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Our children are growing up in a VUCA world—Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous, a world saturated with different forms of media flooding us with diverse worldviews.

Among other things, this means that our children now have easy access to information that may not be healthy for them, and yet we parents may not always be available mentally and physically for them, to help them build a strong foundation for discernment.

Alongside the challenges presented by a VUCA world is the trend that there is a growing number of young people in Singapore who have no religious affiliation.

Reacting in a dramatic way tends to put people off, not just teenagers.

As a mother of two teenagers, and as the International Director of Generations of Virtue—a ministry that is committed to teaching sexual wholeness and integrity, building family relationships and equipping families to transform culture—I monitor these trends and make sense of these first in my mothering, and then in my ministry.

My experience has been that as I grow with my teenagers, I need to fill the gaps in their lives, and that requires a constant looking out for how they are living holistically—how are they growing in body, soul and spirit? How balanced are their lives?

If they are not living balanced lives (and that could mean having lots of questions about their world and the people around them, with no reliable sources or people to turn to), what does God want me to do?

I have framed my suggestions as filling in the GAP:

  • Get educated and be ever ready
  • Apply active listening
  • Pray

Get Educated And Be Ever Ready

As I grow with my children spiritually, I find that I often need to stay a step ahead of what they are learning and figuring out.

In the tween years, I noticed that they were interested in connecting what they were learning in school and church with their Christian beliefs.

And when they made a connection, it was like a lightbulb switching on and they became more confident of themselves and of engaging others.

So I started to read up on apologetics and how to have discussions with my tweens.

I am thankful to have found useful resources such as Natasha Crain’s Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side, ministries such as Axis, as well as resources on social media such as Breakpoint and CrossExamined.

Keeping in touch with culture and figuring out how to unpack the complexities of the world with my teenagers has become my habit and an opportunity to grow spiritually as I seek God’s wisdom daily on how I should raise them.

I have learnt not to appear too shocked or upset when I get an interesting question or comment, but to listen with the aim to understand.

Although I hope that the deep conversations with my children happen when I have done my research and am fully prepared, I have learnt that such teachable moments often come when I least expect them—it could be just before bedtime when I have finished praying with them, or as part of a casual chat.

During such moments, I may not feel completely ready to tackle my teens’ complex questions, but I am confident that God is ever with me, to help me to live out 1 Peter 3:15: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”

Apply Active Listening

Over the years I have learnt not to appear too shocked or upset when I get an interesting question or comment, but to listen with the aim to understand.

Reacting in a dramatic way tends to put people off, not just teenagers. Sometimes I find it hard to hold back comments, but when I remember that my goal is to help them make connections and think for themselves, I would say things like:

“Hmmm”, “Yeah” and “Oh wow.”

“How do you feel about that?”

“What do you think of that?”

“How did you come to that conclusion?”

I leave lots of room for my daughters to think and make connections for themselves, before giving my perspective and answering their questions about my way of thinking.

It takes time and effort, but I am discovering that it is empowering for both them and me to be able to have constructive conversations about difficult issues of life.

Pray

Finally, it’s almost a no-brainer—pray. Pray with them, pray for them, pray for their friends and their families, pray for their teachers and school leaders, pray for our church and our leaders.

And, pray as a family.

I have been praying Numbers 6:24-26 for my children for years, before they sleep and before they leave home for the day. It brings much comfort to them and to me, knowing that they are in God’s hands regardless of how complex the world can be:

“The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.”

In 2018, I attended a conference with my teenagers where Josh and Sean McDowell spoke.

The day after that, my elder daughter was scheduled to share at her school’s assembly. I was pleasantly surprised to see her challenging her peers to ask themselves: “Do you know why you believe what you believe?”

She went on to share the basis of her beliefs, starting with how the evidence is all around us if we put in the effort to look and think.

Keeping in touch with culture and figuring out how to unpack the complexities of the world with my teenagers has become my habit and an opportunity to grow spiritually as I seek God’s wisdom daily on how I should raise them.

After school, she told me that some students approached her to challenge her views. I was glad that she did not waver or feel pressured, but found it intellectually stimulating and faith-strengthening to have those conversations with her peers.

We discussed some questions that she wanted more information on, and it became a teachable moment for both of us.

So let’s work to stand in the GAP for our children in this complex world:

  • Get educated and be ever ready
  • Apply active listening
  • Pray

We can do this, parents, with the strength and wisdom of our Lord. There is hope!

 

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