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When Your Teen Won’t Go to Church: 9 Tips for Parents

Even if you don't struggle with this issue now in your family, thinking of it ahead of time will help you prepare and know how to respond if problems arise in the future.

You want your teenager to go to church, but they have announced they don’t want to. What do you do?

As a licensed marriage and family therapist associate, I’ve worked with teens in their homes, schools, and in my office. I’ve worked to address behaviors from aggression to theft to food fights. The principles I’ve used professionally can be used by parents to address teens who don’t want to attend church.

1. Understand How Their Mind Works

Three developmental patterns in teenagers work together when teens announce they do not want to attend church:

  1. A desire to assert independence
  2. Ability to engage in abstract thinking
  3. Undeveloped long-term thinking

This combination creates a situation where many teens want to explore what rejecting church attendance may look like.

For the first time, teens can contemplate what kinds of beliefs they want and how those will affect their lives. Combined with an inability to see long-term consequences and a desire to differentiate themselves from their parents, teenagers from faithful LDS homes are very likely to say they don’t want to attend church at one point.

Understanding these underlying factors will make you more able to address the issue. Teenagers saying they don’t want to go to church is not a crisis by itself, but one type of normal expression of adolescent development.

Lead image from Getty Images.

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