Supporting a Kid’s Journey to Religious and Moral Education

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Children may be raised within a religious environment, by parents unaffiliated with any religion, or in a non-religious household. In any way we put it, beliefs play a vital role in all of us, just as it does in art, culture, and history. Whether or not we have religious beliefs that we practice in our homes, we are responsible for guiding kids in their journey to learning the different religions and raising them to be kind, and well-informed individuals. While there is no perfectly-designed manual on how to introduce religion to kids, there are simple ways to make it an interesting experience for both the old and young:

1Go Out of Your Homes and Explore

I am a Catholic Filipino who had spent her younger years growing up in the Middle East. Our situation had others focusing more on the restriction in practicing our faith since my siblings and I were raised in an observant Catholic family. However, we saw it as an enriching opportunity to learn more about another religion. Being exposed to such at an early age gave me a strong sense of curiosity toward the diversity of other faiths. One of the best ways to get children interested in culture, tradition, and religion is to travel. An exploration of world religions does not have to be in far-away places. Weekends are a great time to visit places of worship close to home. 

2Take Part in Exploring and Honoring Other Religious Events

Living in a foreign country also meant participating in widely observed religious events like fasting from sunrise to sunset during the holy month of Ramadan. I recall having a lot of questions about all things new to me. My father stayed longer in the Middle East than the rest of us and was willing to share all he knew. I practiced fasting and always looked forward to dishes served only during Ramadan. The first-hand experience of new things is the best teacher, and what better way for the young ones to experience it than with you. Apart from the regular holidays observed within the household, it would be a great way to introduce the different holidays by including them in your calendars at home. Having friendships across religions also offers others a more personal peek into or experience of their faith, and one of the ways to show our support is by celebrating their holidays with them. Not only does this open an opportunity to learn about history and tradition, but this also teaches children the value of acceptance, love, and respect.

3Children Learn Best by Example, So Be the One They Need

I spent half my life in a Muslim country as a Catholic — the only two religions I was aware of back then. My folks did great at teaching and practicing the Catholic faith and respecting Islam. They made sure to instill the traditions, history, and beliefs that make us Christians while entrusting us to discover the other beliefs through an avenue more knowledgeable in that aspect — schools. However, I recall the struggle with relatives who were religious devouts, who were exceptionally vocal about their biases, pre-existing beliefs, and the tendency to discriminate. Being fair and objective is crucial when talking to children about religion. Thus, whether or not you express reservations toward specific religions or non-religious beliefs, never miss the point in sharing your reasons why rather than having it figured out by the children alone.

Equally teaching the basics of diverse religions and non-religious beliefs is significant in the religious literacy of a growing child. It fosters empathy, understanding that both believers and non-believers are deserving of respect and tolerance, and shows the importance of embracing every person's choice and individuality. Every parents' conscious efforts are crucial in teaching them that hateful actions or religious intolerance are never accepted. Our actions and opinions are reflections of us. When children see prejudice and lack of respect for different beliefs, they will take it from the adults. 

4There Is Science, and There Is Faith

Once in a while, even as an adult, I still find myself caught in the middle. Both religion and science are based on claims about the truth and reality but differ in approach and this is where reason and faith are usually in conflict. Science works with tools such as having a process, commitment to inquiry, experiments, observations, and hypothesis, albeit the foundation of religion deals with meaning and purpose with beliefs beyond the grasp of science, set by society. People regard these two as a perception of life, the world, and how it exists. When we determine the ways these two are both different and alike rather than presenting these as conflicting agents, we make the journey to a child's discovery and learning a healthier one. 

5Children Have the Potential and the Right to Explore Forming Their Own Beliefs

It is understandable when some parents — whether a believer or a non-religious, would hope to instill similar faith in their children, and often, this happens. But when parents tend to pass along their attitudes and opinions on religion, the children are robbed of their chance to choose for themselves. Teaching them about religions (and non-religion) means teaching morals, facts, faith, culture, and history too. Time will come when they begin to ask you about your beliefs, and be honest. Nobody has all the answers, and we must simply do our best in supporting a child's journey to learning. As they grow up, they will also question the beliefs they've grown to know. Though it may be a challenge for us, keeping an open mind about it and providing the best explanation possible help them feel less confused and more empowered. When children lack religious literacy, they are at risk of making poor decisions for themselves and may fall into the wrong groups. After we provide them with the tools they need, we leave the rest to them. One day they can make up their minds on what beliefs will help them lead their best life.

The Bottom Line

Throughout my existence, the best lesson I continue to learn from my journey of faith is that we aim to cultivate well-informed individuals, nurture empathy, kindness, and respect, regardless of the beliefs one chooses to live by.

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Written By

Andrea Conopio

Andrea is a writer, a digital content creator, and an advocate of mother earth and furry friends. See Full Bio

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