Helping Our Children Deal With Faith Differences

There is No Holiday from Faith Instruction

I’ll never forget the day my son stood up for his faith. He was asked by our neighbor how his Halloween was. In his youthfulness (unaware of what tactfulness is) he answered in a clear and complete sentence: “We don’t celebrate Halloween. It’s the devil’s holiday.”

I was flustered, and worried for a moment because that could be super offensive, implying that our neighbor was a devil worshipper. My son though, was just 7 years old. We never explained to him that it was the “devil’s holiday.” That was how he perceived our conversations on the topic. My neighbor took it with grace. Did it stop our interactions? For a few days. However, we are after all neighbors. Our children love to play together at dusk. We’re each just parents navigating the task of raising our children to be good humans. We have different belief systems.

These differences in belief and family life sometimes make it feel like my children are missing out on all the “fun”. I wonder if they feel insecure about the choices that we make in our household.

I want to show my children all the wonderful things it means to be a child of God. There are so many amazing things that we get to do.

During the religiously based holiday months, it sometimes feels like much of my energy is sapped on refuting these calendar holidays with religious themes.

With empathy and heartfelt morning devotional prayers we send them off to school wondering what choices they make amongst their peers and teachers who structure the learning day around holidays.

When they come home with yet another holiday-themed assignment or letter requesting for supplies for a fun holiday-themed party, the unease is there. When our house is one of the few undecorated same-o same-o houses on the block, the contrast is there. When I’m greeted left and right with a “Merry this”, or a “Happy that” and my response doesn’t match their sentiment, the suspicions are there.

 

Our friends with different faiths may not say it outright, but we can almost get a sense of what they’re thinking… How do you not celebrate the birthday of Christ? You don’t believe in love? It’s just chocolate bunnies and colored eggs…

 

Everyone thinks everyone else celebrates what they celebrate.

It helps to stay a few steps ahead. As adults, we understand the calendar schedule, we understand the nature of kids, and we understand how powerful prayer can be. These are gifts to be used to our advantage.

 

Schedule time to discuss and explore faith – before the holiday season begins.

 

While the stores set-up for the holidays – set our family up for success.

 

Starting a faith discussion about a particular holiday early helps everyone- child and parent, feel better prepared. This also builds their assertiveness and confidence. We can approach the holiday calmly, with collected thoughts and a clear mind. It’s easy to let emotions mix us up, especially if we wait until they get a cupid-themed assignment after we already informed the teacher about how we don’t participate in Valentine’s Day themed activities.

Keep discussions short and sweet, about 10 minutes per grade. For example, a first grader can handle 10 minutes and second grader 20 minutes. For third graders and beyond keep it to under or about 30 minutes.

From experience the “one and done” strategy does not work for most kids or for most topics. Work to revisit regularly the discussion and various aspects of the holiday or our children’s experiences for school that day. This means discussing it every calendar year. This also means checking up on them daily during the season.

 

Understand the nature of children.

Children need guidance, they need us to show them the way.

So what is the way they should go when it comes to how they spend their time and what they do for fun?

 

Since we’re raising God-fearing adults, we’ve got to make every effort to put our children on the exact route that they should take as adults. As an adult, we work to do what is found in the Bible. We choose to practice what is based on the words of God found in the Bible. And we get to enjoy every moment of living a life based on truth and the freedom from confusion.

What’s a great mind-set for us parents? Let’s consider these holidays that could be very confusing or isolating for our children as training opportunities. The exciting part here is the growing amount of resources we have as parents.

 

We have access to videos for INCKids with easy explanations for each holiday. This YouTube channel is packed with kid-friendly content to help our children understand their faith. There are “Sweetie Says” short animated videos for the toddlers and preschoolers. For the elementary-aged children, there are full-length “Let’s Sing” episodes.

You can also subscribe to this channel to always get notifications for timely and all new content for kids!

We have online Bible Study shows that explain exactly what the Bible teaches about each holiday. The ministers of the gospel ask the Bible questions about holidays and examine the basis for the holiday. There is no personal interpretation. What does God require of us when it comes to giving gifts? Celebrating the birth of Christ? Remembering his sacrificial death? Dealing with the dead?

Simply use the search bar, via the magnifying glass in the upper right hand corner of the webpage and type in the subject, or the holiday of your search.
We have resources in Spanish too!
I love watching these episodes during my Sunday evening planning sessions for the week, when mopping my floor or listening to them during my commute. Life is busy! But I learned that understanding my faith and equipping myself to explain it to my children are a priority.

We also have the Tired Moms podcast, and they happen to have a very helpful episode with real examples and more stories from moms and their children and the holidays. These moms are real and they share their mothering experiences so generously.

There are so many practical suggestions and tips in this episode. When should you start teaching them about the holidays? How do you help children understand make-believe from real, especially when the God we believe in is invisible and Santa Clause is right there at the mall? What can you do as a mom to help your children not feel left out? Who is the burden of proof really on when it comes to why a holiday is celebrated or not celebrated?

We also have the Resident Minister himself, in the local congregation that we are registered in. He is such a valuable partner in our parenting journey and is always eager to help if we have questions.

 

Once we train them and teach them, I learned that it’s so important to check in with our children every day to see where they are at. How they are with their peers? How are they with their instructors? Stand back and watch them. Be ready to receive them and give them assurance or redirection. Train them to know that God is always watching, and we make our choices to please Him, not to please our peers or even ourselves.

 

Use the power of prayer.

Talk about God and talk to God. Always.

 

If there’s anything a modern-day parent should know, it is that modern-day children need tons of reassurance and reinforcement.

This happens through eye-to-eye or heart-to-heart conversations. (Reassurance) This also happens through a spiral-like approach to all things that are important. (Reinforcement)

One “big-talk” is not enough.

Talking about the big issues to them, and talking to God through prayer must be a regular part of family life. A prayerful family schedule equips the family to truly endure persecution together and rejoice in the life that they live.

Talking or praying to God is so important. If we find ourselves struggling as parents to connect the dots for our kids, we can at least model for them how to take a situation and lay it down before the One who understands our hearts without us having to speak. Pray to God when it feels chaotic. Ask for clarity. Ask for understanding. Ask for humility. Ask for mercy. Ask for guidance. Ask for His will.

There are so many wonderful things that we have the privilege to ask for.

 

 

 

Stephanie Canete is a staff writer for INCMEDIA.ORG.

She taught elementary school for 11 years and is now a homeschooling mom of two. She loves throwing festive parties. She is a firm believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. She believes in him so much that she also is a member of His Church.