My partner and I are considering having children sometime in the next few years, but the question of “community” has been holding us back. We both grew up in religious households but we are pretty much agnostic. However, we both know how powerful that supporting community can be.
We’re both quite introverted and don’t meet many people outside of our jobs. (We are quite happy — we’re just introverted!). My parents live about a two hour drive away, but his are a plane flight away, as are all of our siblings, and extended family. How do parents create communities for their child without family or religion? — Kess
Before we open this question to reader thoughts, I wanted to get in a quick answer for myself. I was raised an only child by parents without a religious community or much family support, and so I have some perspectives about what my folks did and how it worked.
In the effort to have some sort of spiritual community for our family, my parents banded together with a dozen or so other families in the early ’80s and created a little agnostic Sunday school called S.E.A.R.C.H.: Seeking Enlightenment And Reaching Children’s Hearts. The group met three weekends each month, and was sort of an overview of spirituality — here’s how some religions honor the seasons, here’s how other religions talk about rebirth, here’s how different religions integrate meditation or prayer.
The S.E.A.R.C.H community lasted for about five years, growing at one point to 20 families. It’s hard work maintaining a community like that though (and my parents WEREN’T introverted people, like you’re saying you are), and ultimately everyone moved on. Despite that, as a child I really valued the S.E.A.R.C.H. community, and it definitely gave me a sense of being a part of something larger… even if it was just rolling my eyes with the other kids as we went through the 50th chorus of “Somos El Barco,” which we sang at the start of most S.E.A.R.C.H. meetings:
If that kind of non-dogmatic spiritual community sounds interesting, you might want to resesarch Unitarian Universalist groups in your area. UU beliefs are pretty diverse and accepting. Although I’ve never been a member, my friends who go to UU churches identify them as being primarily focused on creating community and the diversity of beliefs, including atheism.
Whether that’s a solution that works for you or not, I think it’s critically important to find community support for your family. Having a parental support network has been tied to all sorts of benefits, from reduced Postpartum Depression to reduction of child abuse. In other words: this shit is IMPORTANT. It’s awesome that you’re thinking about this now!
But now I’d like to toss the question out to readers:
How do you create a sense of community for your children without family or religion?