How does your atheism affect your kids?

Woohoo! First post on my new laptop!

My daughter starts kindergarten in the fall. I’m very excited for her but she’s growing up too fast! We have a lot of options here in Toledo and we haven’t decided what school to send her to yet.

This brings up one of my fears. New school means new friends. She goes to daycare right now but we don’t have much interaction with the other kids or parents. No play dates. I expect that will change as she starts school.

Maybe it won’t come up (hopefully) but how will my atheism affect my daughter? Will other kids and parents avoid her? On the flip side, what if she gets invited to church?

It’s kind of interesting — I say “oh my god” all the time. It’s just an expression and maybe a bad habit. Naturally my daughter repeated it at daycare and she got in trouble! Apparently saying “god” is like a bad word there. I wonder if this is going to come up at school.

I know I’ve brought this subject up before but I’m really interested in what you have to say now that my daughter’s first day of school is on the horizon.

(On a side note — I am going to cry so much on her first day. I tear up just thinking about it. It’s probably going to be embarrassing for everyone involved. I’m one emotional mommy!)


  1. John Morales says

    I preface my comment by noting I’ve successfully endeavoured to never have the responsibility of raising a child.

    That noted, I think your concern is very reasonable; it is indisputable that your daughter will be affected by your non-religious upbringing, and that it will be a contrast to most other children (given your milieu), and that this may cause friction with other children who are indoctrinated into whatever religion and may be therefore intolerant of others.

    I wonder if this is going to come up at school.

    Obviously, that depends on the school environment. I’m sure your choice will be informed by this.

    … what if she gets invited to church?

    Since I’m not and never shall be a parent, I hesitate to make my suggestion, but what the hey. Were I in your position, I’d just treat it as an anthropological curiosity — this is what these particular goddists do. I’d explain that different cultures have different religions, and the social functions they serve.

    (Good luck to the both of you!)

  2. StonedRanger says

    My kids wanted to go to church when they were about 8 and 4, mainly because most of the other kids in the apartment complex went to church. Against my better judgment my wife convinced me to let them go. Brother Robert came to pick them up and also dropped them off. When my kids came home the very first thing they said was that Brother Robert told them we were going to hell for smoking. Needless to say, I had some very bad words to share with him the following sunday when he showed up at my door. I did not let my kids try church again until they were at least 12. I figured by that time they would have some things figured out that they clearly did not yet have a firm grip on. They never went to church, nor did they ask to. My atheism never really had any negative effects on my life other than having to tolerate religion being thrust in my face everywhere I went.

    I told my kids why I was an atheist, and that they had to make up their own minds when it comes to them. I encouraged them to ask questions and I pointed them to the library when they wanted to know more than I had at hand. Neither of them are particularly religious today. Nor are their kids.

  3. sonofrojblake says

    It hasn’t, yet, apart from meaning they’ve been fully vaccinated but not baptised. And they’re getting baptised. I’m an atheist, not an idiot, and some “good” schools only admit baptised kids. But this is the UK, so it probably won’t make much difference.

  4. DrVanNostrand says

    If it’s catholic church, I say let them go. They’ll be so bored they’ll never want to step foot in a church again. Just don’t leave them alone with a priest.

    Seriously, though, I grew up partially in South TX and partially in conservative, rural WI in the 80s and 90s. I don’t recall much religion stuff impacting me as a kid, though I’m sure my parents were equally concerned about both the fundies and the atheists. One time, a friend’s dad started reading us a bunch of children’s bible stories at a sleepover. My parents weren’t pleased, but I was young enough that it just sounded like any other mythology to me. Even though I was dragged to mass every week (which bored me to tears), I guess I never took any of it very seriously. Later in high school, I certainly had arguments with my fair share of young earth creationists and stuff, but I can’t say it really bothered me. I mostly just pitied the poor bastards.

  5. Katydid says

    When my oldest started public-school kindergarten (two decades ago now), his very first day he came home all worried, asking, “Are we all going to hell?” It seems a kid in his class told him our family was going to hell because we didn’t attend that child’s church–a “real” church, “The only one that follows Jesus”. I called my son’s teacher who just thought it was the most hilarious thing ever that a 5-year-old was proselytizing on the very first day of kindergarten. So I escalated my rage and marched into the principal’s office the next morning, and her response was a shrugged, “Maybe you should change churches so you can be saved.”

    This was a shock to me because we’d been using a Catholic-church-run daycare from birth to kindergarten and had never had any problems. One step into Protestant-land and it was all Jezuz-all-the-time.

    I wish I could say it got better, but it didn’t. The public school was always plastered with posters for fundy events and flyers got sent home for fundy events….yet when my oldest was in the second grade, he got detention because I sent in a school fundraiser I’d bought…a box of individually-wrapped sugar cookies in the shape of leaves, with colored sugar melted on top to make them look like fall leaves. This meant another trip to the principal, who assured me that HER school did not “worship Satan”…by sharing leaf-shaped cookies bought at a school fundraiser?!?! I asked her to explain to me how fall-colored sugar cookies equalled worshipping Satan and her response was that it was a slippery slope to Halloween. Yes, folks, noticing that leaves change colors in the fall is a sin equal to worshipping Satan.

    This was not in the mid-west, but it was in fundyland south.

  6. anat says

    When my son was in 1st grade a kid said he should go to church. My kid objected because said kid was not in position to make rules for him.

    Oh, once on the playground some kid asked my son what his religion was. That may have been the first time my son heard the word ‘religion’. He came to us asking ‘what is my religion?’ We had to come up with an answer on the spot. I think we decided on ‘humanist’ or something.

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