MNA Lifestyle Desk: Religion is not really a choice rather an elemental part of growing up in any South Asian family. Transmission of prayers and rituals occur impeccably through demonstrations of devout parents and elders. Explanations are rarely offered, and questions are addressed with little more than, “that’s just the way it is.”
It is likely to spark thoughts about the connection between religion and child rearing for today’s South Asian parent. A generation or two ago, it was basically unheard of for parents to consider when or whether they should introduce their child to God, but now these questions have become hot topics for discussion.
For many South Asian parents who are products of the Diaspora, religion may no longer be such a all-encompassing part of the surrounding culture’s fabric. This transform might be viewed as a relief for some of you, who look forward to freedom from involuntary indoctrination as you might have perceived it growing up; others may feel anxious at the thought of having to put forth greater and more explicit efforts to ensure your children do not miss out on acquiring this essential piece of your family’s identity. Having distance from a society where religion is ingrained in daily life can bring up questions for parents about religion’s place and significance in child development such as:
Will my child even care about our religion? What can I hope will get passed on to my children even though I’m not an expert in my religion? How will my child turn out if our family does not regularly attend services at a temple, mosque, or church?
To date, research has little to say when it comes to understanding the interaction between religion and child development, and has primarily focused on American families. A few studies have shown that child and parent religiosity is strongly correlated; and, parents who are religious during their child’s adolescence are more likely to have children who retain those practices into adulthood.
A study of Indonesian Muslim parents and children reported that children were more likely to assume their parents’ views and practices about religion when they perceived their parents to be warm and affectionate³. Thus, what parents practice with regards to religion is likely to be carried on by their children, particularly when the parent-child relationship is positive. Although sending your son or daughter to settings such as Bal Vihaar or madrasa may be a helpful way for them to learn your religion in a structured format, relying on this as the only conduit of your faith will probably not be so effective.
While religiosity in children has been found to encourage healthy social behaviors, there is questionable evidence for whether the reverse would be seen among children who do not participate in a faith-based system. It’s always a good idea to take a pulse of your child’s experience in spiritual settings to check whether she’s getting something out of it or dreading going every week – there are many other facets than religion that can yield socially and ethically triumphant children.
This strategy may be an unpalatable departure from what you know and imagined for your children – or, on the contrary, present a new perspective that gives ‘religion’ an entirely new meaning. But, hence, the South Asian parent try their best to put a religious tune inside their children in most cases.