You Can’t Hide The Big Bad World From Your Kids

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girl looking out windowFor most parents, instilling their values in their children is an important part of life. Whether your preferred ethics revolve around hard work, empathy, or [insert religion of choice], naturally it’s important to raise your kids with a moral compass.

What you can’t count on, however, is that your moral compass is going to be pointing in the same direction as the one the world outside the four walls of your house is following. You can’t expect the world to conform to your values, so how do you do your best to make sure your kids have something to hang onto?

There’s an interesting thread on Reddit Parenting this morning addressing this issue. In it, a parent has a question for other Redditors who have found themselves in a similar situation:

I’m just wondering from families who are either in the early stages of parenthood or who are further along than we are, how are you navigating being a religious adherent in a secular world?

I personally am not a religious parent, so my specific concerns about child-rearing probably don’t match up very well with the original poster’s (and I’m definitely not concerned about a ‘secular world’ outside my front door); and they never reappeared to clarify what their specific concerns were about exposing their children to that world. But one thing that I think is true no matter what your family happens to value is that you can’t completely screen the rest of your world from impacting your kids.

Being worried about what the outside world will teach your kids is not a unique phenomenon to religious families. Whether or not you happen to be religious like the original poster, your children are going to see things you don’t like, they’re going to hear things you don’t like, they’re going to learn things you don’t like. And unless you want to go the Duggar route and sequester them from most of human civilization (side note: please do not do this) there’s not much to be done about that.

But no matter your family background or beliefs, the thing you do have control over is what you talk to your kids about. The original post mentions already exposing their kids to Christian values, before asking about what to do about releasing kids out into the wilds of society, and frankly, they seem to have answered their own question. As a parent, you have the opportunity to contextualize and frame the discussion about the things your kids get exposed to in the wide scary world–preferably, before they get exposed to them in the first place.

Your kids are going to bump into, yes, unchurched heathens like me, on top of a whole menagerie of misogynists, pervs, and general jerkasses. All any of us can really practically do about it is make sure our kids know what to expect, and know what we think about about, all of the ugly stuff that’s waiting for them out there. And after that, at least once they hit 18, it’s pretty much up to them–as it should be.

(Image: BruceStanfield/Getty)