“Mom, I don’t know how to tell you this, but I am an Atheist.” If you’re a Christian, this might be hard to hear from your child. If you believe a certain faith (or none), if your child’s belief’s are not the same as yours, it may make you feel like a failure or may even upset you. But as parents, we must all love our children, regardless of whether their beliefs line up with our own. Here are some things to remember and ways to cope with this situation.
Your beliefs are not the only ones. While we all would like our children to follow the same belief system we hold, there are many other faiths and beliefs than the ones we each hold. Realize that they may choose to believe something that you don’t necessarily agree with. This does not mean they don’t respect you. It just means they may have a different thought process.
Teach your child what you value without forcing it. It is perfectly normal to teach your children about what you believe in. However, it is not acceptable to force it on them. Remember that children have rights too. Just because they are smaller and an extension of you does not mean they are your robots. Allow them to think for themselves. They may agree with your values, but they also might not. Unless your child is in immediate danger, allow them freedom to make their own choices.
Realize your child’s beliefs may differ from yours. If your child’s value system does not resemble yours, it is not a personal attack on you. Every person is different. Embrace your child’s unique strengths and beliefs. It can be difficult to do this when it is a matter of values and religion. However, remember that your child will not be a child his whole life. He needs to learn to make decisions himself to succeed in the world.
Listen to your child without judgment. Let her tell you where she is coming from and why. Don’t explain why you feel she is wrong. Just be quiet and listen. She may have a point – or you may completely disagree. Either way, respect her individualism and let her express her thoughts to you. This lets her know that she matters to you and will help her feel comfortable in opening up to you.
Discuss each other’s beliefs openly without expectations. Once it has been established that your beliefs differ, have open discussions regularly. You can tell each other about your faiths without judgment or expectations. The goal in these discussions is not to convince each other one way or the other. Rather, it should be to understand the other’s faith whether you agree with it or not.
More from Lyn:
Positive Parenting Tips: Kids are Team Members, Not Property
Parenting Tips: Raising a Future Doctor
Moving with Kids: Lessons from Sorting & Packing