One of the questions I am asked the most often is HOW DO I TALK TO MY KIDS ABOUT GOD? At first, I was startled to be asked this question. However, as I started to ask for more information, several themes began to emerge. Many people feel that they do not know enough to be able to talk to their kids about God. Still more people would like some kinds of an aid (book, lessons, ideas, program) to support having a conversation with their kids, hopefully a program with answers. Other people indicated that their spiritual life was personal and private, and they were not sure they had words for it.
Many people would like to have their kids develop a spiritual life. It does not seem to matter whether they are involved in a church/mosque/synagogue/temple, or whether they are atheists. It is important for most people to communicate a sense of their beliefs, ethics and actions that support what they believe.
Whether you know it or not, you are teaching your kids about God every day. They are watching to see if your actions match your words. They are watching to see how you live out your beliefs and what you do to support others in your community. So, the first way we teach our kids, is by our actions.
Another way that you can share your beliefs about God is to pray with your kids. For those of you who are involved in a church/mosque/synagogue/temple there are probably prayers that you have been taught, or that you have in a book. That is a great place to start. For my family, it has been a prayer said before mealtimes when we are together. When the kids were little, we taught them a couple of short prayers by repetition. Now that they are older we use Blessing Cards. Our deck of 52 cards includes prayers from many traditions, poetry and even song lyrics. It becomes a starting point for conversation over a meal.
When your child asks a question that you don’t know the answer to, don’t feel that you have to have an answer right away. When I was a small child, I remember asking my Grandmother about how to pray. The next time she came to visit, she brought me a book of children’s prayers. That book not only taught me how to pray, but it also let me know that there was a grownup who took time to listen to my concerns, and try to give me some answers.
There are a number of wonderful books available to help you with teaching about God. My favorite author is Sandy Sasso, a Rabbi who has written a series of wonderful books about God. Her books have received endorsments from Protestant, Catholic and Jewish religious leaders. In God’s Name explores the reasons there are so many names for God. It is a lovely book with vibrant multicultural illustrations, that everyone will enjoy reading.
God’s Paintbrush is another Sandy Sasso book which I love. In this book there are a number of small thoughts followed by questions. It is a great way to have a bedtime conversation with your children or grandchildren, and it allows them to share with you what they are thinking and wondering about. For example, on pages 6 & 7
Sometimes when the clouds look grey and dark, I think they are angry or sad.
And the rain, I think, is God’s tears.
Sometimes the oceans make giant waves with white foam on the top.
I imagine that pleases God, and God laughs.
When the fizz on my favorite ice cream soda tickles my nose, it makes me laugh. Maybe it makes God laugh, too.
What makes you cry and laugh?
What do you think would make God cry or laugh?
The author Demi has written a series of books that can help to introduce children to other religions including a wonderful book, Muhammad,which includes many of the stories of his life, and a book, Buddah, which tells the story of Siddhartha, the Prince who grew up to become the Buddah.
Martha Hickman has written books for children that are published via Abingdon Press in Nashville. Most of her books are about the “tough” topics including the death of a sibling, divorce, and developmental differences.
And, of course, there are wonderful stories in the Bible. The Old Testament stories are shared by three traditions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. These stories are wonderful places to begin conversations about behavior, ethics, and community.
However you choose to start the conversation, please choose to start. When we can explore our beliefs, ideas, and ethics with our kids, we are also teaching them how to have this conversation with others. As our world continues to get smaller and smaller, it is critically important that we talk to each other, honor each other, and learn to get along in the world.
Rev. Paula is an Interfaith Minister living in New Providence, New Jersey. She is available to teach comparative religion classes, and to perform life cycle ceremonies (including weddings, funerals, baby blessings, and same sex unions).