How to talk to your kids about different religions?
If you’re atheist or agnostic, you might be wondering how to talk to your kids about religion. If you’re on the other end of the spectrum and come from a specific faith background, you’re likely wondering how to talk to your kids about different religions without being overly prescriptive. How should you navigate the complexities of conversations about religion? You want your child to be tolerant of all religions, see the benefits of faith, and ultimately make their own decision about what they believe.
When you arm yourself with knowledge and come to a discussion with open-mindedness, you’ll find talk of religion flows a little easier. Here are five tips on speaking to your kids about different religions and helping them better comprehend the nuances of religious beliefs.
Keep the conversation simple
When talking to your children about matters of faith, keep things light. Be open about what you believe, or don’t believe, even if the viewpoints are different from the religion you’re discussing. Do all you can to describe the faith without including your opinions or baggage. For example, if your child asks you who Jesus is, consider replying this way: “Christians believe Jesus is the son of God. In Muslim traditions, Jesus is a revered prophet. I believe Jesus was a historical figure from first-century Israel.”
Do what you can to expose your child to all major religions. Because much of the West has a traditionally Christian culture, your children will naturally absorb information about Christmas and Easter. But today’s society is more religiously diverse – Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism being some of the most prominent religious groups. Check out books from your library to broaden your religious education and make a point to visit several places of worship.
Welcome critical thinking skills
Help your children learn to think about religion by engaging their ability to think critically. Critical thinking is a crucial skill for analyzing, comparing, contrasting, and making inferences to understand world religions.
After your child has a basic understanding of religions, help them deepen this knowledge through thoughtful comparisons. Ask open-ended questions to get the ball rolling, like, “What similarities do you see between Judaism and Christianity?” and “How are Hinduism and Buddhism similar? How are they different?”
Understand that thinking critically doesn’t mean being negative about religion. It means better understanding the faith claims of different religions. Analytical skills can protect a child from fundamentalism and dogmatism, the downside of religion, and still allow your child to see all the good religion has to offer.
Understand the benefits of faith
Explain to your child that, whether or not God exists, there are scientifically proven benefits of faith. Believers from all religions can find great mental health benefits in the act of prayer or meditation, which essentially works like cognitive behavioral therapy or mindfulness. People focus their thoughts and cast their cares upon God – this allows them to reduce their stress and increase their gratitude.
Explain to your child that many people believe in their religions because they find hope, peace, and joy. Their faith provides a community with a group of other believers and a family beyond their own.
Let your child choose
In the end, it’s up to your child to decide what they believe. Maybe they’ll join their friends for weekly youth group meetings and become a Christian. More likely, they’ll hold similar beliefs to yours. Based on Pew Research Data, 48% of teenagers report holding the same religious beliefs as their parents. Another 43% admit to sharing some of the same faith views.
To reach this point, allow your child to talk with you about all religions, ask questions about your faith, and ultimately choose what they believe.
Lead by example
During your conversations and as you parent each day, do your best to respect other religions. Your child will be looking to you as a guide. Always be honest about your faith, or lack thereof, but stand firm in not tolerating intolerance. You want your child to grow up knowing about all religions and applying critical thinking skills as necessary. You also want them to stand up to any intolerant bullies. Your leading by example will prepare them to do just this.
Start to the conversation today
When you talk with your kids about religion, it can be intimidating. You want to make sure you do it right, ensuring you navigate the complexities of the conversation. Ready yourself with knowledge, keep your discussion simple, and get started today!