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Adult Children: Dealing with Religious Differences

Jun 15, 2017 by Comfort Keepers Newark, DE

Across the globe over the past several generations, a gradual decline in religion has been observed. In a 2015 report, 36 percent of people aged 21 to 27 identified as “unaffiliated” to a particular religion, which is over double what their parents’ generation reported (17%) and over triple their grandparents’ (11%). This is perhaps due to the immense amount of religious questions present in this early stage of life.

A related trend shows that emerging adults do not just want to accept their family’s religious beliefs without questioning or figuring out ideals and values for themselves. This process can result in anything from accepting the family’s beliefs, to some form of modification of them, to even fully rejecting them.

If you are (or aren’t) religious and you find yourself arguing with your child in regards to their differing views, it can be difficult to navigate that dynamic, especially in the midst of other family members, family holiday occasions, and so forth. Here are some scenarios and some tips on how to handle them:

What if my child is veering away from religion?

This may be a touchy, confrontational subject for religious parents and their not-so-religious children. As much as you may want your child to conform to you and your family’s beliefs, rejecting their ideals or criticizing them may end up in a more negative response, if anything.

As your child is emerging as an adult, they have the right to choose how they want to identify, not how you want them to. They will carry these beliefs with them when they move out, go to college, start working, and so forth – they need to do what they feel is best for them.

What if my child is more religious than me?

This trend is actually pretty common as well, especially in Muslim communities in regards to the headscarves, and Jewish communities in regards to a strict Kosher diet.

But just as you shouldn’t criticize your child for being less religious than you, you should also not reject them and their beliefs if they are on the other end of the spectrum. Again, they are the ones who have decide what faith values are best for them, and if they happen to be more strict than yours, then you should be supportive of their decision.

What if my child marries someone from a different religion?

Mixed faith marriages can be very complex and stressful for both families involved, as the traditions, customs, cultural aspects, and so forth may seem to clash.

Two common paths that people take when encountering this scenario is 1) Coming to a compromise in regards to what traditions from each religion will be celebrated, or 2) Having a non-denominational wedding.

In regards to your feelings about them marrying someone of another faith, it is important to keep in mind that you shouldn’t criticize them for their choice. Express your faith through love and support for their marriage instead of spite or harsh words. Showing the positive and compassionate components of your faith, even in a time of stress, may make them see how beneficial this religion may be to their marriage and possible family-raising.

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