Parents should promote faith in God with their children, even if they themselves do not believe, according to Erica Komisar in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed.
She wrote that even if you must lie, it is important for children to believe in God and heaven.
The widely recognized Komisar is a licensed clinical social worker, a psychoanalyst, parent coach, author, and contributor on many major media outlets.
“I am often asked by parents, ‘How do I talk to my child about death if I don’t believe in God or Heaven?’ My answer is always the same,” she says. “‘Lie.'”
She goes on to explain that while adults can be okay with the idea of nothingness after death, the concept of God and Heaven helps children use their imaginations to cope with loss. The world is harsh enough as it is, and children deal with an emotional burden of broken homes, uninvolved parents, and violence on a daily basis. Because of this, children need an emotional safety net and Komisar believes that to be religion.
Referring to a 2018 Harvard research study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, as well as other data, she noted that youth who attended religious group activities have better “psychological well-being measurements” than their peers who did not. They also had fewer risks for mental illness, sexual activity at a young age, and drug use. On the positive side, religious youngsters saw increased rates of volunteerism, forgiveness, and “a sense of mission.”
“As a therapist,” wrote Komisar who is Jewish, “I’m often asked to explain why depression and anxiety are so common among children and adolescents. One of the most important explanations—and perhaps the most neglected—is declining interest in religion. This cultural shift already has proved disastrous for millions of vulnerable young people.”
Komisar believes that religion and spiritualism are directly linked to positive mental health impacts in children, though in recent years, declared participation in organized religion has declined. She says that the United States has witness a “20% decrease in attendance at formal religious services in the past 20 years.” In fact, an American Family Survey from 2018 reveals that almost half of young adults under the age of 30 don’t identify with a religion.
According to Komisar’s editorial, nihilism, or the philosophical belief that life is without meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value, “is fertilizer for anxiety and depression, and being ‘realistic’ is overrated.” She believes that the mental health aspect alone is a good enough reason to pass along some kind of faith to the younger members of your family.
Alarmingly, in October, the CDC issued a report showing that within just between 2007 and 2017, suicide in the age group from 10 to 24 years old skyrocketed by 56 percent, with the pace of annual increases in that suicide rate most recently averaging 7 percent.
According to the 2016 research by the Public Religion Research Institute, young Americans are more likely to be raised “without a religious identity.”
“Only 9 percent of Americans report being raised in a non-religious household. And while younger adults are more likely to report growing up without a religious identity than seniors (13% vs. 4%, respectively), the vast majority of unaffiliated Americans formerly identified with a particular religion,” PRRI reported.
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