Raising Informed Kids
Published November 2014: The Messenger – Faith: A Fresh Take
Raising Informed Kids
Although it may seem like as parents, we have it all together and have prepared our children for every situation, there are times when we realize that something has slipped through the cracks. I remember the shock I felt when my children told me that they believed everything on the Internet was true or when they spouted off inaccuracies about presidential candidates because that’s what they were told by a friend.
I can’t count on seventeen hands the number of times they have come home with misinformation and I’ve had to set the record straight.
At first, I thought I had failed as a parent. I have always done my best to talk about current events and provide my children with the most accurate information. I mean, I am a reporter, so that is my responsibility, right? No. It’s my duty as a parent. However, no matter how hard we try, we can’t possibly cover every topic. Something is bound to slip through the cracks.
The challenge, though, in raising informed children is to encourage them to think for themselves. As a writing instructor, I see 18 and 19 year old college students who still struggle to make their own decisions and express their own opinions. When teaching how to write argumentative essays, my students often tell me that they took a stance on an issue because that’s what their parents have always believed. When I ask them what they believe, I receive blank stares and silence because they haven’t really thought about how they feel or developed their own stance.
How do we as parents raise informed children yet also allow them to form their own beliefs? How do we make sure we are not overly influencing their decisions based on what we feel is right versus respecting that they are growing into young adults who may have opinions that differ from our own?
Religion is at the forefront of parenting informed children. I was raised Catholic – it was all I knew until I was 18. I had never visited another church or delved into any other religions until I took a World Religions class in college. I was Catholic because my parents chose to have me baptized and worked hard to put me through Catholic school, but in my teenage years, I never questioned why I was Catholic. It wasn’t until early adulthood that I began to appreciate the practices of the Catholic church, the warm and welcoming home of my faith family and that is exactly what led me to baptize my own children into this faith.
Even though I was influenced by my parents to be a part of the Catholic faith, I owned the faith as an adult and made my own informed decision to continue embracing my religion.
Fostering faith with a teenager can be a difficult task. Do you force them to go to church or do you present them with the information about faith and allow them to make their own choice? I don’t have the right answer. All I know is that I do have to trust my children to make an informed decision about religion based on the facts and experiences they have been presented with during childhood, I have to rely on my faith to serve as an example and I have to trust that I have raised them to make informed decisions.
The rest is up to them. I’ve put it in God’s hands and continue to pray that religion will not slip through the cracks as they mature into adults.
— Shannon Philpott