I love my brother – I really do. But like all siblings, there are things about him that simply drive me crazy. And one of those is his inability to say, “I don’t know.” Like a complete and total inability to utter those words – even when he has no idea what he is talking about! In fact, when actually proven to be wrong, instead of admitting that, he instead will say, “Well, that’s not how I learned it.”
When we were younger, this “personality quirk” used to drive me crazy, but now it is more of a funny, family joke – mostly because the things he pretends to know are usually silly and inconsequential.
But, as we both grew up, got married, and had kids, it got me to thinking about how dangerous an inability to admit that you don’t know something can be – especially to your kids.
As parents, we naturally want our children to view us as intelligent and reliable sources of information. We want them to come to us with their questions, and want to be the ones who are able to provide them with those answers. Now, this starts off pretty easy, when they are little and the questions are “What color is the sky?” or “What is 2+2?”
But as they get bigger, so do their questions – and often there comes a time when we no longer have the answers at the ready. This is where that fear of admitting we don’t know something can go from funny to perilous. Because if we are unable to tell our teenagers that we don’t know something, and instead decide to make up or guess about the answer, we can get on shaky ground really quickly. Especially when the questions they are asking cut right to the heart of the things they are dealing with and wrestling with as adolescents in 2018 – things like the existence of God, transgender identities, the Church’s moral teachings, pro-life vs pro-choice, sexuality and making sense of their world, etc.
So what do we do when we are caught off guard or feel unprepared to answer those tough questions?
We say “I don’t know … but let’s go find the answer together.” Or we are proactive and try to equip ourselves with the knowledge before the question comes. Either way, we are setting ourselves, and our teens, up for success and putting them on the path of Truth.
There are a million sources out there to find answers – some secular, some faith-based – and below is just a small sampling of some of the resources, websites and books that I have found the most helpful in finding truth presented in a way that I, and my teen, can understand, absorb, and discuss.
This is in no way an exhaustive list and I encourage you to seek out more sources – just do so with a discriminating eye, as, especially in this day and age, you can find justification for basically any point of view. Which is why the very first item on my list is the Catechism of the Catholic Church!
- Catechism of the Catholic Church: contains the fundamental and foundational teachings of the Catholic Church. Pros: you will find an answer of some sort to most any general question you have. Cons: because it is a static document, it does not speak specifically to some of the modern challenges and questions teens have. But it is ALWAYS a great place to start.
- Truth Be Told by Mark Hart and Joe Cady: offers short, basic apologetic answers to many of the questions teens have regarding God, the Church, and morality. Pros: it is written for teens, so is very accessible. Cons: relies on scriptural and doctrinal evidence, so if your teen is not already “bought in” to the faith, it might fall short.
- Why We’re Catholic by Trent Horn (available on amazon.com): My pastor just gave this book out to the entire parish. Mr. Horn starts with offering proof for creation and builds from there. Pros: uses logic and reason to build an argument for God and eventually our Catholic beliefs. Cons: a little higher academic level than Truth Be Told, especially in the early sections when he is talking about the physics of the universe.
- Ask Joel: short videos, five minutes or less, by Joel Stepanek answering a variety of frequently asked questions. Pros: the videos are quick and have information that is easily accessible for a teen audience. Cons: it is a newer series so there is not as wide of a variety of topics to choose from.
- Real Talk: short videos, five minutes or less, by Leah Murphy that discusses popular topics in teen culture. Pros: she is very fun and relatable to teens and covers topics that they are really interested in. Cons: if you are not up to date with the teen culture you may need to look into some of the topics more before you discuss them with your teens.
- Fr. Mike Schmidtz on Ascension Presents (available on YouTube): short eight minute or fewer videos on a huge variety of topics – from apologetics to morality to interesting questions people have – like “Do dogs go to heaven?”. Pros: Fr. Mike is a great speaker and very engaging. Cons: Occasionally he speaks too fast and tries to cover too much in a single video, and so the main point can get lost.
- Covenant Eyes (www.covenanteyes.com): website resource offering everything from pamphlets to books to screen software all aimed at protection from exposure to pornography and battling the porn epidemic in our country. Pros: Amazing, quality resources at a very reasonable price. Cons: Website monitoring is a subscription-based service, which can be expensive. And you do need to purchase other resources to access the content.
- Theology of the Body for Teens (available on amazon.com): comprehensive, a workbook-style resource that breaks St. Pope John Paul II’s teachings into understandable and relevant chapters. Pros: Covers the truth and beauty of the teachings on the dignity of the human person and the beauty of sex and sexuality as God created it to be at a level that is understandable to everyone. Cons: Is in a workbook style, so can feel a bit like “schoolwork”.
- When Harry Became Sally by Ryan T. Anderson (available on amazon.com): a non-Catholic book that takes a socially conservative, but objective, look at the Transgender Moment we are currently in. Pros: Presents both sides of the issue, uses research to back up conclusions. Cons: Is not specifically a “Catholic” resource, and is very conservative, but upfront about that fact.
- Catholic Answers (catholicanswers.com): a forum based online resource where you can type in your question and see what answers have been posted or post a new question. Pros: Comprehensive coverage of all things Catholic and gives you immediate access to information and answers. Cons: You have to be careful to vet who is giving the answers to be sure that they are catechetically sound because it is an open forum for the most part.
- iGen by Jean M. Twenge (available on amazon.com): a secular research-based book about the differences in the current generation of youth compared to generations before them. Pros: Provides a lot of great insights into the way the youth of today interact in the world. Cons: Is a research-based book, so can be statistic and graph-heavy at times.
- In Pursuit by Alex James Santiago: the first-person testimony from a Catholic teen who experiences same-sex attraction. Pros: The real story told by the person who experienced it and is living an authentically Catholic life. Cons: It is only one person’s story – so is limited in the diversity of experiences and approaches.
I hope that this helps you get started on your search for real answers and avoiding the fear of saying, “I don’t know”!