Making Conversations Matter with Kids
As parents, we have countless very brief conversations with kids, because our lives are busy, busy, busy. And if they’re older kids, they’re very busy too. So casual conversations may rarely touch on matters of faith. Does it have to be that way?
One Young Mom’s Plea
Recently one busy, young mom with an unusually hectic schedule listened with interest when I told her about my blog. She sounded excited about the topic: talking to kids about who Jesus actually is. But then she stunned me. She said my blog would probably be most effective for grandparents. “Because parents just have no time to talk to their kids. We’re too busy.” Ouch!! She did not seem to see my shock. I’m glad I was able to prevent it from showing, as we each moved to our next segment of the event. And I wish ours had not been such a brief encounter. But I haven’t been able to forget it.
Obviously, this young mother talks regularly to her kids about everyday things. But she’s too busy to figure out how to talk to her kids about the person who matters most: Jesus. So she hopes the grandparents will do it for her.
Making little moments matter
Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that faith conversations need to be significant in length or at an important moment. What we forget is that just as our faith informs our lives, it can season our conversations. Even brief conversations. In fact, a conversation we have with a child while in the middle of another activity may come through more memorably to them than something set up specifically to talk about our faith in Jesus.
Driving in the car together
Whether we are taking a walk or driving somewhere with a child, we can talk meaningfully about anything we choose to. We have a captive audience. Sometimes it’s even possible with multiple children at a time. We might comment on a cool thing that they just told us about and say how fun it is to see God working. Or if they express a concern, we might ask them how they’d like us to pray for them in it.
Asking how we can pray for them
Even without hearing a child express a concern, we can easily ask about specific areas in their lives and how we can pray for them. They might need to take a bit of time to think about it, but that’s okay. As parents or grandparents, we know enough about their lives to have some helpful guesses about areas they might appreciate prayer for. Even a simple “How’s such-and-such going?” can open up the possibility of meaning conversation.
Asking them to pray for us
Or we may choose to ask a child to pray for us in something specific. The more transparent we can be with our children in needing prayer for ourselves, the more they will see the reality of our faith. They will see Jesus as central in how we live our lives. Too often we want our children to see us as having it all together. Unfortunately, they probably are quite aware that we don’t anyway. Besides, it would be dangerous if they did think we had it all together and could live without the help of our God. We need to model dependence on Jesus if we want our children to learn it.
Responding to positive events by seeing God’s hand in them
Also, even if a child has not brought up to us a positive event that we see God’s hand in, we can help them see him as sovereign in their lives by calling their attention to specifics. Perhaps God gave one the ability to participate better than he had thought possible in a sporting event. Perhaps someone did really well on a test or a project. Especially helpful is anything we see God doing in shaping their character. If we can tell them we really see God growing them or shaping them in some way, they will likely remember it in a powerful way.
Whether our moments together are short or long, making conversations matter with our kids is totally worth the effort.