Parenting And Religion
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Parenting and Religion

Mom & Dad - What's your religion?

When people consider marriage, religion sooner or later comes into play. The old fashioned way was for prospective couples to be guided through the process by older people. When parents are great and understand their adult children correctly and agree with them then that helps. When the generations don't see 'eye to eye' about something, having parental influence over choice of marriage partner can seem more like a nightmare than a blessing. One factor often considered is whether or not a person of the same religion and spiritual tendencies is needed.

For those of you who already worked that out, then good for you. Your problem with this will be halved. Keep in mind that when I use the term 'problem' I mean for readers to think of problems as being there simply to be solved like in math class and that one does not have to have a big emotional reaction about it, although I admit that many people define something as being a problem only when someone is upset - angry or hurt or sad or hurtful due to it.

If you don't have a religion then your whole issue is whether or not your partner does and whether or not your children need one. People will react to the knowledge that your child has no religion of which religion your child is, if you help make sure your child or children have a religion. There is no avoiding that.

The actual parenting

So, let's say you have a baby. In many religions you can force your child into religious membership. For many people this will be considered to be good - getting the baby spiritually protected by one's God/ess makes as much sense as getting the baby immunized and getting other normal health matters tended to.

Now, there is more than one school of thought about this. Some people go with the above. Others, however, feel the child should not be forced into religion by the parents, in which case a child may be intentionally raised 'unchurched'. A parent may have had a falling out with the religion in which s/he was raised and intentionally avoid having their own child 'marked' the same way by clerics of that religion.

Baby's will

There are ways that some parents make an effort to judge any clear preferences of their child. It is true that there are babies born who coo with joy in certain religious contexts and others that scream and cry. Many are neutral and for parents it may seem like a crazy game to even attempt to figure out whether or not a baby have any kind of built-in religious preference. One parenting possibility is to take a baby to various religious organizations and see how the baby reacts and join there and/or enroll the baby into that religion's educational program.

Religion in Daily Life

How much and in what ways the parents religion directly effects the home environment and the child or children is a matter of importance in most families. When spouses agree that makes things easier and they may tend to go more smoothly. When partners don't agree - which can happen when the same religion or due to having different religions, navigating how to handle the religious and spiritual behaviors and beliefs will be a normal part of married life and parenting.

Essentially there is no avoiding it. One can tone it down or do more of it. One can hide it and be secretive or open about it. One can do it - as a family group, or involving over time only some members of the family.

Do not expect your children to all be the same if you have more than one. For instance, in my own case, I had religious education throughout my childhood. I liked my Unitarian church and liked church, and became Christian even within the UU environment in which many members are humanist atheists. We did not pray at meals. I was not forced to attend once I was mature enough to stay home alone which was about age 8 or 9. There were years when I attended less. My older on the other hand, escaped church attendance as soon as possible and never went back but when he eventually got married at age 42 he did use a cleric of the religion he had sort of tolerated being affiliated with as a child. My sister has found a different denomination and for the sake of her privacy I won't say what, but only that at some point she changed and has stuck with that for over ten years.

There was drama about what to with my son as neither his father nor I had been seen in a church recently nor had tithed to a religious organization for at least a year. I brought my kid to my church. He was exposed to and informed about Christianity, and various forms of ethnocentric Brythonic religions (this has a lot to do with the divine feminine, but the whole truth is not that simple). He was forced to accept religious education for the first ten years of his life. His father told me that he had bought into a lot of Jesus' teachings but disliked church and rightly or wrongly I tend to think of him as being ' a half-assed Christian' meaning only half of his ass in on the bench and the rest is elsewhere. I persuaded him to try the church I had grown up in and he tried it and he told me that he actually liked it way more than the one he had grown up in. However, the moment the man was not with me he ceased attending church until he got involved with another woman who was able to get him to go to church with her for the first couple years of their relationship. He did let me make our son go to church with me for years. My son liked some friends that he made there and was otherwise terribly disinterested. I did not force him to get confirmed. Even though I encouraged it, he did not want it. I refrained from bribery and blackmail and so he was able to decline religious affiliation in the religion that I was rather enthusiastic about. Neither he nor his father go to church unless somehow persuaded or coerced in general - there are exceptions but in general. That's how it really is in my family. Your family may be different. One way or another one has to just deal with it as best one can.


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