How Secular Parents Can Safely Expose Their Kids to Religion
While society grows increasingly secular, religions remain important in many ways. US currency still has “in God we trust” inscribed on it, and all presidential elections have featured religious books during the swearing-in ceremony. For children to understand the importance of religion and how to interact with people of religious beliefs, secular parents can expose their children to religion safely and organically. How to do that is often the biggest question, and we provide guidance for that below. Meet Them Where They’re At You don’t need to stress about introducing your children to religion as soon as they draw their first breaths. However, kids are naturally curious, and they will notice religious language and symbols that they don’t hear or see at home. This can lead children of all ages to start asking questions, such as what a synagogue is for, why the Bible is a bestselling book, and why certain people cover their hair. Meet your children where they’re at and provide educated answers to these questions. If you don’t know the answer to a specific question, research the answer together. This teaches your child how to find trustworthy information on sensitive subjects as well as the answer they’re looking for. Some children may not ask these types of questions, so if you’re concerned about something specific, speak with them. For example, they may not know how to interact with a religious family member or appropriate customs for accepting an invitation to a friend’s religious event. Address that specific circumstance, then let them come to you for additional information as they see fit. Explain Science and Your Personal Beliefs Questions of religion often bring up questions of science. For example, the major Abrahamic religions believe that God created everything, while science teaches about evolution. However, teaching about one doesn’t have to exclude teaching about the other. While answering your child’s questions about religious faith, you can also teach them about science. Don’t offer them as contrasting viewpoints either; faith is nuanced and scientists are still discovering a lot about the world. Scientists themselves are both religious and secular. Explain both subjects at an age-appropriate level for your child. Most secular parents tend to favor science within their personal beliefs. As you explain the science of our world, you can also explain why you believe that science is true. From there, you can expand to other personal beliefs your child is interested in, such as what makes someone a good person. Focus on answering their questions instead of preaching your personal beliefs so your children know they can always choose for themselves. Expose Them to Many Religions Eventually, your children may move on from simple curiosity to a more dedicated search for religious understanding. Use this exploratory time to expose them to many religions so they can respect different belief systems. For example, you can discuss the Bible with your children and read passages together if they’re curious about Christianity. You can watch videos about Ramadan if they’re curious about Islam. You could tour a monastery if they’re curious about Buddhism. Allow your kids to explore whatever interests them and encourage them—if they want—to follow a religion of their choosing. Safely exposing children to religion is about helping them understand religion’s place in society and how to respect people of various religious beliefs. Secular parents can struggle with just how to do that, but the tips above can help you ease your way through complicated conversations.