by Lori Richey, former youth director
As parents, we often try to shield our kids from stressful or challenging aspects of our lives, such as a job change or a big move. However, moments like these can be powerful opportunities for sharing your own decision-making practices. Seeing you wrestle with a big decision can be instrumental in helping teens and young adults learn how to discern their own next steps in life.
The following situations may provide opportunities for you to model discernment:
- Job loss or change
- Moving to a new home or new city
- Returning to school for a degree or specialized training
- Taking on a volunteer role at church or in the community
This is not an exhaustive list, but the common factor is that you’ll be making a choice that allows you to live into your calling through work or service.
In order to model healthy self-reflection and discernment as you make these decisions, consider the following tips:
- “Think out loud” with your child present. Talk about the pros and cons of your options, or about other perspectives that you’re considering. Extra credit if you tell them how this new opportunity helps or doesn’t help get you closer to your calling! Explain that you’re inviting them to hear your thoughts and not asking them to make a decision for you.
- Talk about your emotions, and how they’re affecting your decision-making. Allow your teen or young adult to hear what aspects of the decision make you anxious or excited – be open about what hesitations you have or where you feel confident and inspired.
- Talk out loud about the ways you’ve been praying about your decision, and how else you might be including God in your process. Share any verses of Scripture that have been helpful, and remind them that God is present and active as you discern.
- Be open about who you’re leaning on to help you make your decision. It’s a good idea to share with them who you’re talking with as you consider your decision – colleagues, family members, pastors, mentors, peers, or others – and why you sought out their perspectives. For instance, “I was talking with my friend Kevin about this the other day, because he always helps me get down to brass tacks about things.” Or “I called my old coworker Donna to talk this over, because she’s been in a similar situation before.”
- Once a decision is made, let your child hear your choice and rationale.
Depending on the content of your discussion and the age of your child, it might be helpful to talk with them about confidentiality and privacy concerns – letting them know what information or perspectives wouldn’t be appropriate to share with others. Let them know that they’re growing into a new phase of life and you’re trusting them in new ways.
It can feel awkward or uncomfortable to be open about your inner decision-making process — especially in front of your child! But remember that you can be an important asset in teaching them how to effectively confront the big decisions they’ll encounter in their own life.