The first time Caroline asked me a “hard” spiritual question I was not prepared. I love theology, discussing doctrine, reading meaty books, studying the Bible, etc., but discussing these topics with a little girl wasn’t on my radar!
And yet many gifted and 2e children ask the hard questions, often long before you expect them to do so. They think about life, death, God and matters of faith in ways many adults never do.
I admit my first response internally was to briefly freak out. It really was. That quickly turned into a thought of something like, “Can’t I just catch a break!?!?!?” After those thoughts raced through my mind in a matter of a few seconds, I tried to honestly and succinctly respond to her question.
As David and I were talking about this, we tried to determine how to handle these kinds of questions in the future. We know they are coming. We know that gifted and 2e kids rarely respond well to the “because I told you so” method of instruction. I also have read widely and know that some Christian and/or homeschooled children are seriously blindsided when they leave home and the protective theological cocoon their parents have raised them in.
These are some of the principles we’ve come to based on our own faith experiences and watching others around us successfully parent their children in the faith (as well as learning from the people who admit they screwed up and how they would do things differently).
The Importance of Honesty and the Truth
This is a foundational value in our home. We state openly that we are a family that tells the truth to each other. The truth is directly tied to trust and that’s a biggie. It’s part of the reason we didn’t do Santa. I know good people disagree about this, but I wasn’t going to lie to my child for years and at the same time tell her that we value always being truthful in our home. We tell Caroline she should always tell us the truth and she can depend on us to be honest with her.
No Question is Off Limits
We tell Caroline she can ask us or tell us anything, anytime. There is no such thing as a dumb question and we always take her thoughts seriously. If she has doubts about something, I want to know about it. I want her to tell me what she thinks rather than feeling I will be angry or disappointed because she is having thoughts of her own that might be contradictory to what we believe. I can’t answer her questions or guide her to answers if she’s afraid of being honest. We tell her point blank that she can feel free to tell us anything.
Speak Often of Our Faith
There is a difference between speaking authentically about our faith and preaching at her. We avoid preaching. But we do speak as authentically about our faith as often as possible and in natural ways. We tell her stories of how we have seen God work in our lives and how He has answered prayers. We share with her the important stones of remembrance that line the path of our lives both separately and together. We talk about how she is a specific answer to prayer. We have always made it clear that our faith is not just something we do on Sunday (which is a good thing considering how much we have struggled with church attendance). Our faith is an integral part of who we are and informs our decision every day.
We Ask Her for Forgiveness
Never ever underestimate the power of modeling this to your child. When we are short with her, grumpy, or otherwise sin against her, we confess it to her and ask her forgiveness. She cannot learn how to ask for forgiveness unless she sees it modeled. David and I apologize to each other in front of her. We say, “I forgive you” in front of her. If we aren’t willing to confess our sins, how can we expect her to take our faith seriously? Because she has seen it modeled, she also will ask for our forgiveness when she does something wrong. She also knows that while there may be consequences, our love for her never changes (which goes back to the idea of feeling free to ask any question up above).
Embrace the Wonder of Creation
David and I are both naturally geeky and we find the world fascinating. We find creation fascinating. The Bible tells us that God speaks to us constantly through His creation and I find it so true. We regularly share our amazement over what God has created.
Understand All the Views
We want Caroline to know and understand the different views people have about life, including those that deny God and Jesus. We want her to understand why people believe certain things we don’t believe as well as why we don’t believe that way. We are not doing her any favors if we don’t speak honestly about the various beliefs out there. She’s going to run up against them eventually and I vastly prefer we’ve already considered them in our home.
As she gets older, we will try to help her to understand the tension of not being able to be certain about all aspects of faith. It’s called faith for a reason. I cannot answer every question for myself and I’m sure I won’t be able to answer every question for her.
Who Ultimately Loves Her
Looking back, David and I can both see that our parents gave us a foundation in the faith. We are both profoundly thankful for that. But God also used other people in significant ways in our faith journey. I have no doubt that He will do the same thing for Caroline.
We prayed for many years for a child, specifically a girl. We also specifically prayed that God would make her strong. (What were we thinking!?!??!?!? LOL!)
As much as we love her and want what is best for her, we know that God loves her far more than we could ever try. He has had His hand on her life in ways we can see so clearly. We will pray for her and instruct her, but ultimately she belongs to God and we trust Him to provide the answers she needs.