Should We Pass Our Religious Beliefs on to Our Children?

Spirituality is something personal and intimate. How far should we go when it comes to passing our own religious beliefs on to our children?
Should We Pass Our Religious Beliefs on to Our Children?
Elena Sanz Martín

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz Martín.

Last update: 27 December, 2022

The debate about whether or not parents should pass their religious beliefs on to their children is on the rise. In the past, this dilemma was practically unimaginable. Beliefs were firmly and directly transmitted from one generation to the next – not only by parents, but by society itself.

However, in this day and age, collective thought has evolved and there is an increased interest in preserving human rights on every level. This has led to the debate over whether or not it’s appropriate to try to influence our children’s spirituality.

While some people see it as a moral obligation as parents, others see it as robbing children of their freedom to choose.

What’s wrong with passing religious beliefs on to children?

If we’re trying to carry out respectful parenting with our children, passing on our religious beliefs may come into conflict with our child-raising philosophy.

Faith should never be imposed, no matter what the case. Rather, we should respect the beliefs (or lack thereof) of all people, and our children are no exception.

Some religions maintain certain tenets that consider certain aspects of life as taboo. This can end up being harmful to the children’s development.

Areas such as identity and sexuality should be treated with profound respect and individual freedom. What’s more, they should never be addressed from a position of condemnation.

On occasion, certain religious beliefs produce feelings of inadequacy, guilt and sinfulness that can hurt our children’s self-esteem.

At the same time, there are studies that show that trying to push concrete religious beliefs on our children can cause issues in our relationships, including irreparable tension.

Should We Pass Our Religious Beliefs on to Our Children?

What are the benefits of passing religious beliefs on to children?

On the other hand, spirituality also has a number of positive influences. In fact, spiritual people are happier, more stable and better integrated in society, no matter what the specific belief.

The basic values that the majority of religions share are highly educational. All of them promote prosocial attitudes like respecting other living beings, compassion and kindness. These are important values to teach our children from a very young age.

Furthermore, religions help children define what is good and how to be happy. They encourage us to reflect and to forgive, and not only as an interpersonal act.

Forgiveness is also a way to free ourselves from emotions that hurt us if we keep them inside. Religions offer us a different perspective on life and our existence.

Finally, there are studies that show that spirituality has very positive effects on a personal level:

  • Believers have more personal strength and self-esteem.
  • They enjoy better physical and physiological health, are less prone to use drugs, and have a higher ability to adapt. (They face life with hope).
  • They recover better from illnesses and are better at facing illness and death.

So then, what should we do?

  • Don’t raise your children in a bubble. Whether you’re a believer or not, don’t try to impose your personal vision on your children or make them think it’s the only option. Explain to them that other people have different beliefs.
  • If, as a parent, you don’t practice any religion in particular, you can wait until your child asks questions in order to start to talk about the issue.
Should We Pass Our Religious Beliefs on to Our Children?

  • On the other hand, if religion is an important part of your life, invite your children to participate with you. Remember that, over time and as your children mature, they’ll develop their own beliefs based on their own spirituality and personal experiences.
  • Make it clear to your children that beliefs are a personal issue. Allow them to make their own investigations and choices. “This is what I believe, but there are people who believe differently. What you believe is your own personal choice.
  • Explore your children’s ideas with them. When you talk about religion, ask your children what they think and what opinions they have on the subject. Encourage critical thought.
  • Show that you’re willing to answer your children’s questionsDon’t try to impose your beliefs without giving your child room for doubt. If you don’t know the answer to a question, admit it, and commit to looking for an answer.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.