By Satadru Mukherjee
Parenting is a rollercoaster ride. Exhilaration, fun, anxiety, happiness — parenting encapsulates almost every emotion we are capable of experiencing. Raising a happy child, a compassionate child who cares, helps in maximising these positive emotions. A compassionate and sensitive child is one who will empathise with people, respect individuality and celebrate differences. A child who celebrates diversity.
Here are five fun ways you can bring your children up to speed with the concept of diversity.
Reading and storytelling
Reading is good for children in so many different ways. Apart from developing vocabulary and communication skills, multiple research works show that books are immensely helpful in building a great parent-child bond. So pick up a book that celebrates diversity, and read it aloud to your kids. You can also tell them stories of diversity, for instance famous personalities who achieved a common goal, like the independence of India. Stories of the leaders of our freedom movement, people from different religious and social backgrounds who joined hands for the country’s welfare.
India is a land of festivals. Every corner of our country has a festival that is unique and rooted in local culture. Talk to your children about different festivals. Sit with them and help them chalk out a calendar of some of the most popular ones from different religions and states. Use cut-outs and printouts to decorate the calendar and put it up in the bedroom/ reading/ sitting/ children’s area. Try to celebrate a mini version of these festivals at home with some representative attire/ stories/ movies. Take your kids out to places where these festivals are being celebrated. You could take them to either a specific locality that is hosting these festivities. You can also take them to a friend’s house who celebrates a particular festival that you don’t.
Places of worship
Our country, the world’s largest democracy, also happens to be home to most of the major religions of the world. Bearing testimony to this fact is the plethora of religious shrines and places of worship that dot every city. Plan trips with your kids and visit one such site every month. Don’t cram in lots of places to visit on a single day. Dedicate a lot of time to each place, so that your children can observe everything in detail. Ask them to write/ sketch what they have seen once you are back home. This will help them retain most of what they experience.
India has a smorgasbord of cultures and religions and a variety of cuisines that are deeply rooted in individual cultures. Assign a day of the month where you try out dishes of a particular cuisine at home. Let your kids know about the dishes being cooked and talk to them about the origins of the dishes, about the religions and cultures they belong to. Conversely, if your kids are up for some research, you can also ask them to find out what they can about those dishes.
Encourage your kids to make friends with kids from all religions in their class/ in your society. Talk to them about how there might be certain differences in how they lead their lives, in terms of food habits, worship, certain social etiquettes, and how this difference is not to be mulled upon, but to be celebrated. With the activities mentioned earlier, this will help them relate to everything that they have seen and heard from you.
Human beings are averse to the unknown, scared of what they do not understand. These activities mentioned above will help kids to humanise different cultures and religions, give them a sense of familiarity. This in turn will help them warm up to people from different backgrounds and embrace and appreciate the diversity that we celebrate in our country.
(The writer is author of the children’s book Good Morning India, published by Scholastic India.)