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Children and their religion

There are many things that have got me thinking about this subject of late, and I know we have had short chats about it in the past -- "Why does Eleanor celebrate Annika?" and Religion after Kids.  Recently, our family been dealing with the loss of two loved ones, and our faith is surfacing.  We have also decided to prepare our oldest daughter for some of her first Catholic sacraments.  And, of course, with Hannukah and Christmas and many more holidays on their way, it's gotten me thinking.

Do you consider yourself religious?  What do you choose to pass on to your children?  What do you choose to NOT pass on?


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Great topic. To pass on: 1) Respect for others' beliefs, whatever they might be, 2) Awareness and knowledge of others' beliefs (a la religions of the world class), 3) The ability to feel comfortable with what you believe, 4) Knowledge of others' beliefs (a la religion 101), and as a parent, the hard work of allowing your child to know that ultimately s/he will choose their own belifs, not just accept yours - whatever THEY might be. and to use good language to describe others's beliefs and traditios with respect. i was 36 when i finally found a name/group that believes what i do. not that you need one, but it was sort of comforting to see it right there in writing.

A challenge that I've mostly worked out has been craftingour own family traditions since my own are based ona belief system that I don't share. So in essence recreating traditions - that draw heavily on my own and our culture's. i've prolwed the aisles of powell's many a lunch hour on this topic!!

I second that part about crafting your own traditions and rituals. My hubby and I are not religious. In the wintertime, we do a Soup and Solstice party for ourselves that celebrates the changing of the seasons and friends with which to share our lives with.

My wife pointed me to this post. It is a great topic. I was raised non-denominational. I did not know about the Easter/Religion connection until my teens. I liked the Easter Bunny though.

After having our first child we wanted to develop some sort of spiritual community for our family. We tried one of the more liberal Catholic Churches but I never felt comfortable. I was like the kid at the party who had no idea what was going on.

We then tried the Unitarian Church and I instantly felt like I belonged. We have now been attending on a regular basis for 3 years . Grace, 4 1/2, enjoys the child care and is learning much about many different religions the message and values of the church definitely speak to us.

One of the best things is the ability to take and leave what you like. There are no mandates or judgments on anyone else's ideas.

The most important thing I think we can give our children is a relationship with God. Each persons experience of God is inward and personal. Mine will be different than yours and different than my child.

If we help our children develop a relationship with God then when they become adults the particular outward 'religious' expression can be their own, whether they are Jewish, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, etc...

So for me universal values of respect for all life, reverance for Saints and Godly persons of all faiths, inward communion with God through prayer and meditation, and a varied experience of outward rituals of various faiths are the important aspects of passing on a spiritual life to my son.

That's one reason I love Portland. The various expressions of the spiritual life here as well as acceptance for each individuals personal experience of God and faith make this a rich and diverse community.

I am raising my daughter Jewish, as I was, but I haven't decided yet on the formal education. I really appreciate our history, culture and tradition, and I enjoy being around other people who share this. We lit the candles last night to celebrate the first night of Chanuka, and we sang songs, and will eat Latkes this week. However, I am not much on the formality of the religion and the rules. I like to explore spirituality of all types and learn as I go along, so I think that is what I will expose my daughter to. I hope it is not confusing. But not raising her Jewish is not an option for me. I feel it is important to have that continuity, I mean, since generations of our family have been along this continuum. I can't stand the thought of it all coming to an end some day. So I will present all the ideas, and hopefully, something will work for her when she is old enough to decide. Most importantly, I want her to understand that spirituality is very personal, and there is no wrong way to be spiritual inside yourself, it's only when people use God as a reason for war that I question their motives. No God that I would ever respect would want people to die in his/her/it's name.

Maybe it's me being insecure about my faith and religion, but Portland is one place I have lived where I have not felt exactly "welcome" for being a practicing Catholic. I'm not sure if I'm wording this well, so I'll just relate an anecdote.

The other day, at school, when we were telling someone about how our week was visiting family last week to honor the death of my grandfather, my daughter was excited to share that we prayed the rosary every day. I think we got a sideways glance and an awkward pause.

Anyway, that's just my feeling when it comes to expressing ourselves religiously here. I feel like Church-going just has some connotation that of blind, unquestioning believers.

Both my husband and I grew up Catholic. I personally went through a long and tumultuous time questioning my faith and my religion. I left the faith, but returned. Now that I have a family, I appreciate my roots as a Catholic and we participate in traditions and rituals. It is very much part of our heritage as well as our upbringing (although back in college I would have argued that practicing Catholicism only meant that we condoned or somehow endorsed how the western world/spain colonized and evanglized the Philippine islands, but still...)

What I don't want to pass onto my children is the hollow practicing of faith or mindless going through the motions. As an adult, I am learning more about Catholic ritulas and their meanings / symbolism than I ever did as a child.

Our current church, and even the church we previously attended for three years, has a family 'faith formation' program that is great. They are sessions open to the community to talk about what 'our faith' means in the world today. We had a recent moving discussion about the less priviledged, what that means, and what we can do (on a personal, social, and/or institutional level) to contribute to causes that serve the less priviledged. We had a discussion about the underrepresented and how those classes of people also deserve and need representation. Through this all, I love that the children have been able to participate and think about these things -- that we have been able to tackle this sort of exploration as a family.

I'd like to teach my children that having belief in in God isn't something to be afraid of, that having faith in something other than yourself doesn't mean as Olivia said, that you are being led blindly. I would want them to learn this so that they are comfortable with the religious beliefs of others but also because I want them to at least be open to exploring what religion and spirituality might mean to them in their lives. I suppose my fear is that my children won't have any religious or spiritual beliefs at all.

We recently started attending a church here in Portland that we like. I'm so clueless about all the prayers, ceremonies, tradions, etc., and yet I go. When I started going I couldn't have told you why. This did not seem right to me so I've been doing a lot of thinking. For me it comes down to 1. wanting my kids to know about being a spiritual person and know about the idea of God and how to pray and be thankful 2. I'm big into community and a church is a good way to surround yourself with people who care about you and who care about the larger community in which you live as well as give you opportunities to do things for others who need help 3. The reality is that going to church on Sunday makes me do this when I don't think I would make the time otherwise 4. I'm still exploring my religious beliefs and what better place to do that than at church. 5. I find comfort in going to church. I like how I feel when I sing and pray and think about God.

I have no idea where I will be in a year from now with regards to church. I think that the big thing is to not be afraid to search for something if you feel like doing so. The more you search, the more you ask questions, the more you continue discussing it, as with anything, the closer you will get to knowing what is right for you and your family. I don't think there's anything wrong with taking your kids along for the ride. I mean, I don't think you need to know exactly how you feel before you get your kids involved. You don't have to have it all figured out.

I am Unitarian (attend First Church in downtown PDX) and I consider myself religious. My kids (DS 5, DD 2) attend religious education classes and enjoy learning about other religions as well as their own. My husband does not attend church, but has started getting involved in the RE classes. I am comfortable with (and comforted by) the Unitarian label, while my husband is not. Recently our son asked him a question about God, and DH answered it exactly as I would have. Although we worship differently, our actions and the belief system that guides them are consistent.

I am writing an article for Portland Family on spirituality, specifically how people build a spiritual life that is not necessarily the one they grew up with, that there can often be a lot of diversity even within a congregation, that people may feel free to pick and choose from a variety of traditions, change directions, and encourage questions as they build a set of values and a spiritual base for themselves and their children. If you would be willing to talk with me about your spiritual practice or system of belief, please contact me at: larsenstacy@comcast.net


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