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Old 11-13-2012, 08:10 PM   #1
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WWYD: Talking to kids about religion?

I've found myself in kind of an odd situation that I'm not sure how to approach. My 5 yr old DS was recently at a birthday party for one of his classmates. While there I was having a conversation with the boy's grandmother about religion. My degree is in religious theology, essentially comparing and contrasting different religions and trying to understand why religions exist and why people believe in spiritual entities. The grandmother thought it was fascinating and we really did have a great conversation. I frequently talk to other adults about religion, typically in an academic, introspective setting. I didn't really think anything else about the conversation until tonight.

The mom of the boy just texted me with an odd request. Her 8 yr old daughter recently came to her with lots of questions about religion and why people believe what they believe. She told her daughter that she wasn't really qualified to answer those questions, but that I was! She asked if I wouldn't mind bringing DS over for a play date so I could talk to her daughter about religion. I've only met this mom once and while her daughter was at the party, we didn't speak to each other.

This is a whole new ball park for me. I've never had an experience of speaking to a child about religion other than my own and since my oldest is 5, that experience is very limited. I'm not sure how comfortable I am with this. Part of me thinks I should put my degree to good use here. The other part of me thinks kids are very impressionable and this is a conversation for her to have with her parents or a member of their temple. I know the family is Jewish and I mentioned to them that my husband is Jewish and we are raising our kids with Judaism, but I personally am agnostic and I just worry that I will say something to the 8 yr old that will further confuse her.

WWYD?

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Old 11-13-2012, 08:14 PM   #2
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I'd ask the mum what her specific questions were and then run my answers past her before meeting with her child.

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Old 11-13-2012, 08:17 PM   #3
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Re: WWYD: Talking to kids about religion?

Personally, I would not do it. I don't have any kind of degree related to religion...but religion is a very personal thing. I think it would be too easy to offend or somehow upset the parents, or tell the child something that wouldn't sit well with them... It just seems like a sticky situation. All kids have hard questions, but IMO, this is a question for the girl's parents. If the parents don't know, a good answer would be "I don't know sweetie, let's look this up and we'll both learn." I would probably feel differently if I knew the parents and the child well, but that doesn't sound like the case here. If you do talk to her, I would talk to the Mom quite a bit first, to make she she's not going to have a cow over something you say.
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Old 11-13-2012, 08:19 PM   #4
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And I would ask the parent to be present and give her time to intercede if needed.

You can't really run all answers by her because you never know which way the child is going to take things. But if you know the jist of what the parent believes and they're present, you ought to be okay.
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Old 11-13-2012, 08:29 PM   #5
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I think you should answer any questions asked to the best of your ability. If the mother asked you, you can assume that she is not interested in indoctrinating her child with one narrow story but rather wants to give her a broad base of info and sees you as a wonderful resource.
I say go for it! Who knows, maybe she will grow up with similar interests as you
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Old 11-13-2012, 08:31 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EmilytheStrange
And I would ask the parent to be present and give her time to intercede if needed.

You can't really run all answers by her because you never know which way the child is going to take things. But if you know the jist of what the parent believes and they're present, you ought to be okay.
Yes! If her mom is trusting you, then honor her trust and share what you know. If you want to, of course.
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Old 11-13-2012, 08:32 PM   #7
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Re: WWYD: Talking to kids about religion?

What a fascinating opportunity, and kudos to the mom for being open to exposing her child to an academic perspective. I'd say pursue the matter by working with the other parents and see what they are looking to expose their daughter to.
I'm one of those people that feel since we are a social species, religion can't entirely be a personal issue. I feel we owe it to ourselves to have honest discourse about religion, especially in regards to kids.
Keep us updated if you have the time.
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Old 11-13-2012, 08:47 PM   #8
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Re: WWYD: Talking to kids about religion?

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Originally Posted by addicteddad View Post
What a fascinating opportunity, and kudos to the mom for being open to exposing her child to an academic perspective. I'd say pursue the matter by working with the other parents and see what they are looking to expose their daughter to.
I'm one of those people that feel since we are a social species, religion can't entirely be a personal issue. I feel we owe it to ourselves to have honest discourse about religion, especially in regards to kids.
Keep us updated if you have the time.
ITA. But if you feel uncomfortable and anxious, maybe share that with the other mum too.
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Old 11-14-2012, 06:07 AM   #9
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Re: WWYD: Talking to kids about religion?

I think if you and mom chat beforehand, or mom is present for the conversation, I would go ahead and do it. She obviously trusts and respects your knowledge to come to you and ask you to do this.
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Old 11-14-2012, 06:52 AM   #10
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Re: WWYD: Talking to kids about religion?

Mama, you've been given a great opportunity to educate without advocating. I'd stick to facts, and leave personal preferences and opinions out of the mix. That allows you to honestly answer her questions without advocating for any particular viewpoint.

I think it's awesome this little girl has questions, and that this mama is open to having someone share various viewpoints with her. I'm Christian, but I think it's EXTRAORDINARILY important to understand other religions beyond my own. For one thing, it helps me to evaluate what I believe, and how I interpret the Bible, and it challenges me to think more deeply about my faith. Faith that is afraid of learning about other religions is a shaky faith, in my opinion---it means you're afraid you might be swayed. If that makes any sense.

Any way, I'd just stick to answering questions without advocating. It's what you're trained to do as an academic. You'll do fine!!!
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