I began this discussion last week and will continue it this week. Parents ask me often, why does my son/daughter no longer want to go to church? There are several reasons and I hope that I can answer some of them. Keep in mind I am not a specialist, but I have worked with young people my whole priesthood. Rebellion is a normal part of adolescence. As children move into pre-teens and then teens, they are seeking greater independence. They push boundaries, oppose rules, argue more, reject authority, and many times walk away from the people who love them most, mom and dad. Does this sound familiar?
Everything you believe in, everything you’ve been teaching your darling daughter or son is now subject to argument or outright rejection. Even religion, the family rituals, customs, traditions that have been part of your family for generations are under attack. That can be difficult for any parent and you might be wondering why? Why is my darling child attacking the very heart of what we believe in?
Your child’s brain is under “construction.” The area of the brain known as the prefrontal cortex is developing rapidly. Neurons are multiplying wildly and firing it seems all at once or in an illogical order. You see it in their physical development. You do not see it in their brain, but it is happening. The prefrontal cortex of the brain is responsible for thinking, judgment and self-control. In adolescence, kids are developing their own ideas. Suddenly, your children see everything more realistically. They’re acutely aware of unfairness, injustice, of rules that shouldn’t apply to them because they’re practically grown up. Kids are also seeing their parents as flawed beings. To define herself as a separate entity, your daughter must question who she is and that means questioning who she is in relationship to you. The reason why she questions is part of brain anatomy and development. Sorry Mom.
As all of this is happening, you aren’t the ideal, larger than life parents who brought your children comfort, who could solve every problem, who uttered the absolute truth. You, the parents, when compared to other people’s parents just aren’t that cool. To put it simply, you fall flat. Your teen, while moving through adolescence, must scrutinize what you have taught them.
Religion is at the top of the list. Even though your child knows no other customs, was raised in the sacramental life of the church since birth, and seemed perfectly content, embraced, and fulfilled by your faith. By the function of your child’s development, he or she must question. That can be very difficult especially because things don’t right themselves for a long time. Not until your child completely passes through development and develops their own sense of identity as an adult, separate and detached from you. While this development takes place, your loving son/daughter might argue with you. ALL THE TIME.
Next week I will take a look at Religion and young people.