30 Seconds for Hope: I have learned so much from moms who mentored me. One of them, Mardean Martindale, alerted me that children cycle through various stages. It’s a given. If we’re not aware of stages, we end up with unrealistic expectations and may assume a child should’ve already “arrived” (whatever that is!). Understanding developmental stages, even expecting them, can help you grasp hope—simply by becoming aware. Don’t be shocked by things that actually are normal. Let’s discover the norms and gain hope!
And now the full story:
Gem Number 4…
A packed auditorium indicated the high respect this crowd had for my friend and speaker, Mardean. She and her husband were teaching key principles for parents at a regional gathering of multiple churches. Distracted for a moment by all the people, I glanced around the room and spied friends from my former church. “Oh, there’s Terry,” I thought. “I can’t wait to reconnect with her!” Forcing my mind to come back to the seminar topic, I tuned in to hear Mardean expand on a subject that was still years ahead for me—teenagers.
“Don’t be surprised when your teens doubt what you’ve taught them,” Mardean said. “It’s normal.”
“Really?” I wondered.
“All children go through stages,” Mardean expounded. “Young children believe pretty much everything their parents say, including religious beliefs and faith statements.”
She had my attention. I had young children and they were believing me. It felt good. Would this change for my kids?
Mardean continued, “As children mature out of concrete thinking and develop abstract judgements, they begin to evaluate most everything their parents have taught them. So normally teens will go through a time of questioning. They’ll even question what you view as bedrock truths.”
Wow, that felt scary. My children might someday question things that I was teaching them for their own benefit! But Mardean pressed on to infuse hope into this bleak picture.
“After this period of questioning, young adults will develop conclusions of their own. At this point they are ready to make their own commitments. In faith areas, they become ready to embrace what they believe rather than parroting what their parents told them. Time after time I’ve seen fresh commitments come after this period of questions and doubts. And it’s good because it’s their own.”
Then Mardean concluded with a quotable quote, “Always remember, God doesn’t have any grandchildren. Only children.”
The seminar ended. Terry and I happily reconnected and caught up on our news. But more importantly, I purposed to keep my heart connected to Mardean’s message for the years ahead, firmly gripped and internalized. I realized that parents’ faith cannot grant kids a relationship with God. Personal faith is needed for being adopted as God’s child. Therefore every person has to come into their own belief, their own faith. Though young children will believe anything, young adults have to go through a process to make these beliefs their own. Or not.
Mardean laid out a framework I would refer to often in the years ahead. Children initially trust parents, but then as teens they question parents. Finally as young adults, they settle into personal commitments. Don’t be surprised.
My own sweet little cherubs eventually did come into times of questions, sometimes doubting almost everything about life. Because of Mardean’s prescient heads-up, I knew to embrace questions, not resist them, and then answer the honest queries according to my own understanding. I encouraged my children to search for and discover truth. In a court of law, cross-examination reveals the true story. In light of that, I confidently encouraged my children to cross-examine things they’d learned, knowing that truth will always hold up under questioning. I understood my role to be one of guiding them to answers rather than pressing and forcing my beliefs.
I’m so glad I learned in advance about this normal progression toward personal commitment.
Thank you, Mardean!
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