parenting advice

Jesus Freak: Sheltering Your Kids Won’t Get Them Into Heaven

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Jesus Freak: I am a Christian mom who was raised in a fundamental Christian home. I have questioned my beliefs and have come to love myself and God on my own terms. I’m raising my kids the same way.

There are so many things to worry about as a parent—trust me, I know. You have to work night and day to keep your kid alive for the first few years of their life, as young children are prone to flinging themselves off porches and eating any shiny object on the floor. Once they begin to develop as a person, you’re in a whole new world of hurt. You have to somehow figure out how to help them grow into a normal, balanced adult—all under your watch.

When I think about raising my kids to be healthy, happy people, I often forget about how sheltering comes into play. I was technically sheltered as a child and young adult. I was homeschooled and then went to a private Christian elementary school. In an interesting turn of events, my parents divorced right at the end of fifth grade, and I was forced to go to public school—against my dad’s religious wishes.

Painful divorce aside, I am happy things worked out that way because I was exposed to the real world, and I got to do all of the bad kid things I wanted to do, like smoking and drinking. Not something I necessarily wish for my own kids, but I enjoyed it as part of my coming-of-age.

When I think back to the really, really sheltered parts of my life, it leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. My mom freely admits that parents of her generation, deeply involved in religious communities at the time, thought that they could make their kids into good people. Now, I see my kids and realize that I can never make them be anything I want them to be, and I don’t want to. The only thing that I want to make them into is freethinkers who are open, independent, and confident enough to deal with the ups and downs of life.

I came across a similar sentiment in a post titled, The Truth About Sheltering Your Kids:

I was raised in a family where homeschooling wasn’t just the preferred method of education, but the only right one. Homeschooling was a way of life or a lifestyle if you will and everything revolved around my parents’ opinion of what God’s will was.  Other than AYSO soccer, I had no social contact outside of church, family, and the homeschool umbrella group until I went to community college. This was when I discovered that I was socially retarded (yes that’s a technical term).

After years of hearing my mother rail against psychology as nothing but excuses and philosophy as a way of opening your mind to Satan, I decided to take some classes and ended up majoring in both. She was partially right about something, philosophy does open your mind, but not to an imaginary evil gremlin whose ultimate goal is to enslave humanity. It simply opens the mind to new ideas and not being close minded.

Some may say I’m just another typical example of how the devil can take possesion of people through exposure to worldly things. The truth is if you shelter your kids from ‘the real world’ they are going to wonder what you are keeping from them and many will run at the first chance they get.

I very much agree with everything in this original post, and I’m glad to have perspective outside of the religious community, though I deeply value my relationship with God today. As a younger mother, I have an automatic tendency to want to shield my kids from all of the bad emotions, situations, and people in the world. But I stop myself short most times.

It’s one thing to want to shield kids from “bad” behaviors like smoking and drinking, although I believe that taboo attitude is deeply damaging. I also believe that sheltering kids from unpleasant emotions will never give them the opportunity to grow and stretch themselves. Telling kids what is bad and good and how to act a certain way won’t do them any favors. As unpleasant as it is for the parent, exposing kids to every part of the real world, even those you don’t agree with, is your job.

(Image: Mikael Damkier/Shutterstock)