Today, more than ever, we are bombarded with social media and news clips on being the “perfect parent”, and other people dictating how we should raise our children – from what to feed them to what groups to take them to.
Then you have the headache of how to educate your child. There are so many choices you have to make for you child that will impact on their health and wellbeing, sometimes for their whole lives. Ultimately every parent wants what’s best for his or her child, but when all children are different who knows what’s best for them? At the end of the day there is no such thing as a perfect parent!
As someone with a religious belief it doesn’t make raising children any easier. In some ways it can make it much harder as we know that when we have our children we want them to love God and want them to follow his teaching as we do, and, from that point onwards, every choice we make has to be based on what we think God would want us to do. We are lucky that we can take our worries and concerns to God in prayer and that God will work in our lives to help us find the right way to go.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
I think one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make so far is how to educate my children. We are lucky in this country that, as well as formal schooling, we have the option to home school our children, which allows us complete control over what they are being taught. We also have very tolerant schools that will allow children to be kept out of religious studies classes or assemblies if it conflicts with our beliefs. I know parents who have chosen both those options and have seen their children do well but as every child is different there isn’t one solution for everyone. I had to find what I thought was right for my children but that doesn’t mean it has to be right for yours. I didn’t think home schooling would work for me. To start with, I just didn’t have the discipline to home school.
I think, in the end, my decision was based on my personal experience of school. I wasn’t a fan of school at all, but, looking back, I see the value of going to school and experiencing different things that I never could have experienced at home. Some of these experiences were good, some bad, but they all helped to make me who I am today. Unfortunately, schools today are very different and the social norms are extremely different from what I experienced in school. For example, my children come home and they are talking about their friends’ families and how they have two homes and two sets of mums and dads. I don’t think I ever had a friend whose parents were divorced.
I know many Christadelphians struggle with things that are taught as fact in modern schools. We do not believe in or agree with evolution, for example. In a strange way this was part of why I chose to send my children to school. This is the world and the society we live in. It is constantly changing and the socially accepted norms (such as gender and sexuality) are constantly being challenged and revised and, as we are told in the Bible, it is only going to get worse.
As a parent your instinct is to protect your children from anything that is bad for them, but sometimes we can be over protective. As much as I want to keep them away from these things I know at some point they will have to make their own way in life. When they grow up they will need to find jobs and will be working with individuals from all walks of life. My children will be adults one day and won’t want to listen to my opinions and what I want for them in the same way.
So I decided it would be better to send them to school and instead of hiding these things from them let them deal with them head on. When they ask why their friend has two mummies, I explain, and then I explain what we believe, remembering also to tell them that not everyone believes the same things as us so we have to respect other people’s beliefs too.
Everyday we discuss what they’ve done. We always have some interesting discussions when they have had religious education lessons or the vicar has been into school. I have been told that they do, at times, go back to school and tell the teachers when we don’t completely agree with their version of religious education.
We are lucky. We have found a very supportive and understanding school for our children. Their teachers are very respectful of our views and they check with me if they are doing something which may be a contradiction to what we believe. This is something that I took into consideration when I looked around the local schools and I chose one which I felt would be a good fit for our religious beliefs.
So far it is working for us but my way isn’t the only way and, as I said at the beginning, there is no such thing as a perfect parent. All children are different so every decision I make has to be right for our family. It doesn’t mean it will be right for yours. Everyday I pray for God to guide me in the decisions I make for my children.
I hope that, in some small way, my sharing my own experience may be of help to you as you face the challenges of raising a family!
“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6