Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Keeping the faith at home. By William Hageman

Even if families don't belong to an organized religion, instilling spirituality in children still matters

We are a nation of believers. Mostly. A Gallup poll last year found that 91 percent of Americans believed in God or some universal spirit. Yet a more recent poll by WIN-Gallup International and published by Religion News Service found that the number of Americans who say they are "religious" dropped from 73 percent in 2005 to 60 percent today. And in that poll, 5 percent of Americans said they are atheists, up from 1 percent in 2005.

Believing in God doesn't necessarily translate to belonging to an organized religion. And parents who do not belong to a religious institution, as well as those who don't believe in a higher power, are faced with a difficult question: How do they instill spirituality and faith in the children?

Kara E. Powell, assistant professor of youth and family ministry at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., says parents need to make themselves available to talk about spirituality and religion at home. They should be extra diligent in making faith a topic that can be discussed so that children won't be confused or ashamed about any observations or questions they might have. Even if there is no organized religion in the home, she says, religious holidays such as Easter and Hanukkah and their rituals can be one of the entry points into the discussion.

"(Another) thing we've seen that's powerful is using current events," says Powell, whose book "Sticky Faith: Everyday Ideas to Build Lasting Faith in Your Kids" (Zondervan), offers parents ways to develop long-term faith in teenagers. "Why would God allow X amount of people to be killed in a hurricane or earthquake? Use it as a springboard to talk to kids."

Fighting the cultural tide

Indeed, getting the ideas of spirituality, faith and respect for faith across to our kids is an uphill climb with or without organized religion.

Wendy Mogel, a clinical psychologist and author of the best-selling parenting book "The Blessing of a Skinned Knee" (Penguin), says that society today is awash in irony and cynicism. Couple that with a world that seems to be melting down around us, and parents without organized religion face a deeper challenge.

"We have gloom and doom, a cynical, mocking culture," she says, "and that will be your family's religion if parents don't actively balance that by showing examples and other counter-cultural ways. That means not being cynical, not being apathetic, and not being extremely prejudiced in your beliefs."

That also means letting kids see your values: how you treat others, what your priorities are, how you spend your time.

"Children, absolutely, from birth are theologians and philosophers," she says. If we're not careful, she says, "we can kind of burn it out of them."

There are endless opportunities to instill spirituality. Start with meals. Mogel points to the Jewish tradition of the leisurely meal of Shabbat, and says the idea works for any family, any religion (or nonreligion).

"It's an opportunity to slow down our speedy lives and appreciate what we've been given rather than what we want to go shopping for tomorrow," she says.

That principle can be applied elsewhere: Make sure in your family schedule there's time for music, time for being outdoors, and time to talk and listen to each other... Read the full story by William Hageman in Chicago Tribune

Source: Chicago Tribune / Keeping the faith at home
Author: Bill Hageman, reporter and writer ► more

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