My husband and I are trying to get foster kids. And as we get closer and closer to finishing up licensing, I'm starting to freak out. What do I teach them? I grew up in an extremely conservative religion. Having grown up Mormon, the only real way I know how to answer kids' tough questions is with "NO". Drinking, smoking, premarital sex, drugs, staying out late, not fitting into gender boxes. All answered NO with a heavy dose of God's wrath throw in for good measure.
Which makes me think. Teaching a kid through the eye of Christianity seems to be fairly cut and dry. "No, you can't do this. Jesus says so." There's no room for individual interpretation, or personal consideration. Joseph Smith said no to tobacco. Mormon culture says no to caffeine. Masturbation is from the devil. None of these answers really help kids, because following this counsel requires no thought. At best, you teach your children to become automatons; blindly following whatever the Prophet (or Preacher or Deacon) says. At worst, they turn 180 degrees, and specifically do everything you said not to.
For example, my sister and I. We are 13 months apart. Grew up in the same environment, had the same experiences (possibly minus sexual abuse-her memories of childhood are foggy). In high school, I didn't drink,smoke, party, stay out late, or anything like that. I was a nerd, to put it bluntly. She skipped school, got high, drank, and just about everything else we were counseled not to. If asked why I didn't, I would have answered "because I was told not to." Not because I thought of the options and decided that my introverted lifestyle was the best for me. But because I was told not to and I was scared of the reaction if I did. I was scared to death of eternal damnation. Did I want to go to the popular parties and have a hot boyfriend? Heck, yes! But I didn't. I holed up in my house using food to quiet my raging emotions and hormones.
Correction. I wish I had been taught that I can make a decision for myself. I wish my mum would have said "Well, you have a family history of addiction and substance abuse. Yes, alcohol can make people feel better, and more at ease. It's a very social thing, and there will be lots of people using it. Why don't you make a list of pros and cons and figure out an answer for yourself? I will support and love you no matter what you choose." I wonder how much of my life would be different if I had had conversations like that with my mum.
Though we agree on most things, one thing my husband and I are very divided on the topics of premarital sex and abortion. I'm for premarital sex, with the caveat that it's between two people that love and respect each other. He's very "after marriage". Currently, I think it might be good for the kiddos to know that we disagree on this. It will let them think about how they feel and allow them to figure out what they want to do. Foster kids are different from natural-born kids, because they come into a family with preconceived ideas that may be different from ours. They have been raised differently (sometimes disfunctionally), and it would be wrong to expect them to share Christian values or hold them to that. I want to encourage kids to become thinking adults. I don't want them to react out of fear of damning or shaming them to making "the right choice". Because what's right for me may not be right for the kiddos.
Maybe that's my point. Foster kids are people, too, and deserve the same respect and autonomy as any adult. I don't want robot children that do my bidding. I want debate and discussion. I want mild chaos. I want to be able to teach, not indoctrinate children.