Being authentic with your children

Public forum for those seeking support for their experience in the LDS Church.
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Daeruin
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Being authentic with your children

Post by Daeruin » 23 Dec 2013, 21:36

I made a comment in my introduction thread that nobody remarked on. I wanted to call a bit more attention to it, because it's a big concern of mine right now. I'll paraphrase what I said before:

I struggle a lot with how to approach things with my kids, and that's what has driven a lot of my hesitation and confusion. I do want to make sure my kids get a good chance to make their own decisions about faith later on, and I think they need a solid education in the church to make that decision meaningful. If that means baptizing my son before he's really old enough to know all the ramifications, fine. He can still make his own decisions later. If that means teaching them things in a literal way that I see figuratively, and helping them grow into new understandings later, fine.

On the other hand, I don't want to feel inauthentic with my own kids. Hiding the fact that Santa isn't real is one thing, hiding the fact that daddy doesn't believe in God (per se) is totally different to me. It has more important ramifications. I don't want them to feel betrayed or misled, or that they didn't get to grow up with the real me. In that way, I don't see baptizing my son as automatically harmless—it depends a lot on how I approach things in the future, and whether I'm able to help them see why I did it and what I really believe without them feeling lied to. It also depends on the individual personalities and needs of my kids (which I can't necessarily predict). Some kids might take these revelations in stride, while others might not. I have five kids to take through this process.

Does anybody else struggle with this issue? Has anyone gone through this with their own kids?
"Not all those who wander are lost" —Tolkien

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SilentDawning
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Re: Being authentic with your children

Post by SilentDawning » 23 Dec 2013, 22:58

This is what I have done. First, I am not openly authentic about my most contrarion ideas. I don't want to confuse my kids as they experience the church. So, I bear testimony about God, share my spiritual experiences on my mission, and teach them positive life principles. I teach them the Word of Wisdom because I think it is healthy for them, I encourage them to listen to the prophets. But I also encourage them to listen to their conscience -- the "inner [insert child name here]".

I suppose they believe I am orthodox in many ways, when really, I simply focus on what I have in common with the church. When talking to the kids I also give advice after settling into their young, perspective, and often, my advice is the church line if it's not harmful or something I don't feel strongly opposed to. When they are young you don't have to go that deep. They may not even notice you never do certain things like go to the temple.

But I have a number of threads here where my kids asked me questions point blank why I don't do certain things the church teaches. For example, why I don't wear garments, go to the temple or pay tithing. I have come up with answers to those questions after posting here and getting some pat answers down. You might post the questions or issues that might come up, and get perspectives and be ready when they ask you questions.

For example, - I don't wear garments because after 20 years of wearing them, I realized it was irreverent to have them hanging below my shorts. I live in a hot climate, where modest shorts, and my shorter than average legs make the garments hang down below my shorts. I said that this is not reverent. And when the church makes garments that fit me, I will wear them. But every type I have tried, no matter how small, hangs down a couple inches below my shorts. Plus, we are not allowed to alter the garments, so I don't wear temple undergarments due to the lack of reverence it generates.

For tithing -- I have explained that the church teaches self-reliance and tithing. These two principles conflict sometimes. In our case, we have a child with extraordinary medical needs, and require a fund for those needs in the event I lose my job or benefits. I put my tithing there. I also affirm the decades in which I paid it and describe the sacrifices we have made. Of course, that means I can't go to the temple. For the time being, I will have to accept that. I always express hope that I will go again some day. But for now, my conscience tells me I should be putting our self-reliance needs first. My one child disagrees with me, and then we talk about how we need to be tolerant of each other's beliefs. I support her in paying tithing, and hopefully, this teaches us both to be tolerant as people worship God according to the dictates of their own conscience.

Now, that is only part of the story. I also don't pay it because I don't think the church needs it. I have also been involved in needs analysis of members requesting welfare assistance and have found the church does not give up their funds very easily. I see only a trickle of what we pay come back to the wards to improve their programs. I find its hard to get access to much needed services in the church....and I don't like the lack of accountability and transparency Also, one thing that keeps my marriage going is the fact that we have enough funds to take financial worry out of relationship. I won't go into details, but my wife and I have some extraordinary challenges. We are fortunate we are still married...but I don't share this subset of reasons. Having funds helps. I also use the funds to help organizations other than the church which makes me feel better about not paying. I don't share these other reasons, and focus on the conflict of self-reliance and tithing.

Anyway, you get the idea. A few strategies are:

1. Do not be proactive in sharing your unorthodox beliefs.
2. Provide moral reasons for the unorthodox beliefs you must share.
3. Deflect questions that you don't have a suitable answer to, come here, post your problem, get perspectives, and then return with a well-thought out answer that preserves your objectives.
4. Rely on your unique circumstances as reasons for customizing your belief system.
5. Focus on what you have in common with the church.

Hope that helps.
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

"The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

A man asked Jesus "do all roads lead to you?" Jesus responds,”most roads don’t lead anywhere, but I will travel any road to find you.” Adapted from The Shack, William Young

Curt Sunshine
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Re: Being authentic with your children

Post by Curt Sunshine » 24 Dec 2013, 00:32

I don't have time to respond fully right now, but there are a few threads in our archives that deal directly with this issue. When I can, I will try to find one or two and provide links to them.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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journeygirl
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Re: Being authentic with your children

Post by journeygirl » 24 Dec 2013, 09:51

This is something I will be facing as well. For me, I want to be sure to always leave it open for them to decide what they believe. I won't expect them to see things the way I see them. Their experiences might lead them to different conclusions. But what I already do, is I try to get them thinking about things rather than just accepting what they are told. You don't always have to share your opinion on religious topics. You can encourage the discussion to be a thoughtful one to show them that these are issues that people have debated and wondered about from the beginning of humanity.

I think as they grow up, it can be good to be sure they know the origin of the Bible, and it's history in being put together. I also think it's important that they know that prophets and other leaders are regular flawed people, and that they make mistakes. The reason I think knowing those things will help, is that they can see that no one has it all figured out. There is room, even in the LDS church, for mystery and uncertainty. One thing I really like about LDS theology is the huge importance placed on free agency. I would uphold this principle in my family.

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GodisLove
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Re: Being authentic with your children

Post by GodisLove » 24 Dec 2013, 10:26

Origami and I are in the midst of this dilemma right now. Though we haven't solved how to handle it fully, I have found it interesting how often things come up that we seem to clarify. In a thoughtful, careful way we explain that for us we believe we should take the "treat others as the Savior would" approach and also that each soul needs to decide for themselves. I am of the opinion that FHE is really to straighten out all the crap they heard at church.

In one occasion for our 15 year old son, I would say that these discussions empowered him to choose his way and gave him the strength to stand up for his own belief in the midst of a crazy Bishopric counselor pressure cooker. I was proud as could be.

It is tough though, I have been interested to hear others replies as well.
Not one Sparrow is forgotten
E'en the raven God will feed
And the lily of the valley
From His bounty hath its need

Then shall I not trust Thee, Father
In Thy mercy have a share?
And through faith and prayer, my Mother
Merit Thy protecting care?
Shaker Hymnal 1908

Roy
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Re: Being authentic with your children

Post by Roy » 24 Dec 2013, 11:25

I talked with DD about baptism and specifically told her that the water will not wash your sins away. I told her that it is the love and forgiveness of God that erases mistakes and that is something that she will never lose. I told her that baptism is a commitment to become a follower of Jesus - not to be perfect or even necessarily better than you were before baptism.

I always change the phrase "choose the right" to "make good choices."

My six year old son asked me if I love God more than I love my family. I told him no. He asked why. I responded that I love God but I can't see or touch him. The love I have for my family grows stronger as we see, touch, and serve each other. He told me that he loves his family more than God. I told him that I think God is ok with that.

One of the most contentious issues in my house is that of covering shoulders for the sake of modesty. It is important to DW to cover shoulders (due to her upbringing). I have explained to my children in a FHE setting that the principle is to respect and care for our bodies. We in our home have decided that covering shoulders is one way that we show that respect. I explicitly said that it is ok if other people choose to show respect in other ways and that my children can also choose for their own households when they grow up.

I have heard DD speak up in a class setting to tell the teacher that nobody knows what Jesus really looks like and the pictures we see are just the artist’s best guess. I was very proud of her and I believe that this same principle can apply to much of what is heard about religion.

Once after we attended some classes at the 7th Day Adventist Church - DD left the childcare telling us that God never changed the Sabbath from Sat to Sun. We told her that we celebrate the Sabbath on Sun and we believe that the important thing is to set a day apart to decompress and remember God. She responded, "Yeah, but they (the SDA's) have a good point don't they?" DW and I both agreed that they have a good point.

These are examples of my interactions with my children ages 8 and 6. I hope that they are learning that there are many acceptable ways to do things. That they can "be their own person" and they will be accepted and loved in our home.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

Curt Sunshine
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Re: Being authentic with your children

Post by Curt Sunshine » 24 Dec 2013, 13:43

I am honest with my kids, but I don't share all of my beliefs with them - largely because I want them to craft their own faith and not feel pressured or expected to any degree to believe exactly as I believe.

I share only what I believe is appropriate for each child, based on age, maturity and personality. This means I share some things with one child that I don't with another.

When I or they hear something at church with which I or they disagree, we talk about it - always emphasizing that I love and respect the person with whom I or they disagree.

I tell them regularly that I want them to figure out individually what they believe.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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Daeruin
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Location: Utah

Re: Being authentic with your children

Post by Daeruin » 26 Dec 2013, 12:13

SilentDawning wrote:I suppose they believe I am orthodox in many ways, when really, I simply focus on what I have in common with the church. When talking to the kids I also give advice after settling into their young, perspective, and often, my advice is the church line if it's not harmful or something I don't feel strongly opposed to. When they are young you don't have to go that deep. They may not even notice you never do certain things like go to the temple.

...

Anyway, you get the idea. A few strategies are:

1. Do not be proactive in sharing your unorthodox beliefs.
2. Provide moral reasons for the unorthodox beliefs you must share.
3. Deflect questions that you don't have a suitable answer to, come here, post your problem, get perspectives, and then return with a well-thought out answer that preserves your objectives.
4. Rely on your unique circumstances as reasons for customizing your belief system.
5. Focus on what you have in common with the church.

Hope that helps.
That does help. So far my kids haven't noticed my unorthodoxy much, probably because they are so young. As they get older I won't be able to hide as much. I have some pretty big and obvious things to deal with, and I have no idea how I'm going to do it. I'll definitely take your advice about posting here when things come up. I've already gotten tons of help from everyone here.
journeygirl wrote:But what I already do, is I try to get them thinking about things rather than just accepting what they are told. You don't always have to share your opinion on religious topics. You can encourage the discussion to be a thoughtful one to show them that these are issues that people have debated and wondered about from the beginning of humanity.
I do this as well. It's one thing that comes naturally to me—trying to see things from different angles, thinking things through, not passing hasty judgment, and so forth.
journeygirl wrote:One thing I really like about LDS theology is the huge importance placed on free agency. I would uphold this principle in my family.
I definitely agree with that. I think that many LDS people only pay lip service to the idea of agency. You tend to get the idea that agency is only good if it's used to make choices that everyone else in the church agrees with. As if making mistakes or "bad" choices wastes your agency somehow or somehow makes you unworthy of having agency.
Ray Degraw wrote:I don't have time to respond fully right now, but there are a few threads in our archives that deal directly with this issue. When I can, I will try to find one or two and provide links to them.
Ray, anything you can turn up would be appreciated. I've done a few searches, but there are several hundred threads here and my searches always turn up a lot of results (like 300+ pages). I haven't been able to find anything particularly relevant in the time I've had. I get the impression that most people tend to post new threads even when there might be an existing one that covers the topic. Everyone's situation is a little different, and half the reason to be here is for the moral support of knowing that people are listening to you and exchanging common experiences. If it was purely for informational purposes, I'm guessing there would be a lot fewer posts. :)

Thanks for all the replies!
"Not all those who wander are lost" —Tolkien

Curt Sunshine
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Joined: 21 Oct 2008, 20:24

Re: Being authentic with your children

Post by Curt Sunshine » 26 Dec 2013, 12:22

Here are two threads. I'll try to find another one or two if I have time later:

viewtopic.php?f=5&t=4254&hilit=teaching+children#p57280

viewtopic.php?f=5&t=763&hilit=dealing+with+children
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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Daeruin
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Joined: 15 Dec 2013, 20:56
Location: Utah

Re: Being authentic with your children

Post by Daeruin » 26 Dec 2013, 12:40

Thanks so much for that, Ray! I'm reading through those threads right now.
"Not all those who wander are lost" —Tolkien

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