Whether you are religious or not, it is important to educate your child about different religions. An important reason for this is to allow your child to recognise the differences between religions whilst understanding that all religions should all be respected. They should also learn to understand that no religion is superior to any others. Educating your child about religion provides children with the information they need to expand their knowledge just the same way we would teach them about geography.
As parents, we need to find the right balance between teaching our kids to understand what different religions believe and allowing them the liberty to independently choose to accept different beliefs without being told what is correct and what is false. Research has shown that the earlier we speak to our children about different religions the better. So now is a better time than ever to have that important chat with your kids. Below we have discussed some guidance on how to do this.
First of all, you need to have a basic understanding of religion to teach your child. You should try to not pass on any personal intolerances you may hold for certain religions but, instead, take a neutral stance. It is a good idea to have some sort of plan on how you are going to teach your kid.
Keep it Fun and Exciting
You want to make sure your teaching is interactive and fun so they are excited about learning and they don’t lose interest. This could take a practical hands-on approach to teaching. For example, you could start by showing your child the different places of worship in your area. This could be done when driving or walking by, or, actually going inside and having a look around and speaking to people in there. Put religious holidays on your calendar (such as Hanukkah, Eid and Diwali) and discuss why they are celebrated. You could even have your own mini-celebration at home. There are loads of free resources available online to help you including tips and recommended reading. The BBC website also provides animated short stories explaining the origins of a range of religions.
Remember your Audience
There are aspects to all religions that touch on areas which are not appropriate nor necessary for young children to understand until they are older. Rather than trying to cover everything, educate them on the things they are interested to learn about. It’s worth looking into easy ways that information can be passed along. For example if you’re looking for Islam for kids it’s worth visiting TV channels that provide loads of resources including child-friendly videos about the 5 pillars of Islam, Ramadan and the Prophets. They even provide fun pop quizzes to test your child’s knowledge of Islam! Make sure you find child-friendly resources, videos, games and activities by searching for things like Christianity for kids, Judaism for kids or Islam for kids etc. Besides this, you can also consider enrolling them on a youth ministry program (if you want them to learn about Christianity) or some other religious lessons to make them aware of the different religions that exist.
Don’t Lie About What You Believe
You may not believe in any religion at all, but you might not want your child to blindly follow the same belief. Explain to your child what you believe, or why you don’t believe, so they can understand how you came to that decision. Hiding your beliefs from your child will give them the impression that you are ashamed of your beliefs.
Intolerance and discrimination are ways of thinking that arise from a lack of understanding. The more we can teach and educate our children, the less likely they are to develop those hateful ways of thinking. The ultimate goal with teaching a child about religion is to raise a child free from discriminatory and intolerant beliefs and to raise the next generation as accepting, unprejudiced and open-minded.