Are You Prepared for Your Teen’s Questions? What Jonah Taught Me

“There are seasick bags on all the tables,” is not what you want to hear as you board a boat to go whale watching.

On the day of the outing the weather didn’t cooperate. The sky was spitting rain and heavy with dark clouds. Rolling waves caused the boat to pitch and sway. Several who signed up for the excursion got to the dock, took one a look at the waves and bailed. My kids were up for a bumpy ride so off we went to find whales. Looking for whales reminded them of the story of Jonah.

At 15 and 18 they have a different view of this story than they did when they were younger. My kids were not sure how to reconcile what they have learned in Biology class with their understanding of the story of Jonah. Experts like Kara Powell in The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family and Vern Bengtson encourage us to engage our kids in tough conversations and face their tough questions. I knew I should be excited for this opportunity to talk about faith and wrestle with hard questions but I was not.

I wanted to shut down the potentially tough conversation with a lecture about God’s power and sovereignty. To push the need to accept God’s Word that a miracle happened with Jonah–end of discussion.Instead, I prayed silently, took a deep breath and asked them about their questions.

Honestly, I didn’t have great answers for their questions. But, when I really listened to them–made eye contact, asked follow up questions, communicated that I was interested in what they were saying–they became open to hearing what I thought about Jonah.

This posture opened up a doorway for us to discuss several lessons we could learn from Jonah.

Talking about Jonah’s anger and God’s grace reframed the conversation for my kids and me. We were able to talk about the bigger picture of what God is trying to teach us through the story of Jonah instead of nitpicking and arguing over specific details in the story.Facts are important, but faith discussions don’t need to end there.

I’m not sure of a better way to engage in potentially tough conversations with my kids.

  • Listen.
  • Understand what is behind their questions.
  • Make connections to the big picture narrative of God’s Word.
  • Be honest about what I know and don’t know.
  • Seek help from others who might and can bring a broader perspective.

I find this approach applies to almost everything we talk about together. In your family, what ways have you prepared for tough questions from your kids?