Non-Religious Upbringing Is the Norm for Children of Millennial Parents

Shattering the status quo, the millennial generation, known for its unconventional approach, is leading a shift even in child upbringing. As observed in a nationwide survey, millennial parents are steering clear of traditional ideologies, opting for a non-religious upbringing for their children, symbolizing a profound change in American families’ dynamics.

More than 2,500 American adults participated in the American Enterprise Institute‘s study in November 2019. It was discovered that many modern parents do not include religion in raising their children, in contrast to previous generations.

Forty-two percent of the parents with children under 18 who responded to the study said they frequently bring their children to religious services. Only 38% of parents reported enrolling their children in Sunday school or some form of religious instruction. In contrast, 61% of parents aged 65 and up said they often took their children to religious services throughout their formative years, and 65% said they enrolled their children in a religious education program.

So, what changed? Find out why many millennial parents are choosing to raise their children without religion and why they should feel comfortable doing so.

Altering Worldviews

For centuries, people have looked to religious institutions as a way to help kids grow up with good values. According to Rev. Debra Haffner, M.P.H., M.Div., D.Min., parish minister at Unitarian Universalist Church in Reston, Virginia, a good religious education program gives kids a chance to learn from adults and other kids what it means to be a good person in the framework of a certain religion.

Despite the widespread perception that religious faith is necessary for morality, studies have consistently found no such correlation. Children reared in religious households, and those who are not can both mature into moral adults. Many millennials may reject religious parenting since research has linked religious belief to more authoritarian or controlling practices.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and other authorities recommend switching to authoritative parenting instead of authoritarian styles. Kind yet tough, authoritative parents take their children’s feelings into account while also enforcing rules. This method has been linked to improved behavior and psychological well-being in children and adolescents. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics recognizes that various families will be predisposed to adopt varying parenting methods based on their own unique set of values, cultural beliefs, and the specific circumstances of their children and family. And that’s fine too.

However, a majority of young adults (53%) surveyed disagree that religious upbringing is essential for children to develop moral character. In contrast, over three-quarters of the seniors polled agreed that religious upbringing is essential for developing good character in children.

These days, parents are more than happy to discover alternatives to religion when it comes to teaching their children morals.

By setting a good example and fostering compassion in our children from a young age, we instill a strong sense of ethics and morality in them. They go elsewhere for teaching moments with their children. We appreciate that our community’s public institutions, such as the public library and schools, encourage participation in civic life while placing more emphasis on scientific inquiry than religious dogma.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Religious Homes

Of all, there’s no such thing as a perfect parent, and studies have shown that bringing up children in a religious home has both benefits and drawbacks. It’s up to you to decide what’s best for your loved ones, as the pros and cons are highly subjective.

Possible advantages of a religious upbringing for your child:

Positively, parents may find the support they need in a religious community. For religiously devout families, the church may play a significant role in the “village” that helps raise their children.

Parents who are actively involved in their communities of worship often report feeling a greater sense of community, social support, and collective problem-solving. Parents in a society that incorrectly assumes parenting abilities come ‘naturally’ but do not often find comfort and advice in religious support groups for mothers and fathers.

It takes a “village” to raise a child, and Stephanie and her husband, both 31, think that their church is an important component of that community. To paraphrase, “I do think that the church is there for us if we need help or support in any way—emotionally, mentally, physically, or through prayer.”

Religious programs can help foster a sense of community among children. “Children at my home church love having a second home with people who care about them and want what’s best for them,” said Rev. Haffner. Children can learn social skills, identify role models, and expand their networks through programs like Sunday school.

Keep in mind that many research findings on the effects of religious upbringing on children are contradictory at best and maybe very subjective at worst. For instance, some studies have found that religious kids have a lower risk of substance usage, while others haven’t found any such correlation. Another study discovered that having a religious upbringing had beneficial effects on one’s mental health and life satisfaction later in life. However, some studies have revealed that other factors, such as parental happiness, significantly impact children’s development.

Consequences of instilling faith in your kid:

There are pros to a religious upbringing, but there are also potential drawbacks. Some data suggests that children who grow up in religious homes might not do as well on standardized tests as their secular peers. More evidence is needed, but religious parents probably put more stock in emotional than intellectual development.

Family members with divergent religious convictions can find themselves at odds with one another. For instance, poor parent-child relationships have been reported by adolescents when their parents place a higher emphasis on religion than their generation does. When parents’ religious beliefs become a source of tension in their household, the negative effects on their children’s development are well documented. Children are more emotionally invested in their family’s religious practice when there is tension between parents, and religious conflicts can be especially damaging.

However, there is good news for everyone. According to the available research, there appears to be no discernible moral difference between children reared in religious and non-believing or secular households.

What Prospects Do Religions Have?

The declining number of religious households in the United States is likely to continue, for better or worse. Even though social science research has long shown that Americans’ relationship with religion waxes and wanes as young adults drift away from religion and are drawn back in when they get married and have their own kids, there isn’t much evidence that millennials are returning to religion when they reach big family milestones like getting married and having kids.

Dr. Bartkowski claims this tendency is not cause for concern, despite the fact that it is yet unclear what the movement away from religion will entail for millennial parents and their children in Generation Alpha. If the decline in religious affiliation is here to stay, he believes that “other social groups and new forms of connection,” some of which may emerge via social media, will fill the hole.

The most essential thing you can teach your children, whether you’re religious or not, is to be kind to everyone.

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