How to give kids a spiritual foundation
As is often the case, opposites attract. I grew up going to church every Sunday and often Wednesday, too (though I fell away from that as a teenager). My husband grew up going to church almost not at all. When marriage and kids came around, we had some talking and decision making to do about the extent of religious foundation we hoped, expected, and planned to give our children.
Religion, spirituality and faith are highly individual. You may be someone who attends church regularly and is comfortable talking about faith issues with kids. You may be someone still figuring it out for yourself. You may be someone who doesn't feel the need to have religion in her life. Regardless, what you teach your children about the topic and what organized religion you introduce them to will have a big impact on them going forward.
What are your goals?When introducing kids to organized religion, whether before birth or sometime in their childhood, identify your goals. Is it strict adherence or loose discussions you are looking for? Ritual or free form services?
In our case, after many long discussions, we decided we wanted our kids to have a foundation and understanding of our particular denomination, but also wanted flexibility. We wanted them to know it was an option for them, but not necessarily have it be something enforced. We agreed to take them regularly, but not necessarily frequently.
Do you fit?Once you have identified your goals, it's time to find a community in which you feel comfortable leading your children - and it may not be the group you've always gone to. You may need to ask around, do some research online, attend a few congregations, talk to leaders. It may be simple - you may like the first place you try! - or it may take some time. Pay special attention to how the kids are integrated into the community. If your goal is to introduce you kids to this experience, they'll need to be wholly on board.
In each of the cities we've lived in since having children, we've been lucky enough to find comfortable churches. Once it took several months of trying places out, but we did find it. Once the church was visible from our house, a two minute walk down the street. We've been fortunate.
Stay openOnce you've chosen a place, stay open to being more involved if it's really fun. The kids may surprise you on this. My kids wanted to be more involved than we originally planned, and since they were having fun, I more than supported this.
Likewise, if you just can't commit more, that's okay, too. And the community should be open and accepting of that. We all are doing the best we can, and adding pressure to the mix just doesn't help. "I'm not ready for that right now," is a perfectly valid response.
Reevaluate every once in a whileEven in a religious community that you know and enjoy, things can change over time for many different reasons. Sometimes, the fit you enjoyed at the outset fades away. In those instances, you can go and try something new, something that is a better fit for your evolving life. It can be hard to make such a break, but it your family is going to be happier and you are better able to continue giving them that religious foundation, then it's worth it. Sometimes just taking a break is worth it for perspective. Church doesn't have to be an all or nothing thing.
No matter your religion, faith, or spirituality, guiding and teaching your kids in that path can be extremely rewarding and quite challenging.