In such a diverse country, it's quite likely that your children's friends will be of many different religions. Religion may not come up as a major topic often, but when it does, it's important for your children to be prepared to respect their friends' religious choices. One of the most common situations you may face is getting invited to a religious ceremony that is not part of your religion. Some examples include an invitation to attend a baptism, confirmation, Ramadan meal or church wedding. As a parent, it is your job to prepare your child for respectful participation in these types of ceremonies.
Respect for Others Includes Respect for Other Religions
Teaching your children to respect others has undoubtedly been one of your major priorities as a parent, and respect for other religions is one component of that effort. Just as you don't want your child to be disrespectful to others who look different or whose parents earn more or less money, you also don't want your children to be disrespectful to children who practice other religions. Religious tolerance needs to include a component of acknowledging the intelligence of people who choose different religions. Your child should be ready to live in harmony with others, even when they have differing beliefs.
Respect Begins with Knowledge and Understanding
You and your kids will be better able to respect the religious beliefs of others if you have a basic understanding of the religion. Although you may not share another family’s religious beliefs, you should understand why they would. Research different religions so you know some of the core beliefs and how they play out in everyday life. In particular, learn about what some of the core practices are of the religion in question so your child will be ready to respectfully look on as others participate in these practices.
Tips for Preparing Your Kids to Attend Religious Ceremonies
- Research the type of ceremony you and your child will be attending. Invite your child to look on or guide the research if he or she is old enough. Learn about and talk about why the ceremony is important to people of that religion.
- Describe to your child what will be expected of him at the ceremony. For example, he may be asked to bow his head and remain silent during times of prayer, light candles or participate in traditional dances. Make sure your child feels comfortable with this, and encourage him to watch what adults are doing and follow suit.
- Give your child a chance to ask you questions or share any of his concerns about attending the ceremony. If you don't have enough knowledge to provide sufficient answers, set up an appointment with a religious leader of that faith to give your child a chance to get answers.
- Choose an appropriate gift to bring to the ceremony, if it is traditionally one that involves gifts. For example, baptism gifts are commonly given as keepsakes of the special day, and letting your child choose a gift for the baptism ceremony may help him feel more involved.
- Set aside time shortly after you return home from the ceremony to debrief and talk about what happened. If your child has any questions or concerns about the ceremony or event you attended, do your best to answer them.
Attending significant religious ceremonies is a great way for your child to support his friends. With some care and preparation, it can be a learning experience as well. Showing tolerance and respect throughout the process is of prime importance to ensure that your child's friend feels loved and supported on their special day.