Point of View

Is God part of good parenting?

When it comes to kids and religion, should you show them the way, or let your children chart their own path?

Should you raise your children with religion? Or let them find their own way?

Children don't always share their parent's beliefs — whether that's to follow a faith or abandon religion. (Getty Images)

This story is part of Amy Bell's column "Parental Guidance" that airs on CBC Radio One's The Early Edition.

Raised without religion, I took my parents views on God as — well — the gospel.

But when my own children began to question me about religion, I began to question myself: Was imposing my non-belief system, as my parents did with me, just as closed-minded as the religion I was looking to avoid? 

For some people, religion provides a wonderful space to grow up, and they still want it to be part of their, and their children's, lives.

But children don't always share their parent's beliefs — and when it comes to matters such as heaven and hell, the stakes can be high. 

On the flip side, there are some who found the church oppressive and judgmental.

So how do you balance having your pride-and-joy wanting to pursue something you felt was morally wrong or misguided — or even damaging?  

Rev. Rhian Walker is a minister with St. Andrew's-Wesley United Church. She believes parents can help their children explore religion — even if it's different from their own beliefs. (Submitted by Rhian Walker)

Following different paths

It's a question Rev. Rhian Waker, a minister with St. Andrew's-Wesley United church in Vancouver, grapples with. 

Raised by one agnostic parent and one atheist, she knows first-hand what it's like to have wildly different views from parents. 

"If you provide a certain amount of openness or support for a child to explore, while they may go into territory you're not comfortable with or that doesn't really fit for you ... they still get to follow the path that they are called to," said Walker. 

But what if you were raised in the church and ultimately felt it wasn't the way you wanted to bring up your own kids? Will they be destined for a life of immorality?

It is important to have something to believe in.- Carrie Bryan

Carrie Bryan, a former Catholic and current corrections officer from Maple Ridge, raised three children without the church.

That doesn't mean she's turned her back on all her beliefs, though. 

"Whether you believe in karma or just being a good person ... it is important to have something to believe in," Bryan said.  ​

'Marinated' in faith

Shahar Rabi, a registered clinical counsellor in Vancouver, believes faith — and the sense of community it can foster —plays an important role.

He was raised in Israel and he describes being "marinated" in his Jewish faith, which impacted all areas of his life. 

As an adult, he's explored Buddhism, Hinduism and even trained to be a monk. 

There's no specific religion or church he wants his two children to thrive in — it's their personal spirituality and connection to others, especially those with different believes, that's important to Rabi.

Shahar Rabi with his family. (Submitted by Shahar Rabi)

"I'm curious about if and how that can happen," he said.

"Families can feel independently spiritually and each member can have their own spirituality ... and then go beyond that into a community." 

One thing that's pretty much guaranteed in parenting?

Your kids will make choices you don't always understand or agree with.

As society shifts to be more inclusive and open, perhaps a broader understanding of spirituality will prevail. 

One that doesn't need to have a label and can be different from person to person? 

Well, amen to that!

About the Author

Amy Bell

Amy Bell is a digital contributor to CBC. She can be heard weekdays on The Early Edition as the traffic and weather reporter and parenting columnist.

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