Teaching Your Kids about Religion
Your kids are exposed to a wide variety of influences. They pick up diverse information on a wide array of topics, religion among them. You want your kids to know about the religions of the world, but you hope your kids will believe as you believe. How can you best teach your kids about religion?
1. Practice your religion regularly. Be involved in your church, synagogue, or temple. Let your religious principles guide your actions. Talk with your kids about how your religion influences the choices that you make. For example, you may say, “We volunteer at the animal shelter here in town because it is God’s will. Remember Matthew 25:40? It says, ‘Most certainly I tell you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these, my brothers, you did it to me.’ In our culture, animals are, unfortunately, treated like ‘least of these’, so we live God’s will by nurturing those in need . . . like the poor homeless animals in the shelter.”
2. Do not force religion on your kids nor use religion as a means of criticizing your kids. For example, if your kids express religious doubt, do not quote hellfire-and-brimstone speeches about the grisly fate of non-believers. Instead, ask your kids what doubts they’re experiencing and openly respond to their concerns. If your kids say that they don’t believe that baptism could possibly be a “deal-breaker”, tell them that you are glad that they felt comfortable sharing their concern with you and then tell them why your religion emphasizes the importance of baptism. Relate baptism to something more temporal in their world . . . something they can relate to. If they remain unconvinced, ask them if they would like to visit with your minister, suggest that they pray about it, and perhaps spend some time with your kids reading well chosen books or articles on related topics. Most kids will question their parents’ religion at one time or another: this is normal. Be patient and allow them the time to think and feel through their religious inquiry. Support and participate in this process by encouraging them to come to you with questions and concerns. Your religion is persuasive to you (otherwise, you wouldn’t hold your religion) . . . let your kids work through their concerns and maintain confidence that your kids will be persuaded, just as you have been.
3. Explore your religion and the religions of others. What do the various world religions believe about the purpose of temporal existence? Why is there suffering in this world? What happens to a person after death? Consider each religion in a fact-finding manner. Do not seek to criticize or belittle the religions of others. While you may believe in Heaven, do not negate someone else’s right to believe that life ends at the moment of physical death. Ask your kids what they think about the various religions’ perspectives on these issues. What religion most nearly mirrors your kids’ perspectives?
4. Attend functions of other religions, establish nurturing relationships with people of other religions, and learn through experience about how other religions are manifested and celebrated. For example, if you are Protestant and one of your closest friends is Jewish, relish the opportunity to attend your friend’s daughter’s bat mitzvah. Our horizons broaden when we look beyond our own world view. We learn to put our own religion in a context. We learn to embrace diversity.
5. Emphasize that most religions have a lot in common. Most religions are about love. Focus on that love. When your kids are old enough, encourage them to choose the religion that is right for them, and pray that their choice mirrors your own. If it does not, be patient and understanding. Religion by force is not true belief. Love them enough to love them through your differences. By maintaining a loving stance rather than a forceful, critical stance, your kids will see your religion in action and may ultimately gravitate back to that. After all, it is love that inspires faith.
By following the above tips, you can teach your kids about religion.