Parents of Teens: Faith & Feelings

Parents, here is a discussion that you can have with your teen in regards to faith & feelings.

Background

All of us struggle some to line up our emotional responses to life with our stated beliefs about God’s greatness, power, goodness, forgiveness, and His absolute love for us. Teens, though—fueled by a cocktail of hormonal change and hyper-cultural connectivity—may find it even more baffling to allow their trust in God to lead them to peace of mind, freedom from anger and fear, and a general sense of joyfulness.

Worse, as this recent U.K. survey points out, many teens have a hard time talking about their stressed out or anxious feelings. What can parents do to help?

For one, we can open up about our own emotions and how our faith in God helps us to control and/or experience them. We’re pulling our talking points this week from Philippians 4:4-9. That passage tells us to “rejoice,” to reject anxiety, to practice gratitude, to expect God’s peace, and to manage our emotions by managing our thoughts.

You’ll find it helpful to read through the passage and maybe to read it together with your son or daughter. We hope a few of the questions below will lead to a worthwhile conversation with your child about faith and feelings.

Talking Points

  • How would you say you’re feeling, lately, emotionally speaking? How would you guess I’m feeling emotionally, based on the way I’ve acted, lately? Do you like to talk about emotions? Why or why not?
  • Which emotions do you tend to experience most often, would you say? [Parent: Be willing to talk about your own emotions. Reinforce the idea that emotions include things like anger, fear, happiness, sadness, depression, bitterness, rage, and worry, for starters.]
  • Do you think God cares about how we’re feeling emotionally? Do you think He expects us to feel certain emotions more than others? Does He expect or want us to feel happy all of the time?
  • Do you think God cares as much about what we’re feeling inside as what we’re doing outside? Does He care as much about our emotions as our actions? Why or why not?
  • As Christians, should we be the happiest people on earth? Our sins are forgiven. We will be with God forever in heaven. We have power to do good. Why do you think we still feel sad?
  • Do the Christians you know tend to be happier than other people or not so much? Why do you think that is?
  • Philippians 4 talks a lot about our emotions. Rejoicing is not exactly the same as being happy. Paul writes that we should rejoice in the Lord always. What does it mean to you to rejoice or be joyful?
  • Jesus and Paul, among others, expressed feeling sad. To feel sad is not a sin. Have you ever had the sense of feeling sad and joyful at the same time? How is that possible, do you think?
  • Philippians also tells us to build a reputation for gentleness. Someone who is gentle is not extreme in their responses, including their emotional responses. What would be some examples of extreme emotional responses? What are some of the unhealthy or sinful choices we might make if our emotions are extreme or out of control? How do we tend to think about people who are extreme in their emotional responses?
  • Do you or any of your friends have a reputation for gentleness or having good control over their responses to life? Can you feel big emotions and still be known as a gentle person?
  • Philippians contains a hard command: “Do not be anxious about anything.” Worry is something everyone feels sometimes. How big of a deal do you think worry is in our family? Among your group of friends?
  • What kinds of things do we tend to get worried about the most?
  • Why can worry be so hard to control? [Parent: Emphasize this idea: Giving up worry requires letting go of something emotionally before that thing is fixed or resolved. That’s hard for everyone to do sometimes.]
  • The Bible doesn’t just tell us to stop worrying. It gives an alternative: “Ask God for help. Repeat. Tell Him thank you for everything He has done for you already. Repeat.” How could we do a better job as a family of trading in our worry for feelings of trusting God and feelings of gratitude? Is there anything we could ask for God’s help with together right now?
  • The next verse in Philippians promises that when we give our requests to God, with thanksgiving, He will give us a peace that “transcends all understanding.” Have you ever felt a peace like that? If so, can you describe it, at all?
  • Why do you think God gives us peace instead of just fixing all of the things that we’re worried about right away?
  • Philippians 4:8 seems to say that the key to controlling our emotions is to control our thoughts, what we let our minds dwell on. Have you noticed that thinking about certain things tends to make you feel particular emotions?
  • Have you noticed any music, games, books, or TV shows leading you to any particular, lingering emotions? Do you think we give our media enough credit for the way it leaves us feeling inside?
  • What are some things we could choose to think about that fit the list in Phiilippians 4:8 of being “true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy”? How do you think you would feel if you thought about those kinds of things most of the time?
  • Does this mean we should never think about any negative things? If not, how can we think about negative, harsh things through a filter that might fit this list of positive attributes?
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