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Best Answer To The Common Statement In My Home Lately?


Maestrophil

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Hi all,

 

The thread on why young people leave, as well as recent events in my family prompted me to write this post.  I had a long talk with my 15 year-old daughter (step-daughter actually) as her mom and I were noticing some eye rolling and general disrespect at church Sunday as well as her not partaking of the sacrament. 

 

This conversation led to her stating that she really wants to figure out religion for herself and resents that she is "forced" to attend church, YW, seminary etc.  We tried to explain to her that it was like going to school.  We, as parents have a stewardship to make sure you get a basic education, and after than you do what you want with it.  The conversation went into much more detail, but the end result was her saying she is sick of being told to "pray about it".  That there are many ways to be spiritual, and at this point she is just waiting until she is 18 to be done with church.

 

You may recall that I had the almost the exact same conversation with her brother (my biological son).  He now attends church, but refuses to administer or take the sacrament and also makes it clear that he is just buying time until he is 18 so he can be "done".  They are very close, and I can hear his words in her mouth and it is hard at me to not be angry at him for stirring the pot - but at the same time, I make it clear to them that I love them and will always accept and love them regardless of their faith choices.  Also complication things is that their other parents (her bio-dad and his bio-mom) both are very anti religion and LDS in general and they are both influenced by that as well.

 

The overall result right now though, is that my wife and I feel very discouraged and sad - and a bit overwhelmed at how to approach the situation.

 

So - what is your advice on how to proceed?  What are some good answers to the "I'm waiting until I am 18 and I am done" comments and the "I should have the freedom to choose whatever I want now" and the even more repeated- "you making me go just makes me not want to go more"?  I actually have to refrain from getting angry at that last one because it seems so stubborn and idiotic to me.

 

If we were to tell them they didn't have to go to anything - I guarantee they would NOT go.  Just like they would NOT brush teeth, go to bed on time, or study without our "making them".  If some of you that have left the church were ever in similar situations, can you help me understand things differently and, if possible, let me know what might have possibly been done differently that might have made you stay active - or had you simply decided it wasn't for you and nothing your parents would have said could have changed it?

 

Thanks!

 

MP

 

I honestly await your ideas on the matter. 

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Good luck, Maestrophil. That's a tough situation.

 

You may not like it but psychologically your step daughter has a point. We all tend to dig in our heels when we feel pressured or forced to do something. In my home my children know that they are expected to go to youth activities as well as church and seminary. They push back every now and then, just as most teenagers will, but they go. Ultimately, once they're out of the house they will make their own decisions but there's nothing wrong with having house rules.

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So - what is your advice on how to proceed?  What are some good answers to the "I'm waiting until I am 18 and I am done" comments and the "I should have the freedom to choose whatever I want now" and the even more repeated- "you making me go just makes me not want to go more"?  I actually have to refrain from getting angry at that last one because it seems so stubborn and idiotic to me.

Not advice, but some hope perhaps... a nephew of mine said the same thing at 15, but came to visit us and joined in on a few-day outdoor youth activity with my son. Not long after he changed his tune completely, and some 15 years later is where he ought to be (served a mission, married in temple, educated, etc.).

 

Hopefully there are opportunities for her to think about things; I have some faith in the youth that some will non-judgmentally reach out and love each other regardless of the ups-and-downs.

 

OK some advice after all: maybe suggest that you want to be sure she has an opportunity to keep an open mind, just like it is your responsibility to ensure she goes to school, etc. and Church participation is part of that exercise given all the other things she is involved in more independently or apart from the Church or family. Does she work or do sports/clubs?

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Find out where they are coming from.  Ask her what she means by "there are many ways to be spiritual."  Have her write down specifics.  Ask them if they want to be spiritual.  If they say yes, encourage it and praise it.  Feed what they do have rather than fight them for what they lack.  While many may disagree with me, I would tell my kids that they do not have to attend church if they can devote the same amount of time each week into being spiritual in their own way (what are they really getting from church at this point other than resentment?).  They would have to make a plan and return and report each week.  Let them know that they can attend other churches, or spend 3 hours in scripture study or prayer, service projects, etc.  Make it verifiable somehow.  Put their spirituality in their own hands or they will likely turn from it when they are 18.  Odds are that they will chose to go to church over reading the scriptures for 3 hours or having to come up with service projects each week.  Give them a choice so that they can own their decision and spirituality.  If Joseph was not given the freedom to explore for himself (at age 14 by the way), he would have never fully developed his spiritual potential.  Granted that you kids probably don't have the same spiritual hunger, but let them feed in the way they desire. 

I think your kids will respect you more, they will feel more respected, and they may or may not thrive spiritually.  If you don't try something new, I am afraid they will just be another statistic.  

 

In all things, pray about the direction you feel best about.  Pray about many different options.  

Edited by pogi
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The best you can do is fulfill your stewardship and right now her attendance at church is your stewardship.  When she is old enough to be on her own then it is her stewardship.  That said when my granddaughter balked at Church attendance I told her that if she would agree to, willingly, without hassle, attend seminary I would not pressure her about Church attendance.  She missed 3 or 4 weeks of Church and then she was back to Church attendance.  I must tell you that step was done by inspiration.  Take your concerns to the Lord in prayer and listen for the answer. 

 

Best to you in your efforts.

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I also as agree with pogi.

I as admit I have a real problem with control. I have struggled with it in every part of my parenting. I have fought hard on it with spiritual matters though and never told my children they have to any of it though I have encouraged it greatly.

I think some of this comes from potty training my oldest. I fought and fought with him over that. Finally one day at the age of 4 he looked me in the eye and went right on the floor. I knew then it was his choice. I waited a couple of months and he was done on his own.

Even though I never told him he had to go on a mission the Spirit let me know that I needed to tell him it was his choice. It really scared me because I knew he would choose not to go. And that's what he did. I can see so many reasons he should go while recognizing he is not ready. It is heartbreaking to see him make choices against God, but I know his nature and know he will not grow like he needs to unless he is  making these choices on his own.

I will add more to this in just a minute.

Edited by Rain
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Anyway, if your kids will talk with you please talk with them as pogi said - ask them what makes them feel spiritual.  See where they may have a testimony and where they don't.  See if they really understand agency (my son didn't and still doesn't).  

 

I'm not assuming things here.  Just thinking of things from my experience and what I see in others and find it is possible for you as well.  I'm actually assuming this isn't a problem for you, but just in case it it: I always planned to be open with my children and I have been, but DS needs SO much more safe talk than the other children  do.  He is back living at home and I am working hard on talking about the weather, the guinea pigs, what he does at work, what website he just found and thinks cool and steering clear most of the time anything that comes in dangerous waters for him. Little by little as he feels safer with our conversations he opens up more and we get into those conversations, but they have to be really short. 

 

While you may have had a lot of conversations in the past about these things they may have feelings and experiences in their teens that have started to make them feel unsafe talking with you. With the conversations you are having with them about church now, especially if you decide to keep requiring them to attend they may start to feel unsafe. Don't quit talking to them about church, but do make sure you are talking with them every day and really caring about things that are safe to them.  Validate their feelings in those things. Show them you are listening and not making judgments.  They will start to feel safer talking about things that feel a threat to them.

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Tough situation to be in as with any broken home.  Your actions as adults have already conveyed to the kids that if they don't like it, they can do something different.  The bible talks many times of generations that suffered because of the previous generation's actions.  Why is your case any different?  You may really be good people, but in the end, you chose to not keep your original covenant of marriage.  Now, the kids get the 'benefit' of being influenced by two different sets of parents that are not equally yoked.  You can try to force them but I believe you will have negative consequences that last well beyond them leaving at 18.  There are no problems requiring them to be good people and to make good decisions while under your roof.  Bad decisions and not being good people directly affect the household.  Not attending church may affect your perceived image of worthiness as parents of those at church but it does not necessarily mean a dysfunctional home.   I know a lot of good people that do not go to any church.  

It's not a bad thing that they understand that church is important to you and your wife.  It's also not a bad thing to understand what is important to them and engage in activities of the such.   

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Actually, beyond personal example and regular communication with your children, I don't think that there is any real magic pill. Be smart in what you say, selective in the words that you choose, and timely WHEN you say it. Love and care are the keys.

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I think church is a lot social.  And if your son or daughter has good friends in it they will most likely attend.  My oldest daughter suffered in this way when we moved during middle school.  She didn't fit in well at all with our new ward.  She fought going to church, and later rebelled.  I think it all stems down to who is going to be there usually.  If they hate being there socially it will take a very spiritual child to overcome feel socially unwelcome. 

 

It's really a tough situation to be in.  We started out telling my youngest son he needed to go to church with us.  But how do you walk that fine line in making your child go and having that child hate church even more, from being forced to go?  It's difficult.  And somehow a lot of families make it work anyway, by forcing their child.  They may take away fun, or something.  But later on when the child is out on their own, will they have good feelings about that or feelings of  being strong armed in it and where is the choice we are told we have in the church going to come from?  But some children do well with boundaries and some don't, so who knows maybe making them go keeps them active for the rest of their lives also, where if letting them choose get them on a path of inactivity forever. 

 

And in your situation you don't have support from you ex wife, which compounds the problem.  But I really wish you well whatever happens, I guess just show lots of love and like Pogi mentions help them with spiritual answers.   

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God doesnt force us to go to church- we find it on our own as we seek his hekp in understanding. I was forced to go to church until about 17 and then i chose not to go because I was tired of all the pressure of our LDS culture. Back then I went from a kid. loving Jesus, wanting to go to church, wanting to go on a mission, etc. Then it got to the point where it seemed like I was being coerced into goingand that the older i got it was just being shoved down my throat and that most LDS were hypocrites anyway. I fell away for about 10 years and hated the church most of that period. I did return but did so on my own terms and in my own time according to mine own mind. And that is most important. We should teach our children right from wrong, take them to church and teach them how to think, how to pray, etc. Then whe they get older they make their own decisions and find God on their own without it being forced into them. Influences has a very great impact on their choices as i have found out and continue to find out. Also- we need to stop painting this elitism picture of who we are as if we are without any sins. We need o teach that we are no different than others in the world trying to overcome the same problems as everyone else and that we are not perfect as a people nor as a church.

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Like others, I agree with Pogi. I'll add this too. Change the focus away from what they don't like about church or church members, and towards what they do believe and why. Don't attack. Help them walk through how they believe they should decide what is true/good. So instead of saying "you should go to church; I think it's great" (something they've already heard), ask "what would you do with your time if not at church; why would you value that more than church?" Same thing with your son's participation in the sacrament - does he see any value in the ordinances? Has he ever felt the spirit during those experiences? Through all this, make it clear that they are the ultimate judges and you are simply tying to help them through the process because you care. As part of that process, you want to share your own experiences and conclusions, but you respect that they make come to different conclusions. Finally, if there are specific issues they are struggling with (gender roles, modesty requirements, etc) see if you can find a way to let those things slide and focus on more important areas. If there are issues you've struggled with or teachings you don't accept, share that so they can see that they need not throw out the whole tree just because a few pieces of fruit taste bad.

 

Oh, and most importantly, counsel with your heavenly parents about the situation. They're the first and last parents for your children (you're just a middle step). Their love and understanding is critical.

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Find out where they are coming from.  Ask her what she means by "there are many ways to be spiritual."  Have her write down specifics.  Ask them if they want to be spiritual.  If they say yes, encourage it and praise it.  Feed what they do have rather than fight them for what they lack.  While many may disagree with me, I would tell my kids that they do not have to attend church if they can devote the same amount of time each week into being spiritual in their own way (what are they really getting from church at this point other than resentment?).  They would have to make a plan and return and report each week.  Let them know that they can attend other churches, or spend 3 hours in scripture study or prayer, service projects, etc.  Make it verifiable somehow.  Put their spirituality in their own hands or they will likely turn from it when they are 18.  Odds are that they will chose to go to church over reading the scriptures for 3 hours or having to come up with service projects each week.  Give them a choice so that they can own their decision and spirituality.  If Joseph was not given the freedom to explore for himself (at age 14 by the way), he would have never fully developed his spiritual potential.  Granted that you kids probably don't have the same spiritual hunger, but let them feed in the way they desire. 

I think your kids will respect you more, they will feel more respected, and they may or may not thrive spiritually.  If you don't try something new, I am afraid they will just be another statistic.  

 

In all things, pray about the direction you feel best about.  Pray about many different options.  

I agree with Pogi and Buckeye.

Also ask your daughter what she means by "figure out religion for herself." Does that mean engage it more intellectually? Try different spiritual practices? What are her next steps in "figuring it out." What kinds of barriers is she facing doing this? What kind of barriers could you get rid of in the home?

I'm twenty-one and live at home with my parents while going to community college. I'm saving for a car, but I can tell you that the lack mobility and resources to learn more about certain things drives me totally crazy. 

I would also introduce your daughter to LDS thinkers. Finding out about the "Mormon intellectual world" has made our faith deeper and richer.

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I would try the medieval approach. Describe hell in lurid detail and the tortures and pains of the damned in exquisite and poetic terms until they are so terrified they go to church in sheer terror. That is how I was raised and it made me into the man I am today and no one could ask for more. :)

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I would try the medieval approach. Describe hell in lurid detail and the tortures and pains of the damned in exquisite and poetic terms until they are so terrified they go to church in sheer terror. That is how I was raised and it made me into the man I am today and no one could ask for more. :)

 

Dude, there's a place for sarcasm and tongue-in-cheek comments (heaven knows I've made a bunch), but this ain't it.

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The best idea is to teach them early that the church teaches the best possible lifestyle for happiness and show them how they are avoiding the misery their friends are experiencing.

"You want to drink and have fun? Go drink and find out what it feels like to vomit your guts out. Go see what it's like to have a baby at 15!"

Worked for my 4 kids. Never had to force any of them to go to church. They saw it was a better way to go.

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My son was very similar a couple of years ago (started when he was 12-13 and now he's 16). I didn't worry about it, honestly. I just treated him as loving as ever. He's still the same kid but when I told him I ain't going to church anymore, only jokingly, he replied he'll just go by his-dang self.So he kinda likes it now. The other thing is, he's pretty much aware of all the difficult issues of the history and doctrine. He's too inquisitive not to have asked me. He's a delightful boy. I don't know what I would do if he leaves the Church permanently. I'm very happy with him, love him and am proud of who he is. I don't think that would change. It's too important to me that he remains honest and not afraid to learn and study, not feeling inhibited to explore that which he sees as good and important.I figure, he could leave the Church. He could be a good honest person outside of it, as so many billions are. I would probably be just as proud and pleased with him as I am now.

Exactly. Show them the benefits and let go. You can't force them forever, and all that does is damage your relationship so that you will never be an influence for good in their lives.
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mfbukowski,  I respectfully disagree.   The church doesn't teach them lifestyles or happiness.  That responsibility falls on the parents.  It may be reinforced by church teachings.   Besides, their unchurched friends may not be experiencing misery.  Believe it or not, there are responsible - happy kids out there that do not attend the LDS church.  It's a parenting issue.

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