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    Religious parents and adult children
    SEL2682 posted:
    I am the oldest child out of five children in my family. We are adult children at the ages of 21, 24, 26, 28, and 30. At Christmas this year, my brother told my mother that he does not believe in God and that religion is not a priority for him right now. The other three children do not attend church and don't worship as a high priority list either. When visiting my parents for a weekend, most often, the adult children refuse to go to church. They feel like my parents are inflicting their religion on them, even though we grew up with a pretty fundamental interpretation of Christianity. I do attend church by choice, however, have more liberal beliefs on certain topics than my parents. After the incident at Christmas, my mother has been struggling with the feelings of feeling that she has failed as a parent because her children did not adopt the values and beliefs she has taught us. She feels that it is her fault and that her children are going to hell because they do not believe. She is to the point where she is bottling her feelings up and refuses to seek counseling or talk with a pastor about it. She opened up to me a little bit finally, but she did not feel it was appropriate to be talking with me about it. I am afraid that she is in a significant depression and withdrawing. I do not feel she is to the point of hurting herself, due to her religious beliefs. She does not feel like she can even talk with my dad about this. Has anybody been in this situation? How do I help my mother out of her misery and tell my siblings to have more respect for our parents?

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    fcl responded:
    The way I see it is that your mother successfully raised five children who could think for themselves. That is no mean feat. They are not showing disrespect by not going to church with your parents, simply affirming their beliefs (or lack thereof). Would your mother rather they pretended and were hypocrites?

    If your mother refuses to talk about this then there isn't really very much you can do. Perhaps have a word with the pastor yourself? Tell him what is going on and how much she is suffering about this so that he can maybe find a discreet way of getting her to open up? You might also try to find ways of getting your mother to focus more on the good things about your siblings than what she perceives to be the bad things because that is no doubt blinding her to all the rest.

    Good luck.
    SEL2682 replied to fcl's response:
    Thank you for your response. Yes I totally agree with you, but it's getting her to see the good things. Unfortunately her pastor is not a good resource because he is not the most nurturing when it comes to pastoral care. (She gets so frustrated with the church community, but won't look at leaving and going to another church). I talked with my pastor from a more liberalized church and he had some great ideas for us kids to do, but some of the key children that would make a difference refuse to do the suggestions. Myself and one of my sisters attempted it, which was to write her a letter telling her all of the traits we got from her that we are proud of and how that has made us successful in life. Anyway, I hope to get any other suggestions as I am very worried about my mom and the depressive place she is in.
    An_250567 responded:
    My answer is kind of two-fold. First of all, my adult and nearly adult kids were raised in church. My oldest identifies as a Christian but doesn't attend church except Christmas. My second oldest is athiest. He is very pragmatic and science minded. My third lives out of state and attends church in the denomination in which he was raised. My husband, youngest and I attend church infrequently, but youngest is a Christian. I don't feel at all like a failure that my kids are making choices for themselves. I'm actually proud of them.

    The second part of my reply is this: I believe your mother doesn't see her children as separate people, but rather an extension of herself. Maybe she feels shame by proxy and probably a sense of little control since she really has no control of her adult children. My guess is that she is a quiet control freak.

    At any rate, I hope your mother finds peace.
    SEL2682 replied to An_250567's response:
    Thank you An_250567. You are absolutely correct in the fact that my mother sees us all as an extension of herself. I think it is difficult for her to understand and see us as separate people because from my perspective, her relationship with her mother was very different. She and all of her siblings continued to stay with the faith that they were raised in and attend church every Sunday with her family. So I think it is a huge shock and betrayal for her to experience that all of her children are not doing the same. It is to the point that I worry she will eventually go into a nervous breakdown, as she refuses to do anything about it or to move past it in any way. Thank you for your thoughts and support because as the oldest child, I just want to bring peace to my mother, dad, and siblings.

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