Freckles in April: Telling the Kids

Friday, May 29, 2015

Telling the Kids

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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  1. I don't think I've ever commented on your site, but I'm an avid reader. I really admire you for taking such a big step, and the way you are maneuvering this. Personally, I never experienced this (was raised Catholic, stepped away from the church very quickly, but was accepted by my family and friends), but I have many friends who struggle with what the church tells them and what they feel. It makes me sad that they feel they can't be who they are or their opinions are not valid because of their beliefs.

  2. I have always felt like children take their cues from their parents and you and Aaron's commitment to communication will pave the way for them to follow in kind. Such good points were made on this subject! I think your family is navigating this beautifully. Thanks again for keeping us all updated on how it's going. I know you're helping some folks tremendously, whether they comment or not. Bravo!

  3. I've heard "the talk" can often be like that as long as the parents don't make it a big deal. I'm really counting on that (and your experience thus far has been encouraging) because there will be a series of delicate discussions necessary in our house as the kids get older/become more aware. I especially loved the jumping bean. That's so life in this house.

  4. This is such a great post, even (or especially) for parents of the same religion. I feel like all the points you made above are awesome, and such a good and positive way to talk to kids about it. You're paving a great road for them to figure out what's good for themselves, and also giving them the opportunity to talk to either of you about questions they might have. Thanks for sharing :)

  5. I have been wondering about how this went. I'm glad to hear weird noises were involved.

  6. I really appreciate you sharing this as always, I think you are giving a voice to a lot of people. Having your kids grow up knowing that Mom and Dad can believe differently and still love and respect each other is huge. So is having an equal voice to your children!

  7. I've said it before and I'll say it again: these are quickly becoming my favorite of your posts, and I hope you'll keep sharing them! I think this is an awesome discussion to have, and I love that you kept the focus on the positive (not just 'mommy doesn't believe...'), and that you gave them room to question. I had a rather frustrating discussion with my own mom recently (hopefully she doesn't read your blog and notice this comment, because I know she'd feel bad) about some of my issues and questions about the church. For all of my questions and concerns, her response was basically, "I don't know, but it probably doesn't matter in the eternal scheme, so don't worry about it." I respect and admire her faith, and maybe she's right that some of these things I'm concerned about won't be issues in the long-term, but it was kinda frustrating to feel like she couldn't give any counsel or advice or testimony beyond 'don't worry about it.' I felt like she thought I was a sinner for even questioning/doubting, when I feel like I can't really help having questions/doubts . . . and trying to ignore them isn't an answer for me. Anyway, a long comment to basically say, I think it's fantastic that you are giving your kids room to have questions and to decide what they think, without pushing them one way or the other. I hope I can do the same with my own kids.

  8. Nailed this!! I don't have have much to add in addition to what other commenters already did, but I just love this post and how you approached the whole thing. I actually think whole congregations could use this same chat? Maybe over the GC pulpit next October? ....maybe in a talk given by a woman? (the wishes are piling on)

    1. Oh and that poem you included is so so so good! It's my new motto.

  9. Thanks for sharing this. We've had similar conversations with our kids to prep them for family gatherings or visits from grandparents.


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