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Tackling Kids’ Tough Questions of Faith With Julianne Stanz

Whether you’re a parent or not, you probably know that kids ask a lot of questions. To aid in answering their questions of faith, Father Dave welcomes author, speaker, and catechist Julianne Stanz to discuss her new book, “The Catholic Parents’ Survival Guide: Straight Answers to Your Kids’ Toughest Questions.”

Julianne describes how one of her three children helped inspire the book. “My youngest asked me a question one day that really threw me for a loop,” she says. “I think he was about 6 at the time, and he said to me, ‘Mom, what’s the closest planet to heaven?’…I have studied for years, I’ve been in ministry, I teach every day, and I was having a hard time answering my kids’ questions. I couldn’t be the only parent that this was happening to.

Julianne stresses the importance of the parents’ role in shaping a child’s faith. She explains, “Parents are always talking about who influencers are today, and what that looks like on social media especially with our young people. Parents are like arch-influencers, they are the most important factor in the faith development of their kids.”

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In describing this connection, Julianne continues, “You can’t give what you don’t have, and you can’t outsource your faith. Certainly faith can be influenced by the presence of wonderful mentors and role models, but what [kids] see and experience in the home is their first experience of Church. So we’ve got to do a better job helping our parents with this.”

She notes that we can be most effective when answering children’s questions by going beyond the basics. “I think a lot of us, especially as Catholics, were trained to answer ‘what and how’ questions. Like, ‘Here’s what our faith teaches,’ and ‘Here’s how you do the things.’ But kids can Google the answers to those things today. What they can’t Google is why you believe what you believe,” she says.

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While researching the book, Julianne sought feedback from all kinds of families, including blended families and single parents. She talked to both parents and children across the country to ask what topics they are interested in. “I said to the kids, ‘What do you want your parents to talk to you about? What are the things that you wish your parents would talk to you about in terms of faith or life?’ And then for the parents, ‘What are the questions your kids are asking that you have a great answer for or maybe you have no answer for?’ Those two realities informed [the book] because I want it to be a full perspective on what parenting today looks like,” she says.

Father Dave and Julianne discuss some different stages of parenting, from what she describes as the “wiggles and giggles” phase to older children. “When it gets to the teenage years, that’s a little bit more delicate. I think witness [is important;] we need to go to Mass,” She says. “We just recently had a death in our family, and so our family talked about that. We said, ‘We’re going to remember our friend, we’re going to stand as part of the Communion of Saints, we’re going there to be reminded and fed by God’s goodness.’ Don’t be afraid to talk about what’s happening in your life, and how much you need God and need the Mass to keep going. That sends a really strong message to young people, especially because the issues of mental health that are very real for young people today.”