These days, we’ve been reading about too many terrorist attacks in many parts of the world.
When I read about the attacks, I felt a sharp pang for the families who lost their loved ones, especially parents who lost their children. The tragedy hit close to home because my children and I come from the Philippines, a country harbouring three terrorist organisations that are globally notorious for Islamic-related violence ranging from kidnappings to beheadings. Keeping my children away from terrorism is an everyday reality we face.
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So as a mother, I can’t help but let tragedies like theses attacks kick the parental impulse up a notch to make sure my children are happy, healthy and, most of all, safe. Yet, to only think about how I can shelter my children from harm seems too much of an inward intent because addressing terrorism as a parent isn’t only about this.
Parenting as a means to counter terrorism must also involve an outward approach: that while we focus on providing them with a safe harbour, we also focus on how our children can positively impact others.
If you dig deep enough, terrorism happens because we don’t teach our children to respect, value and celebrate diversity enough. However, encouraging children to be tolerant of other people’s culture, race, religion or ideology is only scratching the surface – because practising tolerance connotes a response toward a person or following an event. I believe what we should be striving for instead is to raise children who possess the benevolence to do good simply because they are good.
To end the cycle of fear, hate and violence that terrorism brings, we start at the core by inculcating love and kindness in our children. Through this foundation, we can then harness tolerance, camaraderie, respect, patience, compassion and empathy – which together make a potent cocktail of social and emotional skills to counter piousness, injustice, oppression and despair.
Every parent wants to raise a child who is loving and kind. So how do we ensure that we do so?
Here are 35 small ways to teach our children how to love humankind, and be loved in return:
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- Explore. We’d like to keep our children in the cocoon we’ve created for them, but we shouldn’t be afraid to let them explore the bigger world out there, one that isn’t only occupied by Mommy and Daddy. Familiarity with one’s surroundings removes the fear and trepidation of being outside the cocoon and encourages an openness to experience new things or meet new people.
- Talk to strangers. This helps children overcome shyness. Let them ask questions or share stories with the people they encounter. Children shouldn’t be made to fear strangers because there are safe strangers – you just need to teach children how to detect them.
- Talk about race. It can decrease prejudice and increase acceptance of others, especially when you help children be more aware of people’s differences and similarities. Encourage them by asking questions like, “Don’t you love his red hair?” or “What a beautiful accent, don’t you think?”
- Say “hello” and “goodbye.” These words help children connect with others, and it teaches them to cherish the relationships they build.
- Say “I love you.” But only when they mean it.
- Say “thank you” and “you’re welcome.” Learning manners teaches children to be considerate.
- Show amazement. Teaching children to say “Wow!” or “I like this!” can be empowering for them since their words of appreciation give others a self-esteem boost.
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- Smile – and watch people smile back. Smiling teaches children a non-verbal way of communicating friendship.
- Laugh with people. Even if they don’t get the joke. By releasing “feel-good” endorphins, laughter relieves stress and tension – and laughing together can help to build a sense of camaraderie.
- Be silly. It’s a fun way to make friends.
- Watch Mom and Dad kiss. This assures children that they live in an environment of love.
- Watch Mom and Dad show affection to family and friends. A smile, hug, handshake or kiss on the cheek demonstrates to children how to form healthy relationships.
- Watch Mom and Dad hug other children. It helps children feel comfortable around other children because if they’re safe enough for Mom and Dad to hug, then they’re safe enough to play with.
- Watch TV shows together. It’s a way of exploring the world and see people of different cultures.
- Read books. Sesame Street’s “We’re Different, We’re the Same” is a good book to teach children about diversity among people (as well as muppets and monsters)!
- Listen to music from different cultures. Music can transcend words itself. So if your children like hip-hop music, expose them to K-Pop, J-Pop, Arabic, Bhangra and African drum music. If they like slow ballads, they can listen to Hindi love songs, Indonesian lagu and Filipino kundiman.
- Travel. We don’t have to book a flight out of the country. Visiting cultural hotspots within the city like Chinatown and Little India is a good way for children to meet people who follow different customs and traditions, and even speak a different language.
- Visit places of religion. It’s a good source of history and appreciation of different beliefs.
- Taste various cuisines. Not only will it broaden their cultural horizon, but it will add variety to their source of nutrition as well!
- Play dress up with traditional costumes. And let them role-play as a citizen of another nation. This way, they associate fun with other nationalities.
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- Play outside. This gives them a fun appreciation of the world outside their home.
- Join a play group. Expose children to diversity by letting them play with other children of a different age, gender or social status. It’s a good start to introducing them to instilling an appreciation of people’s differences.
- Play fair. Nothing but resentment can be had when children cheat during a game.
- Share. Aside from helping them make friends, sharing will also teach them the value of cooperation and taking turns.
- Give away their toys. More than helping to declutter the home, it teaches children to be considerate of others.
- Fight for what’s right. When children assert themselves, it helps to establish healthy boundaries between what’s acceptable and unacceptable to them.
- Let them complain, especially when they feel they’re being treated unfairly. Correcting the mistakes starts by pointing them out.
- Cry. It opens up a dialogue based on empathy.
- Forgive. It leads to a path of healing.
- Forget. It’s never healthy to harbour ill feelings.
- Learn from the hurt. Doing so allows children to prevent the mistake from happening again.
- Be honest. It helps to foster a foundation of trust.
- Be curious. A curious child harnesses the willingness to learn and experience new things, which are vital stepping stones to building a well-rounded personality.
- Be brave, even when they’re scared. The more they practice this, the easier it becomes to face the unfamiliar.
- Show respect. And, parents, you take the lead on this. Children emulate what their parents do – so make sure you provide them with a good role model to follow. Give them praise whenever they exhibit good behavior around people to encourage them to continue a healthy interaction with others.
To the families who lost a loved one during the various attacks that have happened around the world, we at theAsianparent send our deepest condolences. We pray that you find peace and healing through this period of loss and grief.