Losing Her Religion



Dear Dharma,

My daughter is 12 and wants to stop going to church.

Her father and I are very conflicted about this. We are quite devout and feel that guiding our children to the Lord is an important part of their wellbeing.

However, we do realize that we choose this path for ourselves and that a true and pure relationship with the Lord is a very personal decision. We accept that our children may not want to remain in the church all their lives, but at 12? That’s too young for such an important decision.

We’ve all felt that church is “boring” around that age, just as that is the age parents become “uncool” and school is a “waste of time.” We understand how she feels but we also don’t want to stop attending church as a family at this time. Yet, forcing her to go will only distance her from the church even more.

We feel 16 is an appropriate age for her to decide if she will continue to attend with us or not.

Meanwhile she has plenty of exposure to secular and non-secular friends; we are open minded about her music, reading materials (Harry Potter is A-Ok with us!), and cool with her and her friends blossoming into whichever gender they identify with the most.

I think her father and I are being very reasonable. She thinks we are not. Who’s right?


Treading Carefully on a Difficult Subject

Dear Treading,

Yup, indeed you are in a tricky position.  And religion is such a touchy situation, isn’t it.

Interesting, right, that if your daughter was saying “I don’t want to go to school any more”, everyone would be 100% behind on you it being a non-negotiable point.

But because it’s church – which, let’s face it, for the past couple of decades, it’s had more negative associated with it than positive – everyone’s going to be on your case not to push her and “let her make her own decisions”.

Yet I agree with you.  12 years old is pretty young to make that decision and she’s likely making it for all the wrong reasons.  (“I’m bored!” carries very little weight with Dharma.)

And yet I totally agree with you when you say that forcing her to go will only have the opposite effect of what you are hoping to accomplish.

So how about something that makes her feel like she’s winning this round. But something that still allows you to be the parents who are making the decisions.

With no apology, no trepidation, and with complete authority and confidence, try something like,“Honey, we recognize that you aren’t enjoying church anymore, but your father and I have decided that we are all going to continue going as a family for the next little while.  And because we appreciate you coming with us with such a great attitude, we’ve decided to let you (fill in blank with something she’s really been wanting).”

In that one statement, you are a) acknowledging her feelings, b) letting her know the decision has been made, c) planting the seed of expectation with the mention of her impending great attitude and d) sweetening the pot.

Let her know you and her father are totally willing to re-visit this topic as time goes by.  For now though, this is where it’s at. At worst, let it be a lesson for her in learning to make the best of an unfavorable situation.  A life skill that will come in handy more often than we would like, right?



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