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Not a child anymore

How to share your faith with your young-adult children

A decade ago, a national poll investigated the attitudes of 13- to 17-year-olds. Laurie Goodstein and Marjorie Connelly reported about 66 percent of the adolescents felt their parents were “in touch with what life was like.” The majority felt that they got along with their parents either very well (51 percent) or fairly well (46 percent). The teens were spiritual, with 94 percent professing a belief in God, but also worldly, aware of uncensored aspects of our culture. They were a conservative generation in many ways, “... as wholesome and devoid of cynicism as the generation that wore saddle shoes.” Now, with memories of the Y2K bug becoming ancient history, parents are launching these millennials into the worlds of college, work and adulthood.

Still connected. Adult millennials remain close to their parents. When I taught a study abroad class, these secure attachments came up frequently in everyday conversations. One student saw a Waterford crystal cake slicer that her mother would appreciate. Another wished his father could share an experience that reflected their Irish ancestry, since his dad never had the chance to visit Ireland. This warmth reflects that of many of their generation. The challenge for parents of millennials is to allow the autonomy necessary for their continued development in emerging adulthood.

Spiritual seekers. Most millennials in the U.S. report  they are spiritual individuals. But they are seeking ways to express this spirituality. Pope John Paul II pointed out that we are invited to the Eucharist for nourishment, “The Eucharist helps love to triumph in us – love over hatred, zeal over indifference.” How do we help our young adult children allow love to triumph? Reflect on these questions:

• When millennials respond to God’s invitation to attend Mass, is this triumph of love evident in the relationships in our parish communities?

• Is the zeal of the faith obvious in our lives as parents so that they observe the importance of the eucharistic banquet?

• Is Mass something that they’ve noticed can be set aside on vacations or for a good tee time?

In his homily at Yankee Stadium, Pope Benedict XVI directed many of his remarks specifically to the young people of America. He noted that in the Gospel, Jesus promised his disciples that they would perform great works (Jn 14:12). The pope inspired his listeners, saying, “Dear friends, only God in his providence knows what works his grace has yet to bring forth in your lives and in the life of the church in the United States. Yet Christ’s promise fills us with sure hope.”