Having an open mind

Non-religious parents, like all parents, have a lot of anxiety about how they are raising their kids. One of the most frequent questions I get is about what to do when their kids start experimenting with religion.

For those of you who are religious, this may seem like a weird thing to freak out about. For most people of faith, their faith is a source of comfort.  But some people don’t just have bad experiences, they have super bad experiences.

While not everyone who isn’t religious has had bad experience (me for example), some do. For those who do have bad experiences, watching their kids explore faith traditions and try them on and experiment with them is nerve-wracking and upsetting. I understand why, even if I don’t share their fears.

What I can tell you, having been raised without religion and having experimented with religions and explored them, is that, most kids come out the other side ok. As long as you make sure their education is factual and doesn’t involve cults, they will eventually come to a decision about what it is they themselves believe.

What we should be striving for as parents isn’t to indoctrinate our kids, but to encourage them to think freely. To do that, they have to experience and learn about and yes, try on, other belief systems.   Help them by giving them an education in religious literacy. What are the variety of ways humans approach matters of faith. What are religions vs belief systems? Go to churches, temples and synagogues and explore together.

Just as kids need parental guidance on what they watch and guidance as it relates to frienships and drugs and drinking. Kids also need guidance on religious matters.  Don’t tell them what to belief. That is not free thought. Help them learn HOW to think and make good decisions for themselves.

If you are struggling with this with your tween or teen – consider getting my book: The Humanist Approach to Happiness which is designed to help parents discuss ethical decision making in a variety of context (drugs, relationships, sex etc). It is approved for the UUA curricular and the Royal Military College of Canada. It’s a good book and it will help you jump start important ethical conversations with your child.

The point is to have an open mind and don’t saddle your kids with your baggage. Let them pick out their own, with your guidance and support.

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