This question is answered by Juliana Kow, Dharma Supervisor, Mangala Vihara Buddhist Temple. She is a mother of two.
Juliana: “I’d like to pose three questions to this parent:
1. Are you, the parents, Buddhist?
Are you a Buddhist who attends temple regularly? If you only go to temple on “special occasions” or only Vesak, you should re-think your expectations. Lead by example by walking the path yourselves. If your child sees how the Dharma has benefited you, she will be naturally interested to learn more.
2. Is your child a Buddhist?
Parents should not regard the temple as a place to “drop” your children. You cannot force your child to come either, if she does not regard herself as a Buddhist, or is not keen to become one. As a youth, your child has opinions of her own which should be respected. She must have the voluntary desire to attend classes or youth service. This desire could stem from seeing her parents benefiting from the Dharma, or being attracted to the fellowship or positive energy that a youth group brings. If your child already has a religious view of her own, please give her unconditional love.
3. What do you hope to achieve by “wanting” your child to attend youth groups?
Do you hope that she will become more obedient? Or that it is “for her own good”? To demystify, joining a Buddhist youth group does not buy your child a one way ticket to enlightenment. Rather, youth groups provide the spiritual friendships and teachings for one to practice with. Buddhism is a religion of self-reliance – joining a youth group makes the path easier, but it is up to the individual’s own efforts to find happiness and peace within.
Parents must answer these fundamental questions before trying to make their children attend youth groups.”
Mangala Vihara has regular Dharma classes and activities for children, youths and adults. Please visit their Facebook page to learn more.