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Cathy and Heather Rion Starr hold their baby, who is holding a white rose

The Rion Starr Family at a Ministers' Children Dedication Ceremony at General Assembly 2014
 

Relationships and Parenting
Relationships and Parenting

We are fundamentally relational beings- connections with family and friends bring love, joy, nurture, and support to our lives, as well challenge, loss, and grief from time to time. Here are some resources to help you bring intention to two important kinds of relationships: committed partnership or marriage and being a parent.

Marriage and Committed Partnership

In this generous world, love will come our way now and then. But if we do not plant the love that we have in the firm soil of living relationship, we may be in danger of supposing that it will grow on its own, without our nurture or our small acts of concern. Therefore, let us tend to our small plots, that this harvest may flourish, enough to share not only with our neighbors, but with our enemies as well.

— Rev. Jake Bohstedt Morrill

A young copule sits on a sidewalk, pressed together, laughing.

Unitarian Universalists celebrate and support the promises and commitments life partners of all genders make to one another, both at the time of a wedding or commitment ceremony and as they move through life together. 

Principled Commitment is a program local congregations may offer for adult couples seeking to cultivate religious and spiritual values and qualities in their relationship: covenant, humility, trust, dignity, generosity, connection, play, collaboration, commitment, love, faith, and celebration. While the program is designed for a group and derives some of its richness from interactions among participants, some of the activities and handouts may also be helpful for use by individual couples.

Spiritual Dimensions of Parenting

Mother and child look at something together while sitting at service

Mother and child share a moment during service at the Unitarian Fellowship of Lawrence, Kansas

Parents and caregivers want to do everything they can to support the well-being of a child or youth. Unitarian Universalists believe that parents, often supported by the local congregation's religious education program, are the primary spirituality and faith educators for their children.

 

Parents educate and influence in many ways; here are some:

  • encouraging an attitude of wonder and awe
  • teaching about the interdependent web of life and interdependence in our families and communities
  • affirming and incorporating the Unitarian Universalist principles in family life
  • reflecting with their child on life's big theological, spiritual, and moral questions
  • modeling ways to act for love and justice in the world.

It is through nurturing religious and spiritual experiences and values for their children that caregivers grow their own spirits, finding within themselves strengths and capacities to be their children's primary spiritual guides and mentors. Here are some resources to support your parenting journey, and some help with challenging topics you may encounter along the way.

Rites of Passage

coming of age group cvuus 2006 photo by margy levine from flickr uustock

Coming of Age group at Champlain Valley Unitarian Universalist Society, Middlebury, Vermont

Unitarian Universalists mark children's rites of passage in a number of ways. The three most common are Baby and Child Dedications, Coming of Age (commonly ages 13-15), and Bridging, when youth become young adults (often at the time of high school graduation). Each of these rites of passage honors and celebrates not only the spiritual growth and development of the child or youth, but also the role that the parent or caregiver has in nurturing and supporting them. Parents find these ceremonies deeply meaningful and spiritual.

The Spiritual Adventure of Parenting: Recommended Books

  • Tending the Flame: The Art of Unitarian Universalist Parenting (Skinner, 2010). Parent and religious educator Michelle Richards encourages a practical and proactive approach to raising Unitarian Universalist children, including suggestions for incorporating spiritual practices into family life, teaching the Principles in age-appropriate ways, and answering difficult questions on religious matters.
  • The Gift of Faith: Tending the Spiritual Lives of Children, Second Edition (Skinner, 2002). By sharing her own stories and experiences, Jeanne Nieuwejaar shows that religious community can play an integral role in clarifying and deepening the faith of parents, who inevitably are children's primary religious educators.
Chaos, Wonder and the Spiritual Adventure of Parenting Book Cover.

Chaos, Wonder, and the Spiritual Adventure of Parenting (Skinner, 2011), edited by Sarah Conover and Tracy Springberry. This collection of essays reflects on how parenting challenges, enriches, and magnifies our spiritual lives.

Navigating Challenging Topics

Children are masters at posing big questions that force parents and caregivers to face their own spiritual and religious growing edges. Responding to children's curiosity and experiences often pushes the adults who love them to deepen their own spirits and their own understanding. Here are some common spiritual challenges, and resources to help:

Sexuality

  • Our Whole Lives is a values-based lifespan series of comprehensive sexuality education programs developed jointly by the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ.

    • Our Whole Lives, Grades K-1, supports parents in educating children about birth, babies, bodies, and families.
    • In Our Whole Lives, Grades 4-6, children learn about and discuss the physical and emotional changes of puberty and examine values and sexuality, communication, and decision-making.
    • The Parent Guide to Our Whole Lives Grades K-1 and 4-6 helps parents answer children's questions about sexuality issues.
    • Our Whole Lives, Grades 7-9 models and teaches caring, compassion, respect, and justice, and moves beyond the intellect to address the attitudes, values, and feelings that youth have about themselves and the world. New topics in the second edition include body image, social media/internet, bullying/bystander responsibilities, and consent education. Parent orientation recognizes the primary role parents and caregivers play in sexuality education for children and youth.
    • Our Whole Lives, grades 10-12, helps senior-high youth gain the knowledge, life principles and skills they need to express their sexuality in life-enhancing ways.

        Contact a congregation near you to find out when Our Whole Lives is offered locally.

Race

  • Raising Race Conscious Children is a helpful online resource and blog to support adults who are trying to talk about race with young children.The goals of the site and its online community are to dismantle the color-blind framework that is often a part of children's education and to prepare young people to work toward racial justice.
  • Let's Talk about Race by Julius Lester (Amistad, 2008), invites open-ended conversation between child and caregiver, introducing race as one piece of a person's identity. Ages 6 - 10.

Money and Values

  • The Center for Parenting Education offers a variety of articles, links, and activities to help parents and children talk together about bringing their values to money decisions.

Death

  • The adult program, Facing Death with Life, includes a workshop entitled Children and Death. In it, you will find resources and suggestions for addressing this tender topic with children.

Gender

Faith Development Office webinar: Supporting Gender Non-conforming Children and Their Families. February 2017. Presenters: Melissa James, Alex Kapitan, Lisa Rubin, and Melanie Davis.

This recorded Faith Development Office webinar offers guidance for supporting gender-creative and trans children and their families. Find additional information, the webinar powerpoint, and resources and links for this 2017 webinar on the Faith Development Webinars page.

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For more information contact adultprograms@uua.org.