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How Do I Have a Constructive Conversation with My Parents about Religion?

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from a young woman in Canada: I’m looking for advice on how to have a constructive conversation with my conservative Christian parents about the negative effects that my overbearing Christian upbringing has produced and discuss the fact that when/if I do reproduce I do not want this set of beliefs anywhere (at all) around my child until they are grown and can form their own opinions.

I grew up being completely isolated from the “secular” community, attending Christian school and church related activities about five days a week. I felt as if I was being force fed and lashed out from a very early age. Aside from a large range of social issues I also experienced a large amount of sexual and body issues which I have had to face, mainly the 1. repercussions of the lack of information and discussion of sex; 2. being told my body was dirty and that I was “unclean”. 3. being taught/shown that I am worth-less/ of less value because I am a woman.

I have an extreme aversion to authoritarianism. The biggest issue of all is that I feel and have felt for a very long time that I am unaccepted by my parents because I do not agree with their values and they do not agree with my lifestyle. I know that my parents want me to change who I am to conform to their beliefs which is extremely hurtful. My younger brother who has also been affected currently does not have any contact with them.

There has always been a disconnect between us and I still feel that I cannot talk to them about a large majority of things. I have never been able to go to them for advice, be open with them about my beliefs or how I feel about their faith without them becoming agitated. This caused a lot of issues during adolescence. On many levels I felt abandoned by them.

When my parents first met my father encouraged my mother to root herself in Christianity as a means to help heal her depression/childhood issues. I grew up watching my depressed mother continue to cry day after day often not even having the energy to interact with us or take care of the house. Despite her faith never really working to resolve her issues (in my eyes) she persevered relentlessly and now spends the majority of her days reading & watching Christian related articles and sermons.

I know she is very fragile and that her “sanity” if you will relies on these sets of beliefs. I’m not sure that she will ever understand or absorb what I am saying if I tell her about the sufferings I’ve had from the way they brought me up. I know that despite all the failings and issues I may have they did what they did because they thought it was the best thing for me. In the past when I’ve brought this up it has been met with the rejection of my feelings “you didn’t feel that way, you must have heard it from somewhere”

I really need a constructive way to communicate with them about the harm this upbringing has had on me and our relationship. I want them to understand why I will choose to raise my (future) children without the influence of Christianity (especially during formative years) and to also have them respect and comply with my decision. I would really like to have a better relationship with my parents and I do not want this to continue to harm our relationship or our relationship in the future. I also feel that if I can make headway with them it will help my brother to express to them how he feels and why he is absent. – Thank you for your time.

How Do I Have a Constructive Conversation with My Parents about Religion?

Answered by on -

A.

Please ask yourself why it is so important to you to try to change your parents. Yes, I get it that you don’t want your children to be unduly influenced by them, but you don’t even have kids yet. Your energies are better spent working on yourself.

At 30, you are an adult. You’ve made your own choices. You have a life. You don’t need your parents to agree with your assessment of the damage the religion did to you. You don’t need them to accept that you have chosen a different path. You don’t need their blessing.

Although you could have a deeper relationship with your folks if you could have an honest and open talk and if they could apologize, it’s not likely to happen.

The way to have a better relationship with them is to stop fighting with them about something that is so central to their beliefs that they can’t entertain any challenges to them. Fighting about it is fighting a losing battle. Really. You don’t need to talk about it at all. If you want to spend time with them, find topics that are neutral and change the subject when religion comes up.

Live your life. If you need to process your childhood further, find a therapist who can help you grieve the childhood you didn’t get to have and move on.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

How Do I Have a Constructive Conversation with My Parents about Religion?

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2018). How Do I Have a Constructive Conversation with My Parents about Religion?. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 23, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2018/08/24/how-do-i-have-a-constructive-conversation-with-my-parents-about-religion/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 23 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 23 Aug 2018
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