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3 Challenges of Secular Parenting

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My husband and I, while spiritual, are not religious. Neither one of us belongs to a church and by default, our children do not either. We are comfortable in our decision to raise our children without organized religion, but there are some instances when it makes parenting more difficult.

1. Life's big questions can be more difficult to answer. For example, we don't have a script we can follow, a faith to proclaim, when asked what happens when you die. Of course we discuss what we think, and hope, happens and also explain what others believe, but the answers are full of ambiguity because for us, anything else would be a lie.

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However, there is a certain comfort in conviction, especially when it comes to confusing topics such as death and there have been times I wish I could've offer that. We can't point to God's will when tragedy strikes. It can be tough to explain the concept of God to a preschooler, especially when you hope they can one day form their own opinion on the subject.

2. We've had to create our own community. Being a member of a church or temple gives you a built-in framework of support. There are people to bring casseroles when someone falls ill or a baby is born. They are there to celebrate important times and support you with prayers when you need them. It's possible to create this type of support outside of a religious setting, but it's more difficult and takes more time. My network of family and friends doesn't all meet up at the same place every Sunday morning, although it would be lovely if they did.

Holidays, Easter and Christmas especially, bring with them many discussions of Jesus and who he was.

3. Explaining religion itself can be challenging. My five-year-old still doesn't have a firm grasp on what exactly happens at church. He thinks that all churches are the same and that everyone's church is just the one closest to their house. Some of his friends go to church and he can't quite wrap his head around some of the rituals and traditions associated with it.

Holidays, Easter and Christmas especially, bring with them many discussions of Jesus and who he was. We do our very best to honor others beliefs in explaining these holidays, but it can be tricky. I tell him that Jesus was a really nice guy who taught people to be kind to each other. I have told him that many people believe he was the son of God, but I stop short of telling him that he died for other's sins. Sin is a religious concept I have managed to avoid for the time being.

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Ultimately, while it may be more complicated, I am glad that I get to have an open conversation about spirituality with my kids. Thankfully, I do not struggle to raise children who are kind and empathetic, without a church. I hope to support them on their journey to discovering a truth, a faith and a spirituality that feels right to them.

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