We make multiple choices every day; many are small and some are large. Discernment is taking the time to make those choices with consideration for God’s will, not only in that moment but in one’s life. We invite the Lord to enter our lives through prayer and seek the good he has prepared for us.

People often only consider discernment a tool when thinking about a vocation (i.e., religious life, marriage), but the principles of discernment can apply to any area of life. Discernment includes praying for an openness to God’s will and clarifying what you want direction about (i.e., going to college and which college to attend). Then you collect data about your options through research, more prayer, conversation, and experiences. Throughout the process, you pray and look for what draws you closer to God.

Using these skills regularly builds a habit of discernment that you can utilize for your everyday decisions. Also, the skills are applicable throughout your life, from decisions about jobs, homes, or your family. Teaching your child the tools of discernment now can help them throughout their entire life.

As Christians, we should continually let the Lord enter our lives and guide us. We can look to St. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin Mary as guides as well as countless members of the communion of saints to help us. There are also specifically trained spiritual mentors and directors who assist people with discernment.


Watching movies or television shows that show people making decisions is a great discussion starter. Using an example from what you saw, ask your child what steps they would use if they were in a similar situation. Talk with them about who they would turn to for advice and when they would pray about the decision.

One way to help teach discernment is by modeling this behavior. Share with your child when you listened to the Lord’s call and even mention times when you might have failed to listen. Invite your child to participate in your own discernment process as life events happen. Explain to them the steps you use and why they are important. Let them ask you questions along the way.

If you haven’t already started, now is also a time to start talking with your child about their vocation. We all have a calling in life and preparing your child to accept this calling is a worthy endeavor. Talk about the various vocations (religious life, priesthood, marriage, single life) in conversations. Provide books about the Saints who lived different vocations to help your child learn more about them. Pray for your child’s future vocation and invite them to do the same. They can also pray for people discerning as well as those living out their vocation. Consider that God may be calling your child to a different vocation than you have in mind for them. Talk to God about this and ask him to help you see the good he is doing in your child’s life. Teaching children to listen to the Lord’s voice in small choices will help them acquire the skills needed to choose their primary vocation.


You can help your child practice the steps of discernment as they make decisions ranging from which classes to take, which activities they join, and relationships (i.e., friendships, romance). Pray with them for an openness to where God is calling them. Talk about where they feel comforted or encouraged and where they feel anxious or uncertain. Help them make a pro-con list of the different options. Remind your child that God (and you) desire their good. Make time for them to pray in their preferred prayer style. Pray for them throughout the entire process.

Regarding vocational discernment, it is important to allow your child to see people who are joyfully living out their vocation. Consider meeting or having dinners with priests, religious, and married couples. Give your child opportunities to take time and listen to the Lord. Weekend or weeklong retreats can be a way to take uninterrupted time away to focus on Christ’s voice. Continually praying and seeking the Lord out in silence helps us to hear his voice.


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