Never have I ever… thought I’d choose to write about religion. Religion is not a topic I typically discuss in my day-to-day life. I mean, I’m not against the discussion by any means, it’s just not one that presents itself in my normal conversations with friends. I grew up in a Catholic family; my mom was even my religion teacher for much of my childhood. My husband also grew up with a Christian background; he went to church on Sundays and it was part of his upbringing. Moving into adulthood, we have found that we’ve both grown away from “religion” in the traditional sense.
When we started a family of our own, we didn’t have a clear plan as far as religion, but we agreed on the basics. We wanted to raise our children to be open-minded, with exposure to many different beliefs and cultures. We wanted to instill kindness and compassion while celebrating diversity, and when it came down to it, we also wanted them to be able to choose their own paths. That’s about as far as we got.
Our son is now three and a half, and asking a lot of questions…like, a lot of questions. I probably know the answers to about 65% of these questions, but for the rest, I rely on The Google Machine. Last week we were in my closet putting clothes away, and he was inquiring about the shoes I wore to my wedding. He asked if his younger sister, Grey was at our wedding.
“No, Grey wasn’t born yet,” I responded. He next asked,
“Well, who was looking after her?”
After multiple attempts at trying to explain that no one was looking after her because she was not born yet, and a final time of him asking WHO WAS IT who was looking after her, I blurted out, “GOD!”
Feeling Caught Off-Guard
It was in this moment I realized I didn’t have a great answer planned, or any answer at all for that matter. I surely did not take proper advantage of this teaching opportunity.
What did I do? I panicked because I didn’t want to say the wrong thing. Finally, I mumbled something about God being the man in the sky that created the world, and then quickly ran out of the closet. I immediately regretted not being more prepared. Didn’t he just spend a year at a Christian preschool? Shouldn’t he have at least heard this word before? Then, I was mad at myself for assuming the responsibility should be on someone else to answer these questions.
Moral Guidance Without Religion
How do you explain God to a three-year-old without imparting religious beliefs? Like most, we strive to instill morals and values in our children, demonstrate kindness and acceptance, while teaching them to be thankful for what we have, but this doesn’t necessarily need to be religiously based, right? It seems like a fine balance between assisting them in establishing independence in their thoughts and beliefs, while still providing that necessary guidance.
Some families choose God and religion to help instill these values in their children. Some choose other methods, with scientifically-based explanations of all things in the universe… but what about for the in-betweens? How do the in-betweens explain God and Heaven and all of the religious-type things that may come up in toddler conversation? Whether we believe certain things or don’t, or don’t want to mandate what our children believe, we don’t want them to be completely clueless.
Are you there, Google? It’s me, Courtney.
I got on the good old Google Machine, perused some books, and called some mom friends for advice, as one does…(this is what one does, right?) It’s is my first time “mom’ing,” so I’m just trying to figure it out as I go. In any case, I feel like I’m now slightly more equipped.
Addressing Two Common Religious Questions in An Open-Minded Way
“Who is God, and Do I Have to Believe in Him?”
God can mean different things to different people. Many people believe God is an invisible man who created the world and looks over us from the sky. Some people think God guides us and helps us to be good, kind people, even though we can’t see Him. Other people think God is just is pretend, and part of our imaginations. Not all people have the same God. Everyone has different beliefs, traditions, and ways they celebrate things. You can be a good, kind, and caring person no matter what you believe; but it’s important to appreciate everyone’s views.
“What is Heaven?”
Some people believe we are rewarded for being good people once we are finished living our lives on Earth. Heaven can mean different things to different people, but many describe it as a wonderful, happy place where we can be around all of the things and people we love. The best thing we can do is to appreciate everyone’s beliefs and focus on being loving, caring, and respectful.
To Support the Conversation
Religious, non-religious, spiritual, or somewhere in between, most of us can agree we strive to raise well-rounded, mindful, compassionate children. To supplement our off-the-cuff convos, books are always a great tool as backup. Look out for my next post, where I will link a selection of children’s books (and one for the grown-ups too) to add some color to discussions surrounding cultures, religion, and celebrating diversity, no matter what your religious beliefs.