Sharing spiritual values with children is one of the most important and joyful tasks of being a parent. But it's not always easy. In a recent survey, Beliefnet partnered with Parents Magazine to ask about the challenges of raising a spiritual child today. Here’s what we found out about the parents in our survey. (To see the questionnaire and complete scores, click here.)
More than 3300 parents responded to the survey—87 percent of them women. Of these, more than half said they follow an organized religion, while 20 percent said they are religious—but not active in organized religion. More than a quarter consider themselves spiritual but not religiously involved.
Most of the respondents—69 percent—identify themselves as Christian, 9 percent as Jewish, and 10 percent "other." Less than one percent said they are Muslim, Buddhist, or atheist/agnostic.
Most go to religious services regularly—57 percent attend a house of worship once a week or more, another 16 percent go once a month. Only 15 percent never go to a house of worship.
They've been changed spiritually by parenthood.
Interestingly, 64 percent said that they have grown more religious or spiritual since becoming a parent. A third said their feelings toward religion stayed the same. Only 2 percent became less spiritual or religious.
They teach their kids.
When asked what religious activities they regularly do with children, a whopping 90 percent said they "talk about God or a higher power." Praying with kids is also highly valued—62 percent say grace at meals, while 60 percent pray at other times, and 49 percent say bedtime prayers. Nearly half read the Bible or religious stories with kids, and a third watch children's videos or DVDs about faith.
They want their children to know God.
More than any other single value offered by religion, parents want their kids to gain "a firm belief in God or a higher power." Nearly 63 percent chose this value above "knowing right from wrong" (27 percent), gaining "a sense of identity" (7 percent) or gaining "a sense of community" (4 percent) from religion.
They initiate children with rituals.
An overwhelming 78 percent of parents either had or were planning to have a religious ceremony for their child—such as baptism, Bris, First Communion, or coming of age ceremony.
Their biggest challenge: the stress of modern life.
We asked, "What is the single biggest challenge to raising a child with spiritual values?" The top three answers all pointed to today’s stressors: society's general lack of support for religious values (33 percent), conflicts between the practice of religion and everyday life (26 percent), and busy schedules (24 percent).
Another potential source of stress: a spouse who's not on the same wavelength. Only half of parents said their partner shared the same religious goals for the children. The other half said either it was a struggle, or that they were not in sync about goals.
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