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How Can I Teach My Kids About Faith If I’m Unsure?

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While we were at our weekly church service a few weeks ago, my 6-year-old daughter turned to me in the middle of Mass and whispered, “Mom—can girls be priests?”

After I picked my jaw up from the ground, I told her that we’d talk about it after church and I thought long and hard about what I wanted to tell her. We are Catholic, so of course, our church maintains that belief that women most certainly cannot be priests, yet how could I adequately sum up a 2,000-year-old system of patriarchy, a concise theory of theology in all its forms, and systematically empower her through feminism all in terms that a first-grader could understand? Or, in other words, how could I tell her that she could be President someday, but not a priest?

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To be fair, I tried. But I mostly failed miserably.

The truth is, my children are reaching the ages of needing my answers for the big questions in life—you know, the ones like, “Where do people go when they die, Mama?” or “Where is heaven?” at precisely the age that I am sorting through a lot of mixed feelings about my faith, spirituality and religion.

All of us, parents or not, go through a period of discernment, some of us multiple times, as we are faced with coming up with the answers to what we believe. Even those who claim a staunch anti-belief in all things God-related still have to face that questioning period and come through to the other side with an armful of the answers that they have chosen to believe, or not believe, in.

I have questions, both big and small ... and that makes it hard for me to know what exactly I want to teach my kids.

For me, this time is hard. It’s not because, as my own mother may fear, that I think questioning the belief system that I was raised with is a bad thing. On the contrary, I think that probing and inquiry is a good thing, a natural progression of many different belief systems. In the end, I hope to come out stronger, or at the very least, more at peace with my own answers for the big questions in life.

But for right now, I am struggling to come up with answers to everything that I believe—I have questions, both big and small, when it comes to many faith traditions that I have mostly taken for granted all of my life, and that makes it hard for me to know what exactly I want to teach my kids. They aren’t looking for deep, philosophical debates from me right now; they need the simple and concrete answers that their minds can process, and in some ways, I feel like I can’t give those to them because I’m still processing them for myself.

I want to give them the security that simple trust in the goodness of faith can bring. I want to not hesitate when they ask me questions about religion. I want to be the pillar of strength they look for when life gets unbearably hard. I want to bring some sense to them when their eyes are opened to senseless suffering.

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I want that peace not just for myself, that simple assurance of, “This is what I believe,” but also for them, because I think that they need that security until they are ready to go through their own process of finding their own inner strength and belief systems.

But I’m just not there yet.

And I guess for right now, all I can do is have hope that I’ll get there someday. For all of our sakes.

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