Now more than ever we live in a multicultural, diverse society where we and our children have the opportunity to converse and mix with people from backgrounds that are very different to our own. This presents an amazing opportunity in the way of children being exposed to a melting pot of beliefs, exposing them and educating them to a lot of cultures that generations before them might not have had the luxury of being exposed to.
One aspect of living in a diverse society is not just interacting with people of a different race – it’sabout interacting with people of different religions, too. Children can learn a lot about other religions through interacting with their friends, but it can still be tricky for them to understand the ins and outs of their friend’s beliefs. That’s where effective religious education comes in.
Teaching religion to children can be hard because it’s easy to get confused, but here are some tips for teaching your children about different beliefs and religions in a way that’s easy for them to understand.
Expose Children to Many Religions
There are more religions than just Christianity, Judaism and Islam, so it’s important that you expose your children to every major religion. This is because in their life they’re likely to come across people who are not only Christians, Jewish and Muslim, but also Catholic, Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist, along with other smaller religions.
Cover the Basic Holy Days
Every religion has days and times of the year that hold more religious significance than others, and there are holy holidays that are sacred to every religion. It’s important for children to be respectful of these holidays and to understand their significance, so it’s important you highlight these dates to your children. Teaching Ramadan for kids, along with things like Easter, Hanukkah, Holi and Vesak can quickly become confusing, so explaining the basic principle and what happens on these days is integral for your children growing up and being respectful of holidays that differ from their own.
Explain That There are Different Sects
In addition to exposing children to the basic principles of each of these religions, teach them too about different sects within those religions. It’s important for them to know that just because two people share the same broader religious beliefs, they won’t necessarily believe in exactly the same principles because there are different sects. This teaches them not to generalize and to be mindful that stereotyping religions is not only harmful, but it is also incorrect.
Make Learning Visual
Most children are visual learners and this means they will do better to understand different religions if they can actually see things. Lots of schools now run trips to places of worship, be it a church or a mosque, but if they don’t, make an effort to go and see them with your child. It’s always best to respectfully observe at a distance, but showing children the notable places of worship and allowing them to watch videos of things like Holi celebrations is a great way for them to learn more about different religions.
When teaching children about religions – especially if you belong to a specific faith yourself – can be a sensitive subject, but it’s best to expose them to different cultures early on so that they grow up to be respectful and mindful of different faiths. This will, in turn, create a more accepting and respectful society that allows people to freely interact without fear of punishment or social judgement based on their beliefs. After all, a lot of ignorance comes from lack of education, so educating your child is essential for everyone to feel safe and accepted – no matter their beliefs.