Aaron and I have talked a lot about when, how, and what to tell the kids about religion in general and my religious views in particular. Originally I told him we should just...not. They're still young (5 and 7) and I worried they would find it confusing and feel like they needed to choose a side. I figured it would sort of come up organically in bits and pieces and maybe that could work?
Then, a couple months ago, Aaron said he really wanted to have a sit down chat with them about it. I was on the fence until Baby 2 very innocently said something to me about how it wasn't good that I was wearing my sleeveless workout clothes into Stinky's school one morning when we were dropping him off late. It broke my heart a little bit to hear him parrot those things he had heard at church and I told Aaron it was definitely time.
We talked quite a bit between ourselves before having the conversation with our kids. We settled on four main points we wanted to emphasize:
1. It's ok to say "I don't know."
Mormons often bear testimony using the words, "I know..." It's common to hear things like, "I know the church is true." and "I know Joseph Smith was a prophet of God." over the pulpit and during lessons. Even if you don't "know" you still sort of feel like you need to use those words. However, it's ok to not know and I want my children to feel comfortable saying that, especially in a church setting. They are, of course, welcome to use that phrasing if they feel they do know in their heart that something is true.
2. It's ok to ask questions.
We will always treat their questions with respect. In our house it's ok to question and to doubt and to discuss. If they ask mommy a question they might get a different answer than if they ask daddy and that's ok too. We like differences and variety!
3. It's ok to discard anything that doesn't feel right to your spirit.
They will hear things at church, the playground, and elsewhere that may not feel right to them. It's ok to let those things go. We will support their faith and belief no matter what it ends up looking like. We want them to trust the voice inside.
4. Be respectful of ALL beliefs, both in and out of the church we attend.
There's such a broad spectrum of beliefs even just within the LDS church. We respect all beliefs. Faith is a very personal thing and we want our friends and family to feel safe with us no matter where they go to church or what they believe.
Aaron also made a good point that we needed to remember to use positive language when discussing my beliefs. When we were discussing things it sounded kind of yucky to say, "Mommy doesn't believe..." so we switched our mindset to focus on the things I DO believe instead. It felt and sounded better.
We couched all of this in a family home evening lesson about world religions. I made a Power Point presentation that included vocabulary words (which we love at our house) and a quick breakdown of major world religions.
With all this careful preparation you'd probably think that we had a nice conversation and ended with a family hug or something. In reality, it was pretty anticlimactic.
Baby Two spent the lesson doing his best impression of a Mexican jumping bean while Stinky kept making these super weird noises. We know they were sort of paying attention because every time we quizzed them on the vocabulary words we learned on the first slide they nailed it but it's entirely possible that they missed the point of the lesson.
At the end we DID drill in respect for different beliefs though, which I think is the most important part. I'M still learning and struggling but maybe if we work at it with them starting young it won't be so hard for them as they get older.
A couple weeks later Baby 2 brought up something he'd learned at church that I don't agree with. I gently reminded him about our FHE lesson and how sometimes mommy's beliefs are a little different. He said, "Oh yeah!" I told him that daddy believes in that particular thing and mommy believes [short, age-appropriate explanation]. He nodded and moved on with life. So far it seems to be a non-issue, which is exactly what we are going for.
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