Interfaith Marriages

How to cope when children seek a new faith

When Aida Vazin was 15, she decided her mother’s Baha’i faith was not right for

She spent time studying Islam, her grandparents’ religion, but ultimately decided organized religion wasn’t for her. When it comes to spirituality and faith, she feels more comfortable with Eastern philosophies on how to live a healthy lifest

What made Vazin’s decision a little smoother for her is that 15-year-olds in the Baha’i faith make the choice to remain or seek another religion — but it still wasn’t easy, she

“My mom paved the path for me to make my own choice … but she was saddened by it, definitely,” Vazin said. “After she did her mourning, she was suppor

Vazin said her experience with her mother was vastly different from the reception Vazin’s mother received from her own parents when she converted to Baha’i from Islam as a young adult after the family fled Iran during the Islamic Revolution. Vazin’s grandparents viewed her mother’s conversion as blas

“My grandfather stopped talking to her for a while,” she said. “My grandfather told her she got involved with a

Vazin, who is now a marriage and family therapist in private practice in Newport Beach, Calif., said she’s experienced firsthand how these decisions can tear apart families, and she now works, in part, with families struggling with faith questions. And she said that while her grandfather was disappointed that she didn’t follow Islam, she said he was happier that she didn’t stay B

For families with children who are questioning their faith, especially adolescents, it’s an extremely difficult time, and there’s no right way for parents to react, say several experts, but there are ways parents can communicate with their child during the proc

Rebellion is a normal part of adolescence, and in some religions, the idea of straying is understood, said Rachel Weingarten, author of “Ancient Prayer: Channeling Your Faith 365 Days a Year.” She pointed to the Amish tradition of Rumspringa, which gives teens the chance to explore the outside world before deciding whether to return to the faith and commun

Harold “Bud” Horell, assistant professor of religious education at the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education at Fordham University, in New York, said distrust of institutions in general is part of U.S. culture. That’s been amplified by recent reports of sex abuse in the Catholic Church, and financial and sex scandals in some Protestant churches, he

This may lead some adolescents to talk about being spiritual but not wanting anything to do with organized religion, Horell said. If parents start to see their children pulling away from the family’s faith, they should try to remain calm about it, which he admitted is easier said than don

“Parents (should) approach it with the idea that ‘OK, you’re raising important issues. Let’s talk about them.′ De-escalating the anxiety is one of the most important things,”

Take the child’s age into consideration, Horell said. Preteens may just be reflecting what’s going on around t

Teenagers may be exploring their identity, said Wendy O’Connor, a Los Angeles-based marriage and family therapist in private practice who works with interfaith couples. It’s important to acknowledge this inter

Parents can offer to explore this new curiosity with their child, and they can all learn about the new religion, the experts said. O’Connor said some parents fear educating themselves about a new faith may lead to separation from the family’s established relig

“A family will be much stronger if they explore together. Rather than coming from fear, it comes from an open discussion about what (the child) is looking for or what they’re not getting in their current religion,” O’Conn

Education also offers a chance for the parents to find some common ground. “Don’t try to change their mind, but try to show them why you’re similar instead of so different,” Weingart

Vazin agreed. “Putting religion and faith aside, get down to your core values. What do you want to teach your child? Can you find mutual values in the system of the religion your child is interested in with the one you have

Part of asking questions helps get to the root of the behavior, O’Connor and Weingarten said, as the interest in religion may mask deeper issues. Sometimes the change can be a red flag, revealing other social, academic or psychological problem

Some teens may use their interest in another religion to provoke their parents, the experts said, but don’t argue with them. Instead, parents should remember they are their child’s best role model, O’Connor and Horell

“You need to stay in conversation with them, but if you’re consistently and quietly modeling your religious commitments and values, (it) can have a tremendous impact on your kids,” Horell

Vazin said some adolescents who explore a new faith may convert when they are older, and that will be difficult for the family.

“The way (parents) relate to their child is going to be different. There’s a mourning process involved, and it’s OK to have a little pain. That’s life. People aren’t going to stay the same,â

O’Connor said she had her own confusion about religious traditions growing up in a Catholic and Jewish home, but her father helped her see faith wasn’t compartmentali

“He said, ‘Faith is faith, God is God, love is love.′ It’s the full idea of love and support and of faith,”

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.

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