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Kids and Religion/Spirituality

11:04 AM, Feb 13, 2013   |    comments
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Information from Peggy Drexler, Ph.D. a research psychologist, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Weill Medical College, Cornell University and author of two books about modern families and the children they produce. Follow Peggy on Twitter and Facebook and learn more about Peggy at www.peggydrexler.com

Story about Sam a boy from two non-religious parents who one night said he was "thankful for Jesus who gives us everything".
More Americans than ever are turning away from religion. A recent report by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that 1 in 5 adults has no religious affiliation -- under the age of 30, the numbers increase to a third -- compared to the year 1950, when the percentage of adults who identified as having no religion was just two percent. And the biggest increase among the non-religious is what researchers call the "nones," the people who are largely indifferent. They're not atheists or disenchanted former believers; they just don't care.
This indifference is being passed on to children, but at what cost?
The University of British Columbia found that spirituality is more important than religion in making kids happy, religion certainly has been shown to come with certain benefits. Participation in a religious community may help kids develop a strong moral core; specifically, it has been shown to reduce the incidence of teen drug use and pregnancy, while increasing feelings of self-esteem and overall hopefulness.
A Mississippi State University study found that younger boys whose parents practice religion are better behaved and adjusted than those raised in homes without religion. These boys also display better self-control, social skills, and ability to work with others.
In addition, religion seems to be somewhat comforting to kids in particular, and indeed it can provide a certain stability that children welcome in a world that's full of changes.
For a generation of children that's required to be more adaptive than ever before, simple acts like reciting prayers and getting dressed each week for service can help impart a feeling of safety and groundedness.
Although the numbers seem to indicate that religion occupies a diminishing place in our lives, the fact is that the beliefs they espouse have never been more relevant. In the wake of Newtown and all the other tragedies worldwide, more and more we've had to rely on some kind of a God to get us through. Increase children' exposure to people and ideas that will help them develop a strong moral code. That is, in a world where evil often trumps good, religion can't hurt. It's perhaps one reason why even the most liberal politicians are more frequently recognizing God, and asking for blessings, in their public addresses.
Luckily, children have a natural curiosity about religion, from why one family celebrates Christmas and another Hanukkah to wondering who, and where, God is. Without a structured way to understand religion, though, kids -- like Sam -- often attempt to make sense of it themselves. As they should.
Of course, raising a child with a religious practice, or even awareness, can be tricky for parents who don't practice one themselves, or who aren't quite sure what they believe -- when they are "nones." Parents can show respect for religious tradition while also talking to kids about what parts of it don't seem relevant to them, or to their family. Like any difficult topic that arises during parenting, though, the best approach isn't simply to ignore it or shrug it off. Instead, frame a conversation with honesty and flexibility and a willingness to let them ask questions. You won't have all the answers, certainly not "definites." The important thing is to let them ask.

Courtesy: Dr. Matthew Clark, www.theclarkinstitute.com

 

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