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Talking About Easter and Passover with Kids

talk_bubbles.gifExplaining Religious Differences to Your Kids
For ages: Ten and under

Spring brings important holidays to Judaism and Christianity. Jews all over the world celebrate Passover, an eight-day commemoration of the ancient Hebrew exodus from slavery in Egypt. At the same time, Christians are commemorating the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Because these major religious events coincide, they often bring a rash of questions from children about their own religion and about religions that are not their own.

Embracing such diversity will enrich your child's life; but it may also challenge his or her sense of where your family's religious beliefs fit into the rest of the world.

To help children benefit fully from diversity, parents need to confront their own issues and concerns about the similarities and differences among people. Here's some help for talking to your kids about religious differences:

For Christian Families
As you peruse cookbooks to plan an upcoming holiday meal, your seven-year-old interrupts your reverie. Plopping down on your lap, she says chattily, "I heard Alan tell Matt that he shouldn't be Jewish. Alan says that it's best to be Christian."

Here are some suggestions for talking to your kids about religious differences.

The Words: "How do you think Matt felt when Alan said that?"
The Reason: It's always good to help children connect feelings to actions and to help them develop empathy with the emotions other people may feel.

The Words: "I wonder why Alan thinks it's best to be Christian? What do you think about that?"
The Reason: Try to get a sense of where your child is coming from. Does he or she have any idea why Alan might feel that way? How does he or she feel about Christianity in relation to other religions?

The Words: "We're Christians, and that's what I believe. But we have to respect other people's right to believe in different religions. Not everyone believes the same things."
The Reason: Because children learn values like tolerance and respect for differences from their parents, it's important to be explicit about them when the opportunity arises.

The Words: "What Alan said was hurtful, even if he believes it's true."
The Reason: It's important to help children learn to identify behavior that cause pain to other people. Believing that one religion is "the best" can be a dangerous way to think. Lots of wars have been fought, and millions of people have been killed because someone thought one religion was superior to another.

The Words: "Christianity and Judaism have a lot in common as well as some important differences. For instance, we share a belief in one God, the same story of creation, and a commitment to peace and justice. I think learning about other religions is really interesting. Let's find out more about Judaism and about other religions as well."
The Reason: If you have an interest in other religions and cultures, it's likely that your children will develop that interest as well.

The Words: "You know, religion and the way people feel about it is pretty complicated. Let's keep talking about it. If you have any questions about being Christian, I'm happy to talk with you about them any time."
The Reason: Early conversations about complicated topics lay the foundation for ongoing dialogues. Make sure children know that you welcome their questions and that you're happy to keep talking with them.

For Jewish Families
As you peruse cookbooks to plan an upcoming holiday meal, your seven- year-old interrupts your reverie. Plopping down on your lap, she says chattily, "I heard Alan tell Matt that he shouldn't be Jewish. Alan says that it's best to be Christian."

Here are some suggestions for talking to your kids about religious differences.

The Words: "How do you think Matt felt when Alan said that? How did you feel?"
The Reason: It's always good to help children connect feelings to actions. If this issue is difficult for them, it might be easier for them to start by talking about how someone else felt. If your child's feelings were really hurt then it's important to address those feelings and validate them.

The Words: "I wonder why Alan thinks that it's best to be Christian? Why would being Christian be better than any other religion?"
The Reason: Try to get a sense of where your child is coming from. Does your child have any idea why Alan made that comment? What are your child's feelings and fantasies about Christianity?

The Words: "We are Jewish, and that's what I believe. But we have to respect other people's right to believe in different religions. Not everyone believes the same things."
The Reason: Because children learn values like tolerance and respect for differences from their parents, it's important to be explicit about them when the opportunity arises.

The Words: "What Alan said was hurtful, even if he believes it's true."
The Reason: It's important to help children learn to identify behavior that cause pain to other people. Believing that one religion is "the best" can be a dangerous way to think. Lots of wars have been fought, and millions of people have been killed because someone thought one religion was superior to another.

The Words: "Christianity and Judaism have a lot in common as well as some important differences. For instance, we share a belief in one God, the same story of creation, and a commitment to peace and justice. I think learning about other religions is really interesting. Let's find out more about Christianity and about other religions as well."
The Reason: If you have an interest in other religions and cultures, it's likely that your children will develop that interest as well.

The Words: "You know, religion and the way people feel about it is pretty complicated. Let's keep talking about it. If you have any questions about being Jewish, I'm happy to talk with you about them any time."
The Reason: Early conversations about complicated topics lay the foundation for ongoing dialogues. Make sure children know that you welcome their questions and that you're happy to keep talking with them.

Children may come to you with specific misinformation or stereotypes about religious, racial or cultural groups. It's important to debunk these false perceptions immediately and explicitly. The best way to counter stereotypes is to insure that your children's lives are filled with diversity.

Books, television and movies are also good ways to explore diversity. Ask your children's librarian for suggestions, or visit your local bookstore and peruse the shelves. As your children get older they may be able to visit churches, synagogues and mosques to get a sense of religions that differ from your own.

More on: Passover

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