“Are Catholics Christians?”
“Is Allah the same as God?”
“My daughter has so many classmates from different religions—I don’t know what to tell her!”
Talking about difference stresses many parents out—we’ve been taught to ignore or downplay differences in race, language, and physical appearance. Or, we don’t have a lot of information ourselves.
When our children ask about differences they perceive in classmates, in teachers, and even strangers at the airport or over summer vacation, how do you answer?
What resources exist for fostering conversations that are helpful, respectful, and enjoyable?
(See our take-home infographic at the end of the post!)
Here are four simple interfaith tips for parents to take home (+ infographic!).
First, don’t chastise your child for noticing differences.
Our brains are hard-wired to look for differences—in color, shape, taste, for feelings of safety, and compared to other categories and types. These are useful skills when we’re learning language… or if we’re living in times where food and security are precarious.
Noticing differences can be beautiful—think about how you’ve experienced moving from room to room in an art museum, feeling exhilarated as you notice all the different colors or textures. Or how fun it can be tasting a variety of wines or cheeses, and taking the time to find tiny differences and share your thoughts about them.
Many religions believe that a God, creator, or the universe delights in variety: when we help our children see differences with this point of view, we’re helping them be good friends, good citizens, and curious students of the world.
Next, remember that it’s okay not to know everything.
It’s how you find information that’s more important than your ability to answer every question.
When you look for children’s books, websites, games, apps, and programming, remember to look for diverse portrayals of the human experience.
Even if you don’t celebrate Eid, Holi, or Diwali, there are beautiful children’s books that can teach you and start positive conversations about difference in your family.
Also, remember to cultivate your own family’s ethical, religious, or philosophical tradition.
Giving language to the reasons you believe or practice certain things helps your child begin to understand how humans engage with big ideas, and prepares them to talk about their own ideas and perspective in an accurate, non-biased, and positive way.
Think and ask yourself the following questions.
- Are there religious or secular holidays that are particularly meaningful for your family?
- Are there words (poetry, religious texts, songs, verses from philosophy or humanism) that have guided your decision-making, or been part of family weddings or funerals?
- Are there particular geographic locations that have spiritual or emotional meaning for your family?
All of these can provide examples and frameworks for talking about meaningful religious and ethical practices and discovery.
Children and young people who can talk about their own beliefs are better equipped to talk about new ideas when they encounter them in friends, classmates, and roommates.
Finally, make your own interfaith education part of your normal parenting research.
You Google symptoms of illness and remedies, ways to fight summer stains, birthday and bar mitzvah party ideas, caregiver pay rates, and travel tips.
Great parenting doesn’t mean knowing everything, but learning where you can find resources to share positive, meaningful information with your kids.
For example, here’s a great infographic to give an A-B-C overview of the Abrahamic religions that you can take home, print out, and share with your family.
(Click the infographic to enlarge.)
This infographic is just one of the many kid-friendly resources that could explain interfaith concepts to children and one of the many resources available to parents today.
Booklists, websites, movies, craft ideas, songs, and infographics that teach about religious diversity are becoming more and more available. Reach out to local colleges or non-profits to find speakers for your child’s school, book club, or scout program.
And when you find a great resource, share it! Share ideas with other parents on Facebook and Pinterest, forward to your children’s teachers, and ask for them at your public libraries and local bookstores.
Those are the four simple interfaith parenting tips to think about and apply, though undoubtedly, there are many more.
Please look for our book list with more resources to explore for parents and families, as well as some summer suggestions for engaging with difference with curiosity and respect.
Photo credit: © Pojoslaw | Dreamstime.com