2 of 10
2
Raising Secular Humanist Kids
Posted: 06 January 2008 09:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
Member
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  121
Joined  2007-09-28

I like the idea of maintaining an ongoing discussion about these difficult issues with your children.  I was raised in two very secular households (my parents were divorced) with a Lutheran dad who celebrated xmas with me and a Jewish mom who celebrated culturally-Jewish holidays with me.  But we never attended church or temple and we never had discussions about religion and the wider implications of being raised in a secular vs. religious household.  Now, as I raise my two kids, I realize how little I know about religion in general and how uncomfortable I am when talking about anything religous.  Since my kids are still young, it hasn’t really come up much, but I know it will and I feel unprepared.  Funny, I feel totally fine and prepared for the sex talk but the religion discussions makes me nervous!

As far as discussing death, my kids lost a great-grandmother a few months ago who they were close to and we talked a lot about how much we loved her and how she lives on in our memories.  When they ask me where she is, I just remind them that she died and she’s not in her house anymore, just in our memories.  Of course, they immediately ask if they are going to die or if mommy and daddy are going to die and I always say, “of course, we will all die sometime but hopefully not for a very long time.”  (Followed by a lot of reassuring hugs and kisses.)  So far, that seems to satisfy them.

Vanessa

Profile
 
 
Posted: 07 January 2008 07:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  418
Joined  2007-07-19

As a prospective parent, I’d like to thank everyone for contributing what you know and sharing your experiences on this topic.  So much of this subject feels like uncharted territory, I am grateful to see other candles in the dark and to learn from you.

Scott

 Signature 

“It is the tension between creativity and skepticism that has produced the stunning and unexpected findings of science.” ~ Carl Sagan

Profile
 
 
Posted: 13 June 2008 08:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  9301
Joined  2006-08-29

A few weeks ago we attended a baptism. A few minutes into the ceremony the priest began to complain how parents should bring their kids to church every Sunday—not only to be baptized. So far so good I thought, none of my business. When he was done “educating” the Catholics, realizing that there might be a number of atheists in the audience (probably not unusual for a wedding, baptism, funeral, etc.), he decided to give them a lesson. I was surprised at the number of people who got up and left the church. We gathered outside and discussed the situation. Somehow we failed to realize that our children were listening to our every word. A few days later my older son proudly ( downer ) announced that he told his friend the church wants you to attend so that they can get your money. He broke my heart. I usually make sure my kids are not present when discussing these types of topics with other people. This time, however, I wasn’t being careful enough, and my son quickly took an advantage of it. I found it very troubling. I think in order to avoid these unpleasant situations I will have to stop attending similar ceremonies. Have any one of you run into similar problems?

[ Edited: 13 June 2008 09:26 AM by George ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 13 June 2008 08:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4108
Joined  2006-11-28

I wouldn’t be too hard on yourself, George. For one thing, children listen and absorb an amazing amount from us, and there’s not a parent alive who hasn’t said something in their child’s hearing, assuming it wouldn’t be attended to or understood, and regretted it later. In any case, if what you were saying, and what your child heard and repeated, was how you honestly feel, I don’t think there’s any reason not to let them hear it. Now, you probably want to talk about context and what you do or do not say to people outside the family, and so on, since they don’t yet have quite the grasp on that they need to keep out of trouble, but I think letting your children know your thoughts and that adults have very different feelings and ideas about some topics seems approrpiate to me.

My daughter tends to be very circumspect in what she says outside the family, luckily for me since I’m a bit opinionated and not at all shy of conflict wink. In fact, her best friend for years, whom she met in a Jewish pre-school she attended, is going through a phase of parroting the religiou education she’s getting at her Jewish day school (which, of course, my daughter does not attend), and whenever they get together to play, she brings up all the great stuff she’s learned about God. My daughter has proven steadfast and masterful at changing the subject, despite the fact that her own views mostly mirror, not surprisingly, the atheist ones she hears from me. Kids experiment with rhetoric and ideas just as with language (I’ll never forget her sweet little voice at 3 asking quite matter-of-factly, “Hmm, now where’s my fucking Barbie?”). I feel it’s best to give them some guidance on the social niceities involved so they don’t hurt anyone’s feelings or get in trouble, but not to curtail the experimentation itself or to try and shield them from complex and controversial adult issues. Little by little, they’re going to have to learn about the issues, and all the unpleasantness that goes with them, and how to handle conflict and disagreement, and I think exposing them to examples of, hopefully, healthy ways adults do this is one of our jobs as parents, IMHO.

 Signature 

The SkeptVet Blog
You cannot reason a person out of a position he did not reason himself into in the first place. 
Johnathan Swift

Profile
 
 
Posted: 13 June 2008 09:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  9301
Joined  2006-08-29
mckenzievmd - 13 June 2008 08:58 AM

My daughter has proven steadfast and masterful at changing the subject

Brennen,

Nature/nurture aside wink, have you discussed this skill (a very important one, IMO) with your daughter, or has she realized on her own the importance of this diplomatic technique?

P.S.: The Barbie incident is cute… grin

[ Edited: 13 June 2008 09:13 AM by George ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 13 June 2008 09:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2011
Joined  2007-08-09
George - 13 June 2008 08:02 AM

A few weeks ago we attended a baptism. A few minutes into the ceremony the priest began to complain how parents should bring their kids to church every Sunday—not only to be baptized. So far so good I thought, none of my business. When he was done “educating” the Catholics, realizing that there might be a number of atheists in the audience (probably not unusual for a wedding, baptism, funeral, etc.), he decided to give them a lesson. I was surprised at the number of people who got up and left the church. We gathered outside and discussed the situation. Somehow we failed to realize that our children were listening to our every word. A few days later my older son proudly ( downer ) announced that he told his friend the church wants you to attend so that they can get your money. He broke my heart. I usually make sure my kids are not present when discussing these types of topics with other people. This time, however, I wasn’t being careful enough, and my son quickly took an advantage of it. I found it very troubling. I think in order to avoid these unpleasant situations I will have to stop attending similar ceremonies. Have any one of you run into similar problems?

Are you saying that your son was drawn to the church? At face value, his comment sounds cynical toward the church. I don’t understand what happened or just why you’re upset.

 Signature 

I cannot in good conscience support CFI under the current leadership. I am here in dissent and in support of a Humanism that honors and respects everyone.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 13 June 2008 10:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4108
Joined  2006-11-28

George,
Well, I’ve talked to her about things like profanity, which frankly doesn’t bother me but which obviously it takes a certain social skill to understand when and how to use without upsetting people, creating a mistaken impression of oneself, or just being gratuitously crass. And we’ve talked about the legitimacy of expressing one’s opinions and feelings while at the same time being considerate of others. I’m never sure exactly what she takes away from such discussions, but I hope that my words and the model of my own behavior are of some use to her. In any case, I do know she dislikes conflict by temperment, so I suspect a lot of her ability in that particular situation comes from her own desire to avoid unpleasantness and her intuition about the best way to do so. I suspect we parents make up ad hoc and post hoc explanations for the thoughts and behavior of our children, and I’m skeptical that our own intuitions are as valid as we think they are. But their growing and becoming is a beautiful process to watch and be a part of regardless.

 Signature 

The SkeptVet Blog
You cannot reason a person out of a position he did not reason himself into in the first place. 
Johnathan Swift

Profile
 
 
Posted: 13 June 2008 10:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  9301
Joined  2006-08-29

Interesting, Brennen, thanks. I also suspect that timing might be very important here: maybe it’s not what we say to our kids as much as when we say it.

[ Edited: 13 June 2008 11:09 AM by George ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 13 June 2008 11:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  9301
Joined  2006-08-29
PLaClair - 13 June 2008 09:50 AM

Are you saying that your son was drawn to the church? At face value, his comment sounds cynical toward the church. I don’t understand what happened or just why you’re upset.

PLaClair,

I am upset because I think my son’s comment (my comment) might have put him in a dangerous position; for which I obviously blame myself. My kids are free to have opinions, but I just wish that those opinions were truly theirs so that they can defend themselves if necessary.

EDIT: I think I should add that my son just turned seven.

[ Edited: 13 June 2008 11:55 AM by George ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 13 June 2008 01:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2457
Joined  2008-06-03

This is an excellent subject. I am the proud mother of a smart little seven-year-old. My husband is an atheist, and I’m more of a wishy-washy agnostic (my heart wants to believe, but my brain says no.) Neither of us has assigned a belief, or lack thereof, to our child.

We celebrate major holidays in a secular sort of way. Our son has friends of various mono-theistic mainstream faiths. We tell our son that many people believe many different things about God, and some people don’t think there is a God. We tell him there is no right and wrong, only ideas and beliefs.

My son happens to attend an after school program at the local Jewish Community Center. In addition to being the best local after-school program, we think it’s excellent for him to learn about a religion, culture and history that so many of our friends share. My son has never felt out of place, even during religious celebrations.

An interesting note - most of the questions my child has about God are sparked by incidents at public school, not the Jewish Center. I think this may be because the teachers at the Jewish Center speak about their beliefs as just that - their beliefs - and never tried to express their teachings as hard facts all children must follow.

At public school, on the other hand, my son has had a couple of conversations with children (and sometimes faculty) that have left him confused. I think it’s because the information is presented to him as fact, not as a belief, and in bits and pieces instead of in the context of a parable or in connection to a religious holiday.

The kids will say simple things like “Jesus controls everything” and “God makes the rain.” That’s to be expected from first graders. But a few weeks ago, when my father died, the teacher hugged my son and whispered that his grandfather had not died, he had just gone home to Jesus. It was hard to explain later that it was just an expression.

But when my son asks me about these things, we end up having beautiful discussions and exploring different ideas. I cherish these moments with my child. My own father was agnostic, and we had many heart-warming, hours-long discussions about God, the universe, and humanity. Now that he’s gone, these are the most precious memories I have.

The results of our upbringing so far have been promising. I have a very smart child who questions everyone, including himself, and constantly wants to learn. I don’t think I could ask for a better child.

 Signature 

Some people can read War and Peace and come away thinking it’s a simple adventure story. Others can read the ingredients on a chewing gum wrapper and unlock the secrets of the universe.    - Lex Luthor

Profile
 
 
Posted: 14 June 2008 04:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
Moderator
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  5508
Joined  2006-10-22

George, I think you are being too hard on yourself and your child.  As annoyed as people get, they quickly forget what children say.  I don’t think it will be much of a problem for him.  However, it gives you a good opportunity to discuss with him, even though he’s only seven, the concept of social niceties and thinking about how what he says will affect the people around him.

When I was four, my English grandmother (a world-class bitch) was babysitting.  My father picked me up, and she asked him to go to the butcher shop to buy some meat for her before he and I went home.  As we stood at the meat case I pointed up at the butcher and asked, “Is that the Polack, daddy?”  My father apologized, and had very strong words telling my grandmother that he couldn’t change her prejudices, but she was not to use such words around me.  Then, as we drove home, he explained why we don’t use words to describe people that can hurt them.  I didn’t understand much of it, but I got the drift of what he was saying, and it was a good lesson. 

Occam

Profile
 
 
Posted: 15 June 2008 09:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3121
Joined  2008-04-07

I was divorced. As a father, I had the standard Wednesday evenings and every other weekend. Of course even that depended upon her mood. At any rate, my son is now 28 and was raised by his Jesuit preachers and Catholic church. He is now completely hardened into the beliefs he had put upon him. We have not been able to discuss religion in any meaningful way because he already “knows”.

We are very close and love each other very much. That’s the most important thing to me. He is an ER clinical pharmacist and is married to a wonderful young lady who will be converting to Catholicism. My grandkids will surely follow their lead. All I can do is offer respect for his thoughts and share with him that I do not share his beliefs. There is a part of him that seems disappointed in my lack of faith. I hope he also respects my honesty.

 Signature 

Turn off Fox News - Bad News For America
(Atheists are myth understood)

Profile
 
 
Posted: 15 June 2008 06:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  508
Joined  2006-04-18

Well I am gonna have a go, though I don’t have any kids yet, we talk about adopting frequently and it seems in our future. As both a mixed race and a gay couple we have talked and thought a lot about raising a child in a non-classical family unit.

1. I would start with comparative belief classes as bed time reading at story book age. Mix it up, read stories, and note that some people believe this to be true, but that you don’t. It doesn’t even require research. Every religion has children’s books. And you can mix them with other “fairy tales” for more perspective. At maybe school age I would also start considering reading either the “for beginners” or “Introducing” series. Written in a kind of comic book fashion they span almost all subjects of study and are interesting as well as geared towards the unwashed (not trying to say anything about your personal hygiene). Again you can lace this with stories and at this point also introduction of science or critical thinking.

I would also discuss any science news as a family. Not just the actual news item, but discuss “how do they know” or the method used to figure out what is the news.

2. My own opinion is not to label the child as anything. I would explain the other beliefs in relation to what we have talked about in comparative belief. I may even use some of that to try to teach critical thinking about the doctrine of a given faith. I would try to demonstrate that these labels don’t really tell us much about a person and that they are usually personal and even among the same class (jewish say) highly different person to person.  As to what “we” are I may say I am agnostic and even explain why and what it means to me, but also note that the child is free to label themselves as they see fit, and indeed change that label when they desire.

If they choose a label I am concerned with (say radical Christian) I would use our “study time” to together critically analyze the belief set.

3. I think this one is actually simple but our own fears make it seem so difficult. Life is change, and we can see either growth or decay all round us. I would use the ample natural world as example of the plot line of life. I personally would also use an ample heap of Shakespeare at this point because I personally really dig the many things he says about the undiscovered country.

One wrapper to it all is that hopefully this is at least a 20 year journey (from birth to adult) and you will have plenty of time. It does not need to be shoved in in a few years, and like all things is highly subject to change.

Finally as life intervenes I note I may need frequent reminder to do this and that it is important.

[ Edited: 15 June 2008 06:27 PM by cgallaga ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 15 June 2008 09:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  7684
Joined  2008-04-11

My sons both went to Catholic schools through high school, one is a firm atheist as I am, the other hedges his bets as an agnostic leaning towards atheism. What I found useful was to teach critical thinking skills starting at an early age. As soon as they could read, we would pick up the National Enquirer and Star, which used to have some REALLY outrageous stories, and challenge them to tell me why or why the stories could not be true (the unfortunate result of this was to have a son who figured out at the age of six that Santa had to be a myth, because there was no way anyone could go to every house in the world in the 24 hours of darkness on Christmas Eve). It would make a game out of going to the grocery story, and make them look at the biblical stories with the more critical eye of scientific reality.

 Signature 

Church; where sheep congregate to worship a zombie on a stick that turns into a cracker on Sundays…

Profile
 
 
Posted: 15 June 2008 09:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  7613
Joined  2007-03-02

In relationship to asanta’s post, my sons attended the Episcopal Church growing up and my 19 y.o. is a professed Tao Buddhist (which upon researching them, could be very compatible) and does not believe in a god or gods and agrees with many of my POVs/comments concerning the subject of the god of religion, like it is a human concept and not truly reality etc.  The other, who is 17, says he makes his own opinions about any deity, though he does not express any actual belief in God. Neither of them attends any church, though they have not requested their membership in the Episcopal Church to be removed either. They see no reason to even bother with such a thing. While none of us attend or even express any belief, they know they are free to make their own decisions about religion and see it as silly superstition.  However, my older one did attend E. Y. E.  (Episcopal Youth Event) two summers ago in order to see old friends from around the country and met another teenager who professed to be a Buddhist also, as well as had a great time seeing old friends. For him, it is more of a social need if he attends, rather than for any religious reasons.  IF something like Camp Inquiry existed when they were little, I would have set my sons to that, but since it didn’t exist, as far as I know, I think I made the right decision with the Episcopal Church and STILL raised secular children with their own views, even though they don’t declare themselves Humanists, atheists, or agnostics.  They aren’t Secularists, but they do seem to have secular views, amongst whatever they may or may not believe.  Religion isn’t important to them, even though one says he is a Tao Buddhist.  The Buddhist one, doesn’t even seek out other Buddhists, Buddhist activities, or anything else by way of Buddhism, though he seems to have studied a lot about it (and Taoism) given what I have studied about it because he is so interested in it.

 Signature 

Mriana
“Sometimes in order to see the light, you have to risk the dark.” ~ Iris Hineman (Lois Smith) The Minority Report

Profile
 
 
   
2 of 10
2