Pin It
Saturday, April 30th, 2011

How Do You Explain God to Kids?

By
how-to-explain-god-to-kids/ Yuriy Poznukhov - Fotolia.com

I remember when I first showed my son an illustrated Bhagavad Gita—Our Most Dear Friend by Visakha. He was two years old and was too young for the text, but we gazed at the pictures together while sitting in our sunny living room as the fireplace warmed our feet. There were pictures of the Kurukshetra (the epic battle in the Mahabharata that was the impetus for the Gita), of Lord Krishna and of many beautiful things in nature, such as swans, peacocks, butterflies and lotuses.

Then came a page showing a little girl praying to Lord Krishna, who was pictured emerging from the clouds in the sky. I remember we paused at that page for quite some time, and I could feel a calmness wash over my son, as though he recognized something important in that image and wanted to take the time to absorb it.

“That’s Lord Vishnu,” I explained. “He’s also called Krishna. Vishnu is inside all the things in the world. He’s inside you and inside me.”

I doubt if he understood what I was saying, but I couldn’t help but wonder: do children intuitively have a concept of a Supreme Being? Do they feel that they are a part of something larger?

Through the years, we returned to Our Most Dear Friend many times and read other books about Hindu mythology—stories about Rama and Sita, Hanuman and Ganesh. All of the books had great stories to tell, but none of them answered that singular question which I’m sure was lurking in my son’s head: what is God

Such a simple and elemental question, the answer to which is the foundation of spiritual education and of forming a relationship with God. Yet how could I distill this answer into a 60-second snippet? Do I explain “God” as having a human form, as presented in the many Hindu stories, or was my son capable and ready to comprehend “God” as something more intangible? A recent Newsweek post cited that children see “God” as anything from a warm and forgiving surrogate parent to a strict punisher, and that parenting dictated a child’s view of God. What did I want my son to understand as “God?”

”God is energy,” I told him, “that is inside everything—inside all the animals and plants, inside our house and inside you. It makes things move, feel and love. It’s an energy that binds together all the things in our universe.” I explained that we have different names for this energy (e.g., Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Lakshmi) that we can pray to for strength, but that they are all the same thing.

I decided to explain God this way because it was a reflection of the Vedanta philosophy with which I was raised and ascribe to—a philosophy that acknowledges the divine in all things, living or not. This belief is the reason why my husband and I don’t swat flies (in front of the kids at least), why we teach the kids not to step on bugs, why we choose to be vegetarian and why we don’t step on books or newspapers—which to us are “living” objects because they house the eternal flame of knowledge.

I hope my son is able to connect my explanation of “God” with the ideals and beliefs we practice as a family. I think he can. As he grows older, he will likely seek and explore his own ideas about the existence (or not) of a Supreme Being—an inalienable freedom of thought that we as Hindus encourage. For now, I hope he develops a respect toward all people and a reverence for the beauty and fragility of our planet. For now, these things are his “God.”

© 2011 – 2013, Aruna Hatti. All rights reserved.

m4s0n501

More Great Stuff You'll Love:


Breastfeeding Around the World

In photos and figures

The West's Strange Relationship to Babies and Sleep

How the West sleeps is different from the rest

A Different World: No Longer Brown in White America

Is it racist to not want to raise your kids in white America?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Aruna Hatti was born in Andhra Pradesh, India. She is an attorney and the founder of Gnaana (www.gnaana.com), a retail website and online educational resource center for the global South Asian diaspora. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, where they try to make learning of Telugu, Kannada and Hinduism fun and relevant for their two children.

Leave us a comment!









Notify me of follow-up comments via e-mail.
Or leave your email address and click here to receive email notifications of new comments without leaving a comment yourself.

Get weekly updates right in your inbox so you don't miss out!



10 Multicultural Children’s Books that Make Adults Cry

We dare you to read these without a tear

Why This Mom Banned the Word ‘Weird’ From Her Kids' Vocabulary

One approach to explaining diversity to kids.

French versus Italian Parenting in One Multicultural Family

How one mom in an intercultural marriage sees the differences between Italian and French parenting

The Cultural Battleground of Sleepovers

Should they be allowed because it's "normal?" Think again.

Are Parents Too Overprotective in the West and Too Lax in the East?

Would you pick up a stranger's child or is that invasive?

Does Religion Matter? Juggling Two Faiths in One Family

What's the best way to transmit the values we care about to our kids?

Amazing Portraits of Biracial Kids

Smarter, larger, better, healthier and more beautiful? A project that debunks stereotypes.

Dear White Officer, Please Don't Shoot

At what age does my darling black son begin to look like a threat to the world?

A Book that Celebrates Cross-Cultural Friendship

A great pick for back to school season
I am shocked by how much I love being a nanny! I never expected to love this job or look forward to going to work each Monday morning. Yes, it is hard work - hard physical work as well as tapping ...
From What Sucks about Being a Nanny
[…] What is Home for My Adopted Son? by Julie Corby for InCultureParent […...
From What is Home for My Adopted Son?
.lol, as a child of a Chinese father and white Canadian mother I find your blogs funny, yet familiar. I married a Chinese Canadian woman (yes, I'm a guy) and I can appreciate the wonderful blessin...
From How I Reclaimed My House from My Mother-in-Law
Beautifully written! I'm in a multi-cultural marriage (I'm American, husband is Italian) but I'm also from a multicultural family. In my marriage I've often worried about how I will deal with things...
From Raising a Hijab-Wearing Daughter in a World that Doesn’t Understand
I'm American and my husband is from the south of Italy. My personal experience is exactly like your personal experience. From what I've seen, many children are absolutely terrified of their fathers ...
From French versus Italian Parenting in One Multicultural Family
Thank you! Ok you will be anonymou...
From Autism and Multilingualism: A Parent’s Perspective
I read the article and yes it is interesting and I identify with Julia, my parent did the exact same thing in speaking their mother tongue with us, I was a trilingual child and now I just finished l...
From Raising Trilingual Children? An Interview Not to Miss!
Hi, of course you can share my story, but no photos please. I enjoy the anonymity. You can get in touch with me if you need a chat or any more information. All the bes...
From Autism and Multilingualism: A Parent’s Perspective
Although the article has bitter and somewhat aggressive tone, I understand Turkish expressions like "I'll eat you" may come across as literal and odd to someone who isn't touch feely. It's affection...
From Don’t Spank My Baby! Cross-Cultural Differences in Love and Affection

More Tradition and Parenting