More than 80% of the global population practices a religion and between growing diversity and social media – your children will likely encounter many different beliefs, appearances and practices. As a parent or guardian, you are a major influence in how they learn about and accept people who are different from them.
Here are seven ways to teach your children about other religions so they grow up with an open and accepting mind.
Discrimination and acceptance are learned behaviors. When your child grows up in a diverse environment, different clothing, practices and celebrations will not phase them. Keeping your kids away from diversity – even unconsciously– can make our differences seem scary or “strange.”
If you do not live in an area with different religious populations, consider traveling to locations that do. Hanging out in cities with different religious majorities can start normalizing them for your children.
Try foods that correspond with the religion, visit artwork near religious sites and say high to people who wear different religious garments than you.
Books are an excellent way to learn about religion. There are a plethora of good children’s books out there that can help your child learn about different holidays, beliefs and traditions.
Reading these books with your children can be the catalyst for important conversations about learning about and respecting others. Encourage them to ask questions and if you do not know the answer, research it together.
By learning together, you can inspire a love of learning in your child which can help them not fall into thinking negatively about people who seem different than them.
We live in a world where different voices are starting to get acknowledged and episodes are an excellent way to teach lessons your kids might not realize they are learning.
By seeing their favorite cartoon characters dress, believe and celebrate differently from them, they will reflect on those episodes when they see people in real life doing those same things. It can be hard to encourage kids to take time to learn about things outside of school. Watching television is a fun treat that they probably do not realize is helping them learn.
Ms. Marvel, Arthur, Mira, Royal Detective and Sesame Street are just a few children’s shows that have episodes focusing on different religions. Seeing something through entertainment can normalize it in the real world.
Whether or not you believe everything in the Bible, Torah or Quran, there are valuable life lessons in each religion that you can apply to everyday life.
Loving one another, making moral decisions and sacrificing some indulgences for the greater good are just some of the lessons you can derive from religious texts. Beliefs often shape greater society and by using these stories and instructions to live a better life, your children can learn the benefits of different religions.
Explain the lessons that come with different beliefs and teach how your child can use them to create a positive impact. It is something they can carry with them for the rest of their life.
An excellent way to teach your child about a different religion is to immerse them in its environment. Visiting different religious sites can help them understand and respect different beliefs and traditions.
Consider asking a religious leader if your family can attend a service in hopes of promoting acceptance and education to your children. They might even be willing to speak with your kids about their beliefs and traditions.
If you do not feel comfortable reaching out to religious leaders, take them to more open sites, such as a courtyard where you can point out different religious symbols or a historical monument acknowledging a religious leader.
Many cultures have foods they enjoy during different religious holidays. Making some of these foods can help you teach your child about celebrations like Chanukah, Diwali, Eid and Easter.
As you prepare and enjoy the food, explain the significance of the food for each religion and some of the other practices that happen over each holiday. This is an excellent opportunity to normalize different tastes and textures.
Children often fear food they are unfamiliar with but by sharing the education around religious meals, you can demystify them and set your child up for a varied diet and respectful attitude towards all food.
There are a few important lessons you can teach your children when looking at religious clothing. It is common for kids to see others from different religions wear a hijab, crucifix or yamaka and want to wear one themselves. It’s an innocent way of wanting to wear something they think looks cool or be like their friends.
Explaining the significance of religious clothing to your children can keep their enthusiasm around them while explaining why they should not wear them. This conversation can also extend into one about cultural appropriation and how everyone – including them– has unique things to celebrate their heritage. Copying someone else’s heritage could be seen as disrespectful and offensive.
Try to introduce alternatives to the religious garments that they can wear. If their friend likes their friend’s hijab, help them pick out a cloth headband or neck scarf. If they want to wear a crucifix, help them pick out a necklace that is a similar size or color. Just ensure that you explain the difference between what they are wearing and the actual religious clothes.
The world is full of people with different religious beliefs. By normalizing our differences, you can raise children with open minds and hearts, creating a more loving, accepting world.
*This is a collaborative post. For further information please refer to my disclosure page.
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