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Expert offers tips for passing faith to children as most parents don't think its 'very important'

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A Christian parenting expert has offered his thoughts on new polling showing that about a third of American parents say that passing their religious beliefs to their children is essential to their parenting. 

The Pew Research study, released on Jan. 24 titled "Parenting in America Today," is based on responses from 3,757 U.S. parents with children under the age of 18 conducted from Sept. 20 to Oct. 2, 2022. Most respondents took part in Pew's American Trends Panel, an online survey panel recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. 

The study shows that 35% of parents said that it was either "extremely" or "very" important to them that their children have beliefs similar to their own. Twenty-two percent said that it was "somewhat" important, while 43% said that it was "not at all" or "not too" important that their children share religious beliefs similar to their own. 

White Evangelical Protestant parents (70%) are much more likely to say passing on their faith to their children is "extremely" or "very" important. By comparison, 29% of white non-Evangelical Protestant parents, 53% of Black Protestant parents, and 35% of Catholic parents said the same. 

In an interview with The Christian Post, Daniel Huerta, the vice president of parenting and youth at the Colorado Springs-based Evangelical parachurch ministry Focus on the Family, discussed what the findings could indicate about how most parents have approached faith with their children. 

"In parenting circles, I believe there is a general fear of the side effects from being labeled a Christian," Heuerta said. "Our culture tells kids that Christians are offensive, controlling or uncool. But what if the focus of passing on a foundational, life-giving faith was about being a loving parent rather than a controlling parent?"  

"Faith in Christ is all about relationship," he added. "Our understanding of a relationship with Christ begins with our family relationships." 

Focus on the Family offers resources to help families thrive with biblical principles. Huerta stresses that healthy marriages are more likely to lead to healthy children.

"A healthy relationship between parents and their kids leads to a higher likelihood of maintaining the core beliefs of the home into adulthood," Huerta said.

"The difficulty is that healthy relationships require humility, teachability, empathy, compassion, patience and self-control. Each of these ingredients requires time and attention from parents that are often tired and distracted." 

Huerta said passing faith to the next generation should be no different than how parents were taught by their own parental guardians. 

"Parents need wisdom, intentionality, steadfastness, and grace and forgiveness to build the necessary foundation in a child's life to pass on faith," he said. 

"But many parents are so overwhelmed that they don't have the energy or time to focus on these foundational pieces in a child's development." 

Huerta warned that it's up to parents to take up the responsibility to lead their children toward Christ. 

"We recognize that parents are uniquely positioned to pass on a life-giving faith to their kids. Why not do so diligently, with steadfast love and grace?" he added. 

The Pew study finds that when thinking about the kind of people they hope their children will be as adults, parents place the most emphasis on their children being honest and ethical. 

"About two-thirds of parents (66%) say it's extremely important that their children grow up to be honest and ethical adults. About half (48%) say the same about their children being hardworking, while about four in ten say it's extremely important to them that their children become the kind of people who are accepting of people who are different from them (42%) and who help others in need (40%)," the study states. 

"A smaller share (27%) place this level of importance on their children being ambitious as adults. Majorities ranging from 65% to 94% say it is at least very important that their children have each of these traits as adults."

Nicole Alcindor is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: nicole.alcindor@christianpost.com.

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