I got in a debate with a friend over this. She has decided not to expose her kids to any religion until they are 12 and let them decide for themselves, thus keeping her own beliefs more or less personal. I fully intend to raise my daughter with the religion of my husband and myself--if she changes her beliefs when she is older, well, that's her right.
Do you raise your kids with your religion/spiritual path or avoid it til they are older?
Poll Results: Do you raise your kids with your own beliefs?
31% (6)Yes, I believe my family should share religion.
10% (2)No, but they are aware of my beliefs.
52% (10)Yes, but I also allow them to examine other beliefs.
0% (0)No, and I don't believe they should know my beliefs, either.
How old are your friends' children? I'm having a hard time imagining how that would work out in a practical sense.
I like what Backroads said and that is how we are planning to raise our child. S/he will grow up knowing our beliefs, but if s/he decides she wants to go to church with Grandma when we are visiting, that is OK by me! I would not want my child to make any long-term or permanent decisions (like baptism) until they are in their late teenage years and have done a good deal of exploring before hand. We are planning to homeschool and part of their education is going to be exploring various religions. Spirituality is one of the most important things in a person's life, whether they are agnostic, atheist, pagan, Jewish, Christian, etc. and I believe it should take years of exploration before coming to a conclusion about it.
I'm Episcopalian and DH is a Taoist but doesn't attend worship services. She comes to church with me and will be in Sunday school when she gets older. DH is welcome to share his views with her as well. Neither of us will teach her that our views are the only way. She can make her own decision when she's older.
I'm Jewish and DH grew up Christian but doesn't have any interest in Christianity. In fact, many of his best friends growing up were Jewish. We moved last year and I was looking for a preschool for DD. We wound up sending her to a Jewish preschool because we really loved it for many reasons. About half the families are Jewish and probably half of those are interfaith. DD LOVES the school and the Jewish curriculum. She just turned 5 and is begging to go to Sunday school next year.
I'd say we are letting her take the lead on this. For example, last Friday she asked if we could celebrate Shabbat so we went out together to buy some challah and grape juice. Although I was raised Jewish, we never did this, pretty much just observed the major holidays. It's been special to share my knowledge with her. Like most kids, she loves songs, rituals, food, stories and learning about compassion. She's getting that from her Jewish preschool. So I feel like my kids are getting a good foundation in their religion. DS will start attending this preschool in the fall. Will see where it goes from here.
I think it's important for a family to share religious activities although not necessarily beliefs. This could be sitting meditations at home or going to some sort of worship service together. I think this brings people closer together and especially when the child is younger it's an important thing to share. When DD gets older (not infant stage) we want to practice family meditations on DH's days off.
With that said DH and I are very lax on "religion." Neither of us really like to identify with anything but when forced to I say that I mostly am zen buddhist and DH is a mystic. Both of us feel that all religions came from the same Source, just with varying interpretations. With that perspective I see very little conflict between teaching DD different religions whether it's from me or my family members. No matter what she were to believe I at least would still feel like we "shared" that belief because there is very little I disagree with.
Also, You can't control your child's surroundings past a certain point and they are going to be exposed to different beliefs regardless of what the parents believe. My MIL was/is very upset that two of her children are no longer her definition of "Christian." She tried very hard to raise them in said faith, going to church every Sunday, Lutheran schools etc. But when DH and his brother became adults they met different people with different beliefs, read books that weren't allowed in the house when they were children, and generally explored who they want to be. It didn't match what she wanted of them but the choice is either accept that or shun them.
I don't see how a parent could hide their religious beliefs. How else do you answer a lot of questions kids have? Especially when a family member or something dies. I couldn't imagine trying to explain what "death" is without bringing some sort of "belief" in it.
I raised my kids with my own beliefs about g-d, and souls. My beliefs and practices are an intergal part of who I am, so it would be false to do otherwise. If I were an atheist, I guess I would have raised my kids that way.
That did not mean I kept them ignorant of other religions and practices. My mom & step-dad are/were very religious Episcopalians; my dad and step-mom are agnostic/atheists; my m-i-l practices traditional Chinese religion; we live in a city where Buddha's birthday is a public holiday, as is Christmas. There a plenty of Hindus, Jains, & Muslims in their school.
I did not completely expect them to follow my beliefs and practices once they got to be older. I decided that teaching them my religious beliefs and practices would at least "give them something solid to butt their heads against".