What to Do When Adult Children Wrestle with their Faith

Amanda joined her daughter Katelyn at a quaint coffee shop near campus. She looked forward to seeing her daughter after two months apart. Katelyn seemed a little sheepish and reserved. 

 “You okay, honey? You seem so quiet,” said Amanda. 

Katelyn rambled on about classes and new friends, but she had something else she wanted to say. She mustered up the courage then blurted out, “Mom, I’m not sure I believe in God anymore.” 

Amanda’s heart sank and her stomach churned in knots. In an instant, her deepest fear came to pass. As she battled her feelings of failure as a mom, she knew this was a pivotal moment and what she said mattered. She flung a silent plea to heaven and asked for God’s grace right then. In a flash of tenderness, Amanda took a deep breath and said, “Tell me more.” 

Let’s Normalize Wrestling 

It’s normal for our emerging adults to wrestle with their faith. As they’re exposed to new ideas and concepts about the world, they will have questions and doubts, but this isn’t cause for alarm. As a parent, the key is to stay calm and not panic. Give your child the gift of listening. 

In their wrestling and questioning, God can reveal truth to your adult children. He can lead them to set aside a view of Him that isn’t true. God can use this season to draw them closer to Him, even when it may seem like they are moving further away in the short term. 

What if this is God’s plan to reveal Himself? It’s not the way we hoped it would go, but who are we to question God? Isn’t it our job to trust Him? 

How to Give Your Child a Listening Ear When They Are Wrestling with God 

When we refuse to acknowledge that grappling with faith is normal for many young adults, we can cause harm. As we watch our grown child contend with God, we can give them the gift of a listening ear. When our children are young, we want to correct, instruct, and train, but those days are behind us. This is a new parenting season which requires new skills. 

I didn’t always get this right, but my adult kids have taught me how to do this better. In the past, I judged them for their opinions or felt like I had failed them because their ideas or beliefs were different from how I raised them. I made it about me, instead of truly focusing on them and what they were experiencing. 

What’s needed now is a heart of compassion, the gift of restraint, and a nonjudgmental, listening ear. What’s most important is to listen for understanding. Mary Jo Sharp, in her book Why Do You Believe That? says, “Listening to others is a part of loving them.” 

Often when we listen to our adult children, we insert ourselves into the conversations. We become offended or defensive, which means we aren’t listening to understand. Instead, we’re thinking of ourselves. 

A trained listener knows how to separate oneself and truly focus on the other person. 

The Fruit of Active Listening: 

** It doesn’t judge. 

** It doesn’t correct. 

** It seeks common ground. 

** It’s an act of love. 

** It doesn’t speak. (This seems obvious, but many of us are inept at keeping our mouths closed.) 

** It isn’t thinking about a rebuttal. 

Proverbs shows us the value of listening for understanding: “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.”- Proverbs 18:2 ESV 

If you’ve come up short with your adult kids, like I have, I challenge you to make some adjustments. You will be amazed at the outcomes. You will feel more connected and in tune with your adult child and your child will feel validated and honored. Isn’t that the kind of relationship we long for with our grown kids? 

Ultimately, listening is an act of love. I’ve learned to engage in conversations where I simply listen. There’s no judgment, sarcasm, or criticism. I want to hear their heart on matters. 

Bring Your Concerns to God 

If you’re alarmed by what you hear, don’t fret. This simply means there’s something you need to take to God and talk to Him about. Lashing out or being critical will break down communication instantly. This is the moment to pause, gather your courage, and continue to listen. 

Instead of jumping to conclusions, could we trust God with the process and be thankful that our grown kids shared their hearts with us? What would it look like if we gave them a mat and let them wrestle as we stood by in support? Could our love and compassion be the bridge they need to return to God? Could we lean on God through this challenging season, as He ministers to our heartache? 

A Prayer for Moms Whose Adult Children Are Wrestling with God 

Lord, help me not to panic as my adult child wrestles with their beliefs in You. Give me strength to be a compassionate listener, willing to truly hear my child’s heart on the matter. Help me love them with tender support as they make sense of You. Thank You for carrying me while I support them. Give me courage to listen and not judge. Amen. 

 

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