This post is not for everyone. I fully understand that not all individuals believe in God, and that there are so many other religions other than Christianity to follow. I am here to say that I fully support your choice in whatever makes your heart feel full. Some of the most judgmental people I have met in my life are Christians, and some of the most genuine were Atheist, religion does not define someones character. With that being said we are going to dive into some ways you can raise your child with a healthy idea of religion, and how to support them during their own journey.
We are a Christian household. We pray together, we go to church together, we learn together, and we grow together in our faith. Every night at dinner one of the kids says a prayer. They are simple, and to the point. Name a few things you are thankful for that happened that day, name something you want to pray about, and thank God for the dinner in front of you. This is actually one of my favorite things about the day. Because listening to things they are thankful for really helps with those one answered questions most parents get after asking “How was school?” with the response “Good” EVERY.SINGLE.TIME. It helps give a little more insight into their day, and some of the things they say are actually pretty entertaining. Next they go into something they want to pray about. During these cold winter months they are usually praying for those without proper shelter, sometimes they will pray for a friend, or a family member, sometimes they pray for themselves. We do not expect them to get into huge details about anything, because this is their prayer. Not ours.
Teaching your kids to talk to God is one of the key essentials to helping build that relationship. We always say just talk to him like you talk to your friends. If you are having a hard time it is okay to confide in him, when you are having a great day it is okay to thank him, and if you have some questions about life, it is okay to ask him. We also let them know that sometimes God does not always answer us the way we think we need answers, but he will always answer you one way or another. It is just important to look out for those answers at times. We also teach the kids that just like normal relationships you should not talk to him always asking for something, you need to also thank him for the things he has already provided to you. No one wants to listen to someone who is always asking for things, and never thanking the individual for the things they have helped with.
One of the things I want in their journey is to take the
“pressure off” the idea of GOD. One thing I love about kids is their innocence. They tend to get fabricated ideas of how things are, and who people are because their minds aren’t fully developed to comprehend such large things. Which is what makes them so much fun! Presenting God as an all or nothing mentality can cause them to be confused on what it is to “live a Christian lifestyle”. I have always introduced religion to the kids as something Mommy believes, something Daddy believes, but it is not something we expect you to believe right away. I would never expect my nine year old son to devote his entire life to Christ and to fully understand what that means. Kids need to know that Christianity is a lifestyle, and a choice. It is not something you have to believe in, and not something you have to choose. But, my job as a Christian mom is to expose them to it, answer questions about it, and to love them through it. It is also my job as a Christian mom not to force them into it. I fully feel parents who shove religion down their kids throats is a very unhealthy way to introduce them to God. I also think in doing so causes and unhealthy ideology of God, and what he stands for. I do not know one adult Christian who has not gone through a journey to get there. I also do not know one adult Christian who has not strayed away at one time, who has not questioned it, and who has not been lost at some point through it. Expecting your children to not do any of those things is setting them up for failure in this journey. I had a conversation a few months ago with a close friend who is frustrated because her daughter told her she does not believe in God and she will never believe in God. During this conversation I was letting her rant via text about it all, how she told her she doesn’t care what she believes, she is going to church and she will like it. I stopped her right there with the simple question “What are you doing to help her through this journey? Because, I know when I was a kid I did not understand why I had to get up early on Sunday, put on tights that I hated, and sit in a boring church with adults for a hour. So have you talked to her at all about any of the things she doesn’t like?” “No” Then maybe she is associating God, with just Church on Sunday. Maybe she doesn’t like Church, so she is saying she doesn’t believe in God. Have you talked with her about those things? No.Well I am sure if you have a conversation with her, and allow her to vent her frustrations, and listen to her, instead of forcing her, you will come to find out that why she doesn’t believe is probably a very innocent reason. She texted me a few days later and the reason was because she thought her Sunday school teacher had smelly breath. I definitely had a good chuckle at that one.
Another thing we teach our children is God is love. Period. Anyone who has read the book, studied the word, and who practices Christianity and still chooses to hate certain people or certain peoples lifestyle is NOT living the Christian life. It is not our job here on Earth to judge anyone. Ever. Our job here is to live how Christ lived and that is to spread love, acceptance, and peace. To preach his word when his word is welcomed, and sometimes when it is not. It is also our job to teach our children the same mentality. I remember I was sitting in a bible study and a very hot topic came up, that comes up a lot in these sort of settings. It was getting pretty heated, people ranting and screaming their thoughts and saying so and so is going to hell for eternity because of a certain sin. Pretty much everything I hate about people who claim to be christian was unfolding right in front of me, and being a person who hates confrontation in any way shape or form I kind of slinked into my seat and observed these individuals just judging others. I finally cleared my throat a little, and spoke up:
“I guess I missed the chapter in the bible where God had tallies for how big a sin is? Can someone show me that part? Because unless you are living a completely free life of sin, who are you to judge someone else’s? It is my understanding that sin is sin, it is bad, but we all do it. When you die, and you get to heavens gates, you are not there yelling about what everyone else did wrong, God is telling you everything YOU did wrong.”
My favorite words from my husband when anything like these topics come up is “I would hate to be the one at heavens gates trying to explain to God why I turned them away from him, because I thought their life was not good enough, or that their lifestyle was not something I agreed with.”
These two concepts are how we teach our children to follow Christ:
To raise your child to FEAR God will give them a lifelong battle on who God really is. And, who they are.
But to teach your child to LOVE like God will give them the understanding that everyone makes mistakes in life. That it is okay, but you have a pretty cool understanding guy in your corner rooting for you to make good choices, just like we are. But, if a bad choice is made, we will forgive you, and if you ask, he will forgive you too. Because everyone makes mistakes in life. It is how you handle that mistake and how you learn from that mistake that makes you who you are.
I also have the understanding that my children are going to stray away at some point. It is normal, and I actually hope they do. I know that is a weird hope for your kids, but let me explain a little more. I remember when I was at my most rebellious of teen years I told my mom that I did not believe in God anymore, and that I was now a Buddhist. Now, I grew up in a very small rural, mostly white, town. I had no idea what being a Buddhist even was, but I saw it on a TV show and that is what I wanted to be. So my mom, said okay, and took me to the library, and the book store and bought me tons of books on the religion. She allowed me to research it, and to learn about it, and then to make a decision if that was the path I really wanted to take. I think this is something all parents need to do with their kids when it comes to any lifestyle. Even on an Atheist standpoint. Just because you choose not to believe in it, is it fair for you as a parent to shove that ideology down their throat without giving them the chance to even learn about anything else? To shield your children from other forms of religion, or to not allow them to learn there even are other forms of religion is hurting them more then just being accepting that people choose to believe what they want to believe, even if it is not something you believe yourself. As a Christian mother, I have a responsibility to teach my child about God. But, as a Christian mother I would never tell my child that they are wrong, because they do not believe in God. I would also never tell them they are going to Hell because they want to learn about something else. That type of Christianity is what grows hate. I do not and will never allow hate based thinking in our home. Like I said in the beginning, it is my job to expose them to it, to show them what living a “Christian Life” is, and to be open minded through their journey. My job is to be there when they have questions, my job is to be supportive when they are questioning, my job is to be open, honest, and loving. My job is to educate them, my job is to allow them to educate themselves, and my job is to teach them love, and teach them acceptance. That is my job as a Christian mom.
The last thing I want to touch base on is how to show your children what being a Christian is all about. Being a Christian is not just going to church on Sunday and spending an hour listening to someone else talk, sing a few songs, and then once you leave those doors, your job is done. You did your “God” thing for the week. Being a Christian is so much more than that. It is about serving, it is about learning, it is about teaching, it is about compassion. So let’s break those things up really quick, with just an idea on how to show your kids, and get them active in it.
Serving: What does it mean to serve? To me this means helping others and not expecting anything in return. This could be as simple as giving a homeless person extra change and a hug, it could be paying for someone else’s meal in the drive-thru, it could mean opening a door for an elderly lady, or a mom struggling to get through. This could mean working at a soup kitchen, animal shelter, or non-profit, simply volunteering your time to help. Serving others is the point. Unselfishly helping those who need help.
Learning and Teaching: As a Christian you are constantly studying, you are learning God’s words and what it means. That is why we go to church on Sunday’s, to learn about God. As a new Christian you are learning who God even is. You are constantly learning. For your children you are the teacher in this, it is your job to open up that door for them to learn. It is your job to surround them around people who will also help them learn. This could be a weekly bible study at home, this could be them reading a little bit of the bible on their own and then you discuss it together, for smaller kids this could be you reading them some stories of the bible at bedtime, just to start the understanding of God. My children are a little older so we like the family bible study. It is based off their ages and we are all learning together, with the youngest one (9 months old) it is just simple baby books with the basic stories at bed. We are just introducing, and opening that door. It does not have to be complicated, it does not have to be a chore, it just has to be a little time a week you set aside so your children can see your excitement about God, and also for you to teach them why you are excited about God.
Compassion: Teaching your children compassion for others is probably one of the most important thing you do for your child. We are lacking compassion in the world today, so much. It hurts my heart watching the news, reading articles, even just looking on social media, the amount of hate in people these days. WE as parents need to stop this. WE as parents need to teach our children how to be compassionate to others. It does not matter their color, their lifestyle, their religion, their situation, it does not matter. This one does not need examples, if you need examples on how to show your child to be compassionate, then you are part of the problem.
To wrap this up, I want to stress the importance of talking with your kids. That is going to open up the door so much. When your child feels frustrated, angry, hurt, sad, or even happy, allowing them to have those open conversations with you, and plugging in scripture, or a story of someone from the bible that had the same experiences will really help them relate. It will also give them the understanding that they are not alone in this world. That no matter what they are going through, God is always there for them. That is really the key point here. That God will never turn his back on them even if everything they do is not always right.
What are some ways you are introducing religion into your home? What are some other ideas you have for these sort of topics?