Q I am a mother of three children, ages 14, 17, and 22. My husband and I are from India but the kids were born in the United States. We grew up practicing Hinduism and have been attending our local temple in the Bay Area. When our children were young they used to love to come with us. Now that they are in their teens, they talk about getting bored and not finding the rituals interesting. Most of their friends are non-Indians.
We try to explain that we need religion to keep our lives in balance and to give us beliefs and practices that keep us from becoming too materialistic or egotistical. My husband and I never questioned religion when we were growing up. How do I help my children keep their faith and remain cognizant of the values in Hinduism?
A Your kids are growing up in a culture where religion is not interwoven in one’s daily life. Additionally, they are of an age and a generation where they question everything, especially the value of any tradition or ritual that doesn’t fit the culture and country they live in. They probably also feel a bit out of place at school, being of Indian origin and being raised as Hindus. Some of their friends may find them exotic and others may find the customs strange. Your children may not feel as comfortable identifying as Hindus for fear of ridicule, shame, and not being part of the in-crowd. Peer pressure is a powerful influence. Parents in the United States may struggle to hold the authority and respect that is a deep part of the Indian culture.
For your kids to be responsive to you, you must think about the essence of what you want them to learn. Is it to keep tradition and be a part of family rituals? Is it to practice the values of the religion in the modern world? Get to know your kids’ priorities, so they can feel that you are genuinely interested in their needs, rather than imposing a tradition just for tradition’s sake. Your directives will have to make sense to them, otherwise they will question it and be disinterested. They are raised in a more secular and scientific perspective, less mythic and faith-based.
Speaking their language is also important. Religion can become very narrow, unsupportive of individuality, and not connected to personal issues and needs. In today’s times, people need perspectives and practices that help them grow as human beings. They are seeking ways to understand the complexity of their lives and how to live with sanity in our times. The application of spiritual principles and practices that can transform people’s lives and help understand the nature of life is invaluable.
Teenagers and young adults actually crave to learn about different levels of reality and philosophy, especially if it is made relevant to their current lives and issues in the world. If these ideas are shared without dogma, with ample opportunity for them to think on their own and discuss them with you and others, their curiosity will be sparked and they will be more likely to see some value in what you have to offer.
Alzak Amlani, Ph.D., is a counseling psychologist in the Bay Area. 650-325-8393. Visit www.wholenesstherapy.com