4 Fears Parents Have About Teaching Faith and Spirituality at Home

Posted by Melvin Bray on April 2nd, 2014 filed in Useful Perhaps

Traci Smith, author of the new book Seamless Faith: Simple Practices for Daily Family Life, responds to four fears parents have about teaching faith and spirituality at home: 
As I talk with families about spirituality and faith at home, some of the same concerns and fears arise. Here are four common concerns and some practical solutions to them. 
1) I don’t know enough / I’ll say the wrong thing / I don’t know how to go about it 
This is the number one thing that parents say to me when we talk about how to bring faith home. Many parents feel ill-equipped. Believe me when I say, you are not alone. Even though I went to seminary and serve as a pastor, I have these same exact worries about raising my children. What if I do it wrong? Guiding a child’s spiritual formation is a weighty task. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be as hard as we make it, sometimes. Sure, it’s a big responsibility, but so is keeping them safe and warm and fed and clothed, and we manage it, with God’s help. We as parents need to give ourselves a break and trust that we know more than they think we do. Even a simple thing like saying, “Isn’t it amazing to think that God made the trees and the stars and the flowers?” can be a profound spiritual moment between parents and children. You can do it! 
2) My child will ask me a question I can’t answer 
Children are experts at getting to the heart of the most difficult questions. Even a really small child can ask a zinger like “If God is good, how can bad things happen?” Rather than dole out answers that aren’t satisfying even to most adults, I encourage parents to respond this way: It’s a great mystery. Mystery is a wonderful truth about the world we live in. We don’t know the answers and we’re fooling everyone (including ourselves) if we think we do. The word mystery is a great word to model to children. It shows them that we have confidence in the unknown and that they can, too. 
3) I don’t want to indoctrinate my child or raise him/her to be intolerant of other faiths 
I’ve met many parents who want their children to grow up to be tolerant of others and to be free thinkers. To do this, they argue, they need to make sure that their children don’t grow up with “one way” of thinking about faith or God. The idea, as I understand it, is that if they don’t teach faith in their home, their children will be a blank slate on which they can choose any faith in adulthood. This type of thinking is borne out of a desire to raise respectful, tolerant children. However, keeping faith and spirituality out of the home denies children the opportunity to express an important part of their development: their spirituality. By taking an different approach and raising children to have a language with which to talk about faith and belief, parents are equipping them with experiences and opportunities that can then morph and change as they become adults. As we talk to believers of many different faiths, we find we share a common language.
4) I don’t have time / It’s one more thing 
If we’re honest, faith and spirituality are often left on the sidelines of family life, taking a back seat to school and other commitments. Guilt can weigh heavy on our hearts, but we must not let it lead to inaction. The inspiration behind the title of my book, Seamless Faith comes from a sentence in the book that says, “Faith is learned as its woven seamlessly into the fabric of every day life.” So, rather than tacking on a separate time for spiritual formation, families can make use of time they are already spending together such as in the car or on a walk, or they can make use of small segments of time that might be otherwise wasted. It’s dozens of five-minute interactions throughout a child’s life. 
Traci Smith is pastor of Northwood Presbyterian Church in San Antonio, Texas, and author of Seamless Faith: Simple Practices for Daily Family Life. She writes about kids, spirituality and the church on her personal blog and sends out a monthly newsletter with faith and family resources. 

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