thanks for this, Michelle. I think it's important to add that the Spirit is there to help guide us through what we should say, when. Even if we have found an answer to our children's questions, sometimes it might be more appropriate to guide them to finding an answer themselves. Those are the tools that will shape their faith, even more than a knowledge of your faith.

I also posted my thoughts on the questions that sparked this post of yours on my blog, if you care to comment on it. I always enjoy your perspective.

M&M said...

Thanks for that addition. Of course you are right, and I appreciate the times when the Spirit helps me answer the questions my children have (or the ones I have!)

In fact, being a teacher is one of the greatest blessings, because the Spirit can help us so much. As parents, we are teachers and we are entitled to that help.

As for the tools...that was some of what I was trying to get at -- to point the children to the Lord so that they can learn how to approach any problems they have. Our faith should point them to the Source of strength and how they can feed their faith.

Great thoughts. Thanks again.

Téa said...

I want my children to feel comfortable coming to me with their questions, to know that I won't shy away from or be dismissive of what they have on their minds. Taking the approach you write about--that these are opportunities to teach, to guide, to empathize, to search together--has the best chance of making that desire a reality.

The PSAs out there dealing with parent-child conversations about smoking, alcohol, drugs, teen pregnancy, etc. are on the right track in my opinion.