Generational Challenge: Handling Religious Differences

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Recent news events have led me to wonder: what do you do when your values no longer mirror those of your parents? And how does that affect how you raise your children? Let me explain.

I grew up as a holiday Methodist, meaning we went to church on major holidays and occasionally threw in another Sunday or two throughout the year. I went through confirmation classes as a teenager but never joined a church. After high school, I headed to college where many of my world views were solidified and I became increasingly agnostic. In the meantime, my parents became evangelical Christians.

Religion became the elephant in the room. It was easy to ignore, however, because I and my husband live 1,000 miles away. We could all play nice when visiting one another a few times a year.

Now, though, we are moving back to the Midwest with our five-year-old daughter. I am nervous about the conversations that lie in the future. When my mom visited recently, we had some great chats and opened ourselves up in ways we haven’t for two decades. Yet we also acknowledged that living closer would bring to light some major differences between us.  


Generations

Image: berendbotje54 via Flickr

 

These differences have already started to show via Facebook posts. The elephant is getting harder to ignore.

I admit that I don’t understand my parents’ religious views and part of me feels blindsided and even angry. I always thought it was my parents who taught me certain attitudes and values, but now that I realize how much we disagree on certain things, I wonder if our attitudes were ever the same.

As the daughter who craved parental approval, this is unsettling. As someone who hates conflicts of any kind, it is unnerving. As a mother, I wonder how I can teach my daughter our beliefs while still being respectful of my parents’ opinions.

How will I answer my daughter's questions about church and God and my parents' beliefs and why they differ from my own? How do I teach her to think for herself and form her own opinions when deep down really I want her to think the same way I do? "Because I said so" doesn't seem to apply in this situation even if I want it to.

I know I’m not the only one faced with this dilemma. Any advice for those of you who’ve been there?

~Heidi

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