“Ask a Priest: What If My Stepson Doesn’t Like to Talk About the Faith?”

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Q: I am looking for guidance on how to better connect with my stepson from a faith perspective. He and I have a decent relationship. We can talk sports or life issues with no problem, and he is fully attentive. When I bring up discussions about Catholicism, he basically just shuts down or tells me that he knows (he’s 16 so he knows everything). I backed off and have tried to subtly bring it up so that it doesn’t come off as “too much.” I also let him know that if he has any questions, to please bring them up to me and that I love him and that it is my job as his stepdad to raise him in the Catholic faith. I am worried about him because I do not see him taking his faith seriously; it comes off that he is just checking the box so that I leave him alone about it. My next plan is to find Catholic athletes and send him articles about them. Not bombard him, but send him once in a while, telling him that this is a good read. I pray for him every day in my rosary. – S.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It’s admirable that you are trying to raise your stepson in the faith and that you are praying for him every day.

For now, just the fact that he sees you taking the faith seriously can be a big help for him. A dad who lives the faith openly can have a huge impact on his children.

That said, it’s good to remember that everyone is unique. People are at different stages in their life of faith.

If you get the sense that he doesn’t want to talk about religion, don’t press the issue.

He might simply be the type of person who doesn’t talk much about the faith or isn’t comfortable speaking about it, at least not now. There’s no use trying to force these conversations.

And from what you say, I’m not sure that sending him articles will do the trick, either.

While sending an occasional article isn’t a bad idea, the risk is that it might come across as your attempt to force another conversation with him.

Perhaps the better thing would be to see if you and he could get involved in an activity together.

This could be a father-son camp (maybe there’s one organized by your parish or diocese) or a charitable activity, such as working at a soup kitchen or doing yard work or maintenance for a pro-life agency or something similar.

The idea is for the both of you to work together. This brings men together, and it might be an opportunity for your stepson to open up.

This is general advice, of course, since I don’t know much about your stepson.

But maybe this different approach to bonding with him is something worth considering.

One other suggestion: Instead of sending him articles, think about having apologetic books around the house. Some of these might catch his attention. You might check out the websites of Catholic Answers, Ascension Press, Ignatius Press and Sophia Institute, for openers.

I hope that some of this helps. Count on my prayers.


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  1. Since it was mentioned this person writing is a STEPdad, looking to connect better to the 16 year old STEPson. . .I ask, what of the mom who raised this son to the age of 16? Since this step dad is a good practicing Catholic, I guess it is safe to assume the mom of this boy is widowed. HOW LONG widowed?
    How long was this questioner a stepdad. If the 16 year old is respectful, It’s good… the rest will fall into
    place. Don’t PUSH . . . let the FAITH AND RELIGION and MORALITY fall naturally into place.

    The kid is 16 years old. He does what he sees both parents who are raising him do. So, since he’s 16
    stepdad and real mom should keep on attending Catholic Mass. (or maybe this mom isn’t Catholic?)
    Let it be know that Sunday’s are Catholic Mass time. Go as a family, if possible, or let him go with
    friends, to a different Mass (show trust). If the trust is ‘broken’ . . . share the feelings of hurt,
    betrayal. Let him have some ‘adolescent’ independence but keep lines of communication open with
    regards ALL THE ASPECTS of being adult and mature (and faithful) Share at family Sunday dinner
    (restaurant or home) what the homily was for parent’s Mass and ask son to share. (or at least speak
    what the Gospel was for that week) Talk of it …naturally.

    As a family be involved in one ministry of the parish as Father said. Or at least, mom and dad (forget the step part) mom and dad be involved. Children imitate what they see. Set the household rules (when to be in on school nights, how they dress (fashion wise), and the expectations (moral wise)

    As step dad, taking the place of deceased dad… well; depending on how old child was when loss came,
    it might be BIG SHOES to fill. Perhaps let son know that you understand you are.

  2. depending on how old child was when loss came, filling the shoes of this 16 year old’s dad might be BIG shoes to fill. Perhaps, just be your GOOD AND FAITHFUL Catholic self, show this ‘son’ (skep the step) care by doing the ‘guy stuff’ naturally. Show him trust in his good adolescence, set the household rules with mom, go on ‘fun, family vacations,’ (while he still is high school) a trip to the beach for a week or some special resort, or DisneyWorld, Cape Cod…etc etc.) Let him connect the dots between a ‘happy good family life’ and the ‘faith in practice’ (religion and church on Sunday) Let the faith and morals just flow ‘naturally.’ (PUSHING will only PUSH AWAY) LIVE THE GO(O)D life. If there is discipline needed, let it also be with Mercy. (NOT to show power) And do the disciplining of ACTIONS with mom. (team unity of spirit)

    Don’t push the ‘college thing’ either. ASK in conversation if he has plans after high school. A trade, a profession . . . Be a ‘guide’ (assisted by HE who guides you, the Holy Spirit) Let it be clear that with the
    cost of rent, food, etc… he’s more than welcome to stay in the FAMILY home. This is Christian love in all
    practical ‘talk.’ Pray he ‘gets it.’

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