Ironicschmoozer’s Weblog


Parents, Kids and Spirituality: Rituals and Religious Education at Home

Part 1 of 2

Last week we led the second of two sessions for 19 people called Spirituality, Sanity… and Parenting.  Dale is a professor of social work and I’m the family minister.  I asked everyone to come prepared to talk about a ritual they have in their family–with their kids or grand kids (or had with their kids long ago).  For this discussion, a ritual is not a good habit, not something that has obvious practical necessity, but something that is optional yet valued. As you might imagine, the rituals included story telling, reading, kissing and “I love you,” spoken prayer and silence, among other things.

I invite you to add any rituals you’ve had in the comments section.

Then I talked about prayer.  I said that the primary religious educator for a child is the parent.  It’s not the minister, Sunday school teacher, or congregation.  There is no way, in one hour per week, that our community can with a lot of depth or thoroughness teach comparative religions, ethics, our own religious heritage, and spiritual practices like prayer, meditation, service and generosity.  But we can do some things.

In community we reinforce the values that draw us together and which you introduce and practice at home.  We give you support for keeping to the practices that you decide are important, and we promote the exchange of ideas and support among families.  We model and promote all-ages fellowship and community building– a rare and precious thing in 21st century North America.  We celebrate religious values and questions.

But the parents do the main modeling and teaching for kids.  I urged parents not to be afraid to use religious words or concepts that they are not sure about for themselves.  If we grew up in a rigid or oppressive religious environment, we may be more sensitive than is necessary as parents–if we let that unappreciated environment behind us!  If we grew up with no religious background, then we can keep an open mind as we encourage the same in our kids.  Little kids will see religious language, stories, terms, practices as areas of exploration, and we should too.  If you feel your kid grows up feeling loved, worthy, capable, responsible, and having a growing degree of choice and freedom, you need not fear that you are damaging your kid by exposing him or her to ideas or practices that may have some value.

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