By Maryam A (Contributor)
Edited by Ali Reza
The world is a melting pot of different religions and as people move, they take their beliefs with them. Children today are often exposed to people from many different backgrounds who may or may not share their same religious beliefs. It is important to instill in them a respect for others’ beliefs and an understanding of the similarities and differences in religion. They will often see that they are not as different from others as perhaps they thought. Helping your child to become more well-rounded will support them throughout their life.
Focus on your own religion first. Before you start introducing your child to other religions, make sure they understand the one that you are bringing them up in. Give them a firm foundation so that they have something to reference when making comparisons. This will make it easier to discuss differences in beliefs and practices. Be a positive role model and practice what you are teaching and your expectations. Show them that even though you believe one thing, you can still be accepting that others have different opinions and practices.
Use holidays as conversation starters. Throughout the year there are a wide range of holidays that are observed. Discuss how you celebrate these occasions compared to how other religions do. Or, if it is not a holiday that you celebrate, discuss why it is important to others and why they honor it. You can find many books at the library to help explain customs and traditions in a way that your child will find easier to understand. Children are often excited to learn about different traditions and how things are celebrated around the world.
Be open to questions and honest with answers. Your child will probably have friends with different religious beliefs and this can bring about many questions. Hear them out so that you can clear up any questions or misconceptions. If you don’t know an answer, research it together so that you both expand your knowledge and understanding. Show them that you are respectful of what others believe even if you don’t believe it yourself.
Embrace diverse friendships. Through building strong friendships you can learn more about other religions and help others to learn more about yours. Invite others over to celebrate special holidays or religious observances with your family and teach them about your beliefs. At the same time, be open to doing the same with them and learning more about their religion and traditions. You will probably find that there are many similarities such as good will, love, kindness, patience, faithfulness, and forgiveness.
Even if you do not share the same views, it does not mean that you cannot teach your children to be respectful and tolerant of others. The first amendment of the United States Constitution ensures freedom of religion. Many controversies surround religion and religious beliefs, and your child will realize this as they get older and pay attention to the news. Having a broader understanding of religion can help them to make more sense of these issues and what people are fighting for. This can be another segue into conversation and sharing your beliefs versus other people’s beliefs.
People are free to believe in what they want and this is what helps to shape who they are. As your child grows up, they can begin to develop their own opinions and understandings. Exposing them to diversity while they are young can make them more open and accepting of others. Everyone has their differences but this is what makes the world unique. Keeping an open mind and accepting people for more than their religious beliefs can help them to build stronger friendships and cultural understanding. Religion is just one part of who a person is and what they have to offer.