Atheist mamas - How to react when daughter says she is (not really) Christian? - Mothering Forums
Spirituality > Atheist mamas - How to react when daughter says she is (not really) Christian?
amberskyfire's Avatar amberskyfire 04:47 PM 10-21-2013

I am an atheist/humanist. I suppose that's what I'm called. I don't believe in a creator being or anything spiritual. I just believe life is amazing and beautiful and that we should all devote our lives to being good to one another and to our planet.

 

I have a 5 y/o daughter and I don't mind if my children become religious. I do, however, believe that children do not have a real grasp or understanding of religion. I know all religious parents swear they do, but I personally do not believe that, so I work very hard not to let anyone indoctrinate my kids into religions. When they are teenagers, I think they will have a fuller grasp of the concept and can decide then.

 

My daughter is frequently saying that she is Christian, but she isn't actually. (She also randomly says she does not believe in God or that she is whatever other religion she hears about in the moment.) She doesn't even understand what the religion is. I can tell that she says it as a way to get attention and gauge my reaction. She knows I am not Christian so she will say it and then stare at me intently to see if I react and how. I can tell this is about me, not her. She doesn't know what she's talking about, she wants to see what my reaction will be. How do you mamas respond? I have been trying not to react much. Just a sort of "oh, okay, that's nice, honey." I keep hoping that if I don't make a big deal out of it, she will stop trying to get a rise out of me and do something else. Is apathy they way to go about it?



rnra's Avatar rnra 09:21 PM 10-21-2013

Sometimes I find it helpful to "reverse" the situation...

 

If you saw a post from a mom who said she is a devout Christian and has a young child who claims to be atheist--what would you think?  How would you advise her?


amberskyfire's Avatar amberskyfire 02:41 AM 10-22-2013
I would tell her to do the exact same thing. I just wonder if that's the right thing. I don't know how my answer might affect her. Is acting uninterested healthy in this case? Sometimes I wonder if my response will negatively affect her. Is it something I should make a big deal about? Because I really don't feel that strongly about her behavior. I err on the side of being genuine instead of making a big deal out of it. But maybe she needs that. Is she looking to me to set a boundary? Because I don't think I can do that. When she tests her boundaries in other ways, I know to stand firm but this...is different somehow. It's not a boundary. Does that make sense?
mariamadly's Avatar mariamadly 07:17 AM 10-22-2013

Not to trivialize the topic, but would it help to substitute something else (in your mind, I mean) to which you personally might give a similar weight?  Like if she talked about what she wanted to do when she grows up -- how would you engage if she said she wants to be a scientist, SAHM, politician, hedge fund manager?

 

I was raised RC and left the church.  DH and I raised our sons (20 and 24 now) with exposure to the rituals and traditions but not telling them this is the only way, and we always told them they'd have to decide for themselves.  Our parents were both very intense about their own beliefs (RC on my side, atheist on DH's -- funny, the in-laws ended up being less tolerant than my parents).  We kept it calm.  DS1 and DS2 are relaxed about religion but very aware of intolerance and the shadings of coercion and exclusion that are sometimes present in an organized situation.  That's separate from the spirituality aspect of it, though, I realize.

 

If you're trying to balance a laid-back approach with some sort of give and take, maybe you can hold a conversation but depersonalize it?  I ended up using "some people believe . . . " a lot and had some nice open-ended exchanges with my children.  Gave them a chance to think out loud, and it also showed them what I thought about something really personal but in a less in-your-face way. 


MeepyCat's Avatar MeepyCat 07:21 AM 10-22-2013

I think your response is fine.  The hiccup is that it might not be all about you.  Kids get a lot of pressure to conform to their communities, and on a kindergarten playground, a person who insists there is neither Jesus nor Santa Claus may be seen as a little threatening.  Atheism can also be tough on little kids, particularly around holidays, when the other kids celebrate Christmas or Hannukah or whatever, and atheists don't necessarily have fun alternative celebrations to talk about. 

 

So "that's nice, honey," might be supplemented by "it's important for you to decide what your beliefs are.  You probably won't make up your mind all the way on that until you're grown up, and even then, you might change over time.  I'm your mom, and it's most important to me that when you run into these questions, you're thoughtful about them, and come to your own answers."  And it's worth a check to see how these things are coming up at school.


Ragana's Avatar Ragana 07:26 AM 10-22-2013

My DH is a teacher, and he sometimes turns statements the kids are using to be provocative around with a question. Your DD: Mom, I'm Christian. You: Really? What's that?/What does it mean to you to be a Christian. You might get a very interesting answer :-)  Since she's 5 she probably has little idea of what that actually means, as you said. This can then lead to the interesting discussions about various religions. DH and I also use the "Some people believe..." as mentioned above when that comes up since he has religious family members. I think you're right to play it cool, though.


Ragana's Avatar Ragana 07:29 AM 10-22-2013
Quote:
Originally Posted by MeepyCat View Post

 

So "that's nice, honey," might be supplemented by "it's important for you to decide what your beliefs are.  You probably won't make up your mind all the way on that until you're grown up, and even then, you might change over time.  I'm your mom, and it's most important to me that when you run into these questions, you're thoughtful about them, and come to your own answers."  And it's worth a check to see how these things are coming up at school.

 

Very much agree with letting them know their spiritual beliefs or lack thereof are their own choice.

Also great point about school. We had Gideons handing out bibles to the kids in front of the school the other day, and it was questionable on the 1st amendment issue because it looked like they were on school grounds.


amberskyfire's Avatar amberskyfire 03:11 PM 10-22-2013
Thank you, all! That is great advice. I'll see how she takes it when she mentions it again. smile.gif
EFmom's Avatar EFmom 02:49 PM 10-28-2013

Yes, I'm an atheist also, and I would ask my kid what they meant by it.  I'll bet she's getting pressure from other kids or a family member.

 

I taught my kids about Christianity the same way as I did any other myth.  As they got older, we started learning about critical thinking, science, evidence and superstition.


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