How Do You Talk to Your Kids About God?
A typical dinner conversation in my house:
Son Number 1: I don't believe in God, why would I?
Me: Some people believe in a higher power without labelling it God...
Son Number 1: Do you?
Me: No, I don't, at least I think I don't. I think this is it.
Son Number 2 [runs up to the table]: Pull my finger. [pfffffftt]
Daughter: Ha ha ha, that stinks... I love that trick.
Husband: I believe that there is something greater than us, I wouldn't say it in a monotheistic way. I just think there is an energy that surrounds us. There are just so many unanswered questions.
Son Number One: Like why the monkeys stayed monkeys and we didn't. You know they just discovered a planet 12-million light years away that could support life. Maybe there are aliens out there.
Son Number Two: I don't know about God but aliens would be cool. But I do believe in Santa.
Son Number One: We are Jewish, genius.
And that is deep thoughts from our dinner table.
When you aren't religious, it is hard to talk to your kids about God. I don't want to tell them what to believe -- that has caused enough trouble in history. But I also want them to develop critical thinking tools and understand that there is more than one way to express spiritual belief; or a lack of spiritual belief.
Emma at Where There's a Willer struggled with how to react when her son started talking about God in a popular post of hers, writing:
"And, this, for me? Is about as bad as the inevitable birds and the bees conversation that’ll have to happen one day. Actually, I can liken this conversation more to a discussion about a mall Santa Claus. Because, seriously, I’d be happy to tell my kids that Santa isn’t real. I’m just thinking of all the other children when I don’t. I don’t want to destroy all their false hope. (My kids are going to figure it out soon, anyway. I’m a terrible liar.)"
Luckily for her, her son changed the subject. Many of the commenters on her post were parents who shied away from the subject whenever they could.
But these conversations are important to have because they are hard. They give us opportunities to show our values (religious, spiritual, cultural or otherwise) such as: tolerance for different points of view; using questions as a springboard for further research; practicing critical thinking skills; and learning to trust that some questions are unanswerable.
And yet many parents, especially people who have doubts or who are atheists, find this discussion really difficult to have. Is it our cultural training? A fear of other parents getting mad at us when our kids walk around saying there is no God? A twinge that maybe we are wrong?
I have a lot of respect for my friends who have faith, I see the comfort and strength they get from it. My guess is that they have an easier time talking about God with their kids.
How do you discuss God with your kids? Do you allow them to have beliefs that are different than yours?
Want more? Last year I wrote about the Dirty Dozen -- the 12 fruits and vegetables that are worth switching to organic for