Many have experienced the anguish of seeing one of their offspring leave the family faith and head down other paths - sometimes for another religion; sometimes forsaking any belief.

If this happens, there are important points to remember to keep your sanity intact and your hope alive.

All is not lost

Sometimes changing direction or stepping off the straight and narrow altogether is just a phase. As children mature, they begin to question everything. Remember that what they were brought up with is still in there. It may just be drowning in a sea of unanswered questions or rebellion.

Remember Christ's teachings

Christ loved the sinner while hating the sin. He loved unconditionally and set the pattern for all parents to handle their children with the same unconditional love. Reserve judgment and guilt and love liberally and without reservation.

Keep your own faith

Continue to practice what you believe in without apology, but also without pressure and guilt. Children see more of what you do than they hear what you say.

Keep the dialogue open and intimate

Discuss, without condemning, what your child is now embracing, even if it is atheistic or agnostic in nature. Show interest and assure them that while it may not be remotely close to what you believe, your love for them is based on more than commonalities. It is based on mutual respect and that you hope for the same respect in return.

If things get heated, walk away

Don't engage in a war of words. Take a time-out and agree to revisit the topic when things have cooled down. Part with a hug and "I love you."

Conversion

If the child leaves the faith of his childhood for another, support him. Be open about your feelings, but attend any baptism or other ceremony of induction if invited.

Remember

This is more than likely no reflection on your parenting but rather an exploration of new ideas. Don't waste your time on self-guilt or self-pity. Use your energy in loving unconditionally.

Pray

Never underestimate the power of your prayers. From your mouth to God's ears send a petition for the health and safety of your child while he is checking out his options.

Listen to the spirit

All of these admonitions are general suggestions and do not replace any promptings you may have about your child. You, as parent, have the keys to raising your kids. If you suspect danger or harm, listen carefully and pray for guidance. There are crazy cults out there who prey on indecision. Always go with your gut and investigate what disturbs you. Call on divine intervention.

Hold the ammunition

Bear in mind that if your child is acting out of rebellion, chances are she will look for you to jump on her and fight for what you believe in, which will only fan the flames and fuel her newfound mission. If you feel righteous indignation coming on, take a breather. Smile, tell him you love him, and assure him that nothing will change that.

Children are like clay, and while we take great pains to mold them into what we want them to be, they have to face the kiln sooner or later. The final law is love and it surpasses all other commandments. Continue to keep the faith, love unconditionally, and pray for their welfare.

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