When I was growing up, I never had a question about my religious identity. I come from a practicing Sikh family, and I just understood and accepted that as my religion. It was the same for most of my desi friends; whether they were Sikh, Hindu, Muslim, or Christian, they just knew who they were.
While I don’t advocate pushing religion on kids, I also appreciate the way it was ingrained in most South Asian homes in previous generations. Religion (when separated from superstition, and politics) can be a guiding light, while creating a sense of comfort and community for kids. In today’s world when things are looking a little dark, I’m all for my kids turning to Waheguru (God) for a little divine intervention, and peace when they need it.
I know many of my friends struggle with teaching their kids about their religion, so I’m sharing some tips for introducing kids to religion – regardless of the faith you follow.
Introducing Kids to Religion:
Make Religion a Part of Everyday Conversations:
This tip is pretty self-explanatory. If you want your kids to know about your religious beliefs talk about them. Don’t worry about being PC with your kids. Tell them what you believe in, but avoid putting down or challenging other beliefs. As they grow up you can also talk to them about other religions and belief systems. First and foremost though, share your beliefs. Children love to mirror their parents, and if you are sure of your faith, it is worth passing on.
Teach Your Kids What Prayer is and Isn’t:
Each faith will have different beliefs about how you pray, but I think most people will agree that prayer is without judgement. I tell my kids that they can tell Babaji all their secrets, wishes, and fears. Let them know that their relationship with God/Allah/Bhagwan is personal. Too often I see people get hung up on the “rules” of prayer, and miss out on the benefits of connection with spirituality. It’s very important for kids to feel that they can’t “fail” at praying in my opinion.
Have a Place for Prayer in Your Home:
A place for prayer can be as fancy or a simple as works for your family, and your space. In our home we just have a small shelf in the hallway that holds photos of Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh. Someone else may choose to have no religious symbols at all and instead designate a corner of the living room to sit and pray. The point is to normalize prayer and make it a part of the every day.
Use the Resources Available:
There are so many amazing books, websites, and blogs that talk about religion in kid-friendly ways. Do your research and choose the resources that feel natural for you to weave into conversations with your kids.
Be Open to Objections & Questions
When and if you choose to bring religion into the lives of your kids, don’t force belief onto them. If they question something in your teachings, try to find an answer that satisfies them. If they are not convinced by your answers, be patient and understanding when they express disbelief.
Our goal as parents should be introducing kids to religion and, encourage them to hold space in their lives for spirituality. And somehow, we need to do this without pushing them away from religion. I’ve talked to so many adults that stopped going to church or temple because they were forced to go as kids. Instead of forcing I think we need to try guiding them in the direction we think is best.