Defiance is a common behavior in most teenagers. As adolescents struggle to establish independence, they naturally push and rebel against existing structure. Often, parents take the brunt of this defiance as young adults reject family rules. But sometimes, this defiance extends even to the values and core beliefs at the heart of the family, such as spirituality and religion.

It’s normal for some teens to go through a period where they doubt their faith. Some reject the religion they were raised in and pursue other belief systems. Others may announce they don’t believe in God at all. This can be alarming to parents, but it is a very common part of adolescence and young adulthood.

If your teen is spiritually defiant, don’t throw up your hands and let her abandon the faith she was raised with — but pick your battles. Allow your teen some freedom to express her beliefs and explore new ideas, but provide structure and guidelines. For example, if church has been mandatory in your home, don’t make it optional now. But allow your teen to choose another youth group she’d like to attend with friends. Give her freedom to express her thoughts and wrestle with her beliefs.

Try to understand the source of your teen’s defiance. Talk to her about the source of her spiritual dissatisfaction — maybe she’s experiencing personal conflict with a member of her youth group, pastor or group leader. She may have questions, and her answer-seeking and confusion may be misconstrued as spiritual defiance. Ask questions and open the lines of communication to get to the root of the problem.

Most importantly, however, offer guidance to your teen. Don’t allow your own frustrations and concerns about your teen’s spiritual defiance to prevent you from doing your job as a parent. Let your teen know you love and support her, and continue to provide a positive environment that will allow her to re-engage with her faith when she is ready. Share weekly lessons and messages from church, and encourage her to stay connected to friends from youth group and other positive influences who share your family’s commitment to faith.

Also, remember: After a time of questioning, many teens emerge from spiritual defiance secure in their faith. Because their convictions have been tested, their faith is earned, and they are able to fully engage in a deeper, life-long commitment to God.

For more information on guiding your teen through spiritual defiance, contact us today.