My husband and I were raised in religious households. He was raised as a Catholic and practically grew up serving the Catholic church. I, however, grew up in a Baha’i household. One is more traditional and strict, the other a bit more progressive and modern. Naturally, when we decided to get married, there were a lot of discussions surrounding religion and spirituality, especially about how to achieve harmony in an interfaith household.
And now that we have kids, it poses a different kind of challenge. The question isn’t so much whether we would be teaching our children about religion, that’s already a given. If you’re wondering why, I am a firm believer that teaching children about the different world religions and their principles will lay the foundation of their values and characters and will ultimately define the kind of person they will grow up to be. Katherine Blanchard, professor of religious studies in Alma College in Michigan could not have said it better when she said,
“Exposing students to a bird’s-eye view of what religion is and how it functions in our society helps them learn respect for other peoples’ behaviors and choices.”https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2021/10/25/teaching-kids-world-religions-cultures/
The question now becomes “how?” How do I teach my children about religion and when is the appropriate time to do so? As millennial parents, this feels a little like being pulled into two separate directions. On the one hand you want to guide and shape your children but on the other hand you are aware that letting them become their own person is just as important.
In our household, we have already started the habit of praying with our children and introduced the concept of God – in the most age appropriate way we know how. However, many religious scholars do not recommend introducing any religious influence to your children until they are about 6 or 7 years old. Bible stories and other simple, age-appropriate scriptures and parables should be okay. In fact, they provide an avenue for families to bond and connect.
If you like to travel as a family, Blanchard suggests that it would be a good idea to visit houses of worship for your kids to gain some knowledge about mosques and churches and for them to have an idea of what they’re like. In most cases, these places of worship are happy to welcome visitors, though if you’re unsure about what might be best for a nonmember, it’s best to call ahead.
It is also important to let your children unfold on their own and use their impulses as your guide in teaching them. As the renowned author, Deepak Chopra, would put it, “controlling a child or projecting yourself on to her is a recipe for rejection and rebellion later on, not to mention stunted growth in the present.”
Most importantly, to quote Prof. Blanchard, “Don’t be afraid to say that you don’t know the answers, because when it comes to the really hard questions about religion — life, death, the afterlife — nobody does.”
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