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The Brood: How families incorporate religion into their kids' lives

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One of Kiran's cousins looks on as family members pose for a photo.
Bear Guerra/KPCC
One of Kiran Hashmi's cousins looks on as family members pose for a photo during a Ramadan celebration at Hashmi's parents' house on August 4th, 2012.

What's the best way to talk to kids about religion? For parents who are religious, or aren't, or whose partner practices a different religion, the answer will vary.

Figuring out how to introduce kids to religion or spirituality can be tough for parents.

What to do in mixed-faith families? Or when one parent would prefer not to bring a child up with religion? What about explaining to kids the practices of a faith tradition that's not your own?

To help sort out some answers Alex Cohen talked with Brie Loskota, executive director of USC's Center for Religion and Civic Culture, and psychologist Lisa Miller, author of "The Spiritual Child: The New Science on Parenting for Health and Lifelong Thriving."

Interview highlights:

On when to bring up the topic of faith or religion with kids

"There is no age that is too young to start to understand life, our lives together as a family, daily life at nursery school or preschool, all from a spiritual perspective. And in fact, we now have a very large science on spirituality in children that shows that the child, while born with an innate spirituality, actually relies on parents to cultivate this, just as they would IQ or temperament or any other inborn trait." -Lisa Miller

On how families are increasingly affiliating with more than one faith tradition

"People aren't solving this question for themselves by affiliating with one place [of worship], they're solving this question for themselves and their families by curating a set of experiences and affiliations that tailor make their orientation to religion in a way that feeds all of their needs and commitments and questions. So somebody might do Buddhist meditation and also might be a Reform Jew... The empowerment of people to create their own ways of engaging multiple religious traditions or multiple experiences rather than picking one and staying in that lane can be a really complicated questions for religious leaders and institutions, but that's really what's happening on the ground for many people." -Brie Loskota

On how to talk with kids about atheism and agnosticism

"Having inclusive language where you are able to represent a reflection of who is in your community to your children is always valuable. I have a colleague who runs an atheist and agnostic group, and it's really a group for people who are looking for answers of meaning and purpose and community, but outside of the traditional religious environment. And so through my interaction with him, I have become more consciously aware that while we talk about religion or spirituality, we don't want to exclude people who don't make their meaning in the same way that we do in our family. So I talk about that with my kids as a way to explain who they know and who we interact with." -Brie Loskota

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