I don’t know how many times I have met parents who plan to hold off on a religious education for their children until they are old enough to choose for themselves. Their reluctance to embrace any religious persuasion seems to evolve into a desire not to encumber their children with religious stories or values, rather leaving it for them to discover their own path at some later time in their life.
While I recognize the harm that has been done in the name of religion and the complicated situations families find themselves in, especially with blended traditions (Muslim-Christian, Jewish-Catholic etc.), to deny children an exposure to the wonderful moral tales and values encased in sacred traditions until they somehow discover them on their own may not be the best route to travel.
How silly would it sound if we stated: “I’m not going to teach my child how to talk until they determine what language they want to speak.” Or perhaps, “I won’t feed them any food until they find the refrigerator!” In the same fashion, exposing our children to religious rituals, sacred stories, and the inherent moral values within them is good parenting.
Just like us, children wonder if there is anything bigger than the here and now. Children struggle to make meaning of very complex situations. Exposing them to the sacred story, rituals and mystery fosters an understanding that good things and bad things happen, sometimes without explanation or reason and the best we can do is to express faith in a good outcome through something bigger than ourselves.
This is not spinning old yarns or fairy tales of faith. Rather, it is modeling to our offspring the soulfulness of everyday life. It is exposing them to the vast inner dimension of the human spirit, the place of dreams, visions, desire, and compassion.