Introducing "God" to 4 yr old (atheist family)

(163 Posts)
EssenceOfGelfling Fri 30-May-14 20:37:48

Not sure if I'm just being a bit PFB about this, so please someone slap me about a bit if I am!

DH and I are atheist. Our children are free to make up their own minds about what they want to believe. I believe I will have as much influence over their beliefs as my parents have over my beliefs - i.e. none!

DS starts school in september. So far he has no experience of any religion whatsoever, never been in a church, never prayed, never had a discussion about the idea of 'God'. Not deliberately, its just not a part of our lives or our extended family.

Its not a faith school, but there will be collective worship. I don't want his first experience of religion to be in an assembly where he hasn't got a clue why people are closing their eyes and making shapes with their hands and saying 'amen'. I'd like to explain what it all means, and that its his choice what he wants to believe, but not sure where to start (without getting into the philosophical complexities of it), or even if its necessary, am I overthinking this?! (Background: he struggles with new routines and transitions... I want him to settle in easily and want to prepare him as much as is sensible to do so).

Thanks in advance for any thoughts on this.

Madrigals Fri 30-May-14 20:39:07

I would get an age appropriate book about the different world religions.

CoteDAzur Fri 30-May-14 20:41:09

Can you not opt him out of collective worship?

CoteDAzur Fri 30-May-14 20:42:58

Failing that, I would just tell him that those are stories like the stories you read him at bedtime. No more serious than Thomas the Tank Engine smile

EssenceOfGelfling Fri 30-May-14 20:44:11

Cote don't really want to. From what I've lurked on mumsnet, it seems to involve them being sat in a classroom by themselves wondering what the forbidden fruit is.

EssenceOfGelfling Fri 30-May-14 20:44:39

Would you demonstrate how people pray though?

expatinscotland Fri 30-May-14 20:45:42

I use age appropriate books on world religion. Let mine know people believe many different things but as long as they are not harming anyone by their beliefs, fair play to them, but there is no proof of anything.

expatinscotland Fri 30-May-14 20:46:43

No, I would not demonstrate how people pray, just say there are many ways, from speaking to meditation to yoga.

Hakluyt Fri 30-May-14 20:49:34

Before you do anything else, find out what his school does for collective worship. Some are much more God-y than others. I remember the Head of dd's infant school saying that she considered herself to have met the government requirements by talking to the children about some wonderful aspect of life or nature and saying Amen after it. Others do a lot of proper praying. Find out which sort yours is and work from there.

Has he asked about Christmas? That might be a good starting point. Or take him to a church to look at stained glass windows or carvings and do the "some people believe..."

Shallishanti Fri 30-May-14 20:50:11

Let the school deal with it. If they choose to put kids through collective worship, they'd better be able to explain to the kids what it's all about.
When he comes home and asks you, then you can start with the 'some people believe...and it's very important to some people so it's polite to be quiet and respectful.... etc etc'
I think your LO will probably just think it's another of those wierd things you have to do at school, like lining up and answering t

Shallishanti Fri 30-May-14 20:51:33

...oops...answering the register!
I'm pretty sure that's what our lot thought. Then it got even wierder when they went to CofE high school- with grace, and communion!

gamescompendium Fri 30-May-14 20:56:33

Does anyone have recommendations for age appropriate books about different religions?

DD1 had a mini religious phase when she started at school, culminating in tears when I told her I didn't believe that Jesus was the son of God. She's now (at 6) quite relaxed about the fact that her teachers believe in God but Mummy thinks it's nonsense. I was fairly grumpy about the religious teaching at our (non faith) state school, I wouldn't necessarily recommend that. I believe the accepted phrase is 'some people believe' but I've found it doesn't go down well with the PILs God squad when you start saying it at Christmas time.

CoteDAzur Fri 30-May-14 21:02:55

I don't know how a 4-year-old is supposed to understand that people seriously believe all sorts of stuff that is completely false.

gamescompendium Sat 31-May-14 00:11:07

I don't think its that hard, my 4 year old knows dragons don't exist but knows there are lots of stories about them. The 6 year old even knows stories about dragons came about because people were trying to explain dinosaur bones.

SpearmintLino Sat 31-May-14 01:29:26

I'd feel very uncomfortable about sending my children to a school that has 'collective worship.' Mind you, my children came home one day and asked if they were Muslim or Christian, and were completely taken aback when I said they could be whatever they wanted to be, but I'm not a believer in any religion.

SpearmintLino Sat 31-May-14 01:31:24

(This was after an RE lesson, which of course I'm completely happy with; I want my children to understand that different people have different beliefs and they're entitled to have them.)

thegambler Sat 31-May-14 01:49:47

Kids don't really read much into it at that age, they believe in god like they believe in santa.

DioneTheDiabolist Sat 31-May-14 01:50:15

Perhaps you could tell him that although you don't believe it, many other people believe that there is a god/gods and although there is no proof, this belief is important to the people who have it. Tell him that when he goes to school he will hear a lot about different people's idea of god, that he may be asked to talk to the god, but he doesn't have to and if he doesn't like it when others do, you can sort it so he can do something else.

I hope he has a great time in school.smile

beatingwings Sat 31-May-14 08:18:07

Very complex ideas for a 4 year old. All this "some people believe" stuff. Is it mythical, faith is important to some etc. Imo too much for a 4 yr old to take on board.

If a child is receiving no indoctrination at school then it becomes easier. Our non denominational primary school embraced the obligation wholeheartedly ( the head was a comitted christian) and to my mind my children were given too much indoctrination at school.

I took a hard line. I told them there is no god. We have to assume that because no-one has ever seen him, so he isn't real. easier to understand.
Just like some people believe in fairies, so some people believe in god ( they didn't believe in fairies).

THey always knew that other people were to be respected, but I don't think religion needs to be.

CoteDAzur Sat 31-May-14 09:20:49

I'm with beating. No way a 4-year-old can get his head around what Dione is talking about.

I postponed any talk of God & religion until DD asked me about it (~ age 6) and then I let her come up with her own answers by asking her - "What do you think, DD?" etc.

If school forced my hand at age 4, I would have just said "No such thing, it's just stories".

DioneTheDiabolist Sat 31-May-14 11:14:55

The OP was asking for advice on how to explain Collective Worship to her son. She can tell him what she likes or nothing at all,, but I think that it would be beneficial to tell him what is going on and that he doesn't have to participate.

CoteDAzur Sat 31-May-14 12:10:45

Have you ever had a 4 year old, Dione?

DioneTheDiabolist Sat 31-May-14 12:22:08

IIRC Cote, my own DS was 4 for about a year.wink

CoteDAzur Sat 31-May-14 14:32:46

Then you should know that your earlier post would just fly over the head of a 4 yr old.

DioneTheDiabolist Sat 31-May-14 15:12:33

On the contrary. My DS has anxiety problems, so I have always had to explain what is going to happening, why it is happening and what he can/can't do, before he goes into new situations. BTW, I'm not saying that the OP should use my exact words, or even do as I suggest, I'm sure she knows what works best for her DS.

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