Activities

Reframe the idea of prayer to match your nonreligious stance, perhaps using the term promise ("Be sure to say your promises before bed"). Unitarian Universalist Kathleen Carpenter offers these secular graces:

• Earth, we thank you for this food, for the rest and home and all things good, for wind and rain and sun above, but most of all for those we love.

• In the light of love and the warmth of this family, we gather to seek, to sustain, and to share.

You might also consider joining hands around the table to enjoy about a half minute of silence together. Ask the kids (and adults) to take that time to go inside themselves and think about whatever they wish—something about the day just passed, a hope for the next day, good thoughts for someone who is sick, or nothing at all. And make it clear that they're welcome to pray if they'd like to.

But here's the key: It's a personal, private moment. Don't include a practice of sharing thoughts afterwards, or it quickly devolves into a spitting contest for who was thinking the most lofty thought ("You know what I was thinking about? I was thinking about homeless children.") Kids will try this at first. Just nod and change the subject. Eventually, they figure out that it really is a private moment, which changes the nature of it.

When you have guests, simply tell them (before anyone can launch into prayer) that we begin our evening meal with a moment of silent reflection, during which they may pray, meditate, or simply sit quietly as they wish.

After reading some of the books in the resource section as a family or with your child, talk about what you think of the stories. What do you believe? How were these stories passed on? Play telephone (a.k.a. "Chinese whispers") and point out how things get mixed up traveling from one person to the next. What human principles are the stories talking about? Could we agree with those without having a belief in God?

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