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The Religious Life of Children

The Religious Life of Children

Thanks to a small number of Muslims and large chunks of the mainstream media, Islam has gained a reputation for severity and harshness. When it comes to the way we raise our children this can often be true, but usually due to our cultural backgrounds more than our faith.
How this Rabbi failed at his carefully prepared Passover seder
In recent years, Hanukkah has become increasingly commercialized. Perhaps in an effort to keep up with the shopping frenzy ethos of the Thanksgiving—Christmas “holiday” season, my children (and many others) have come to view Hanukkah as an eight-day present-receiving extravaganza.
Thanksgiving is special to me because it shows my children that the values of gratitude and appreciation are not just Jewish values but also American values. It reinforces an integration between being Jewish and being American—that my children don’t have to choose between the two because both Judaism and American civic traditions have a place for moral instruction and celebration.
Growing up, my parents made it very clear to me that we were Pakistani. However, I could relate to so many things English—literature, culture, the tolerance of difference, the beauty of the countryside. A part of me wanted to proudly say I was English. Another part of me had a very strong feeling that as a person with brown skin, who dressed and lived differently, I would be a laughing stock for saying so.
How to apply mindfulness around the difficult years of puberty. Around age eight or nine is when a child begins to transition from a magical way of perceiving the world to a more literal outlook.
In this particular stage between infancy and eight or nine years, our approach is to avoid indoctrination or rigidly applying the teachings. Rather we should seek to harmonize with the child’s natural inclinations. From birth to age four, we teach primarily by example because children of that age notice and imitate everything we do!
Though Purim is generally presented as a light-hearted, festive tale, the holiday has a darker, more somber essence. But what is the appropriate age to introduce this to my kids?
If there is one question that I am often asked as a Buddhist minister it is, "How can I raise an enlightened child?"
Preserving kinship ties is considered to be a very important part of Islam...But doing so is not always as simple as it seems: running around to pull a meal together, trying to rugby-tackle the kids into bed whilst they are distracted by guests or having school or work the next morning, which is too few hours away.
My first Christmas with my Ethiopian children came 10 months after they were officially adopted into our family. During the year that we settled in, we learned that one of our daughters was still heavily grieving the loss of her mother two years earlier. One of the most difficult struggles for Ella was that she was starting to forget her mother’s face.
Around 10 years ago, I stopped celebrating Christmas with my family. Then I became Muslim; I actually had a legitimate excuse to not celebrate Christmas. But when I started to go to mosque for Friday prayers, over and over again I was told about the importance of family relations
While I had several goals for the trip to Israel, it was critically important to me that my kids saw the diversity of Jewish life in Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv is the Baskin-Robbins of Jewish identity with a dazzling array of flavors.I prayed at a synagogue where some people donned bathing suits and others wore the traditional Orthodox garb.

Letters from Orphans

This November, during National Adoption month, we remember the estimated 163 million orphans globally in different countries around the world, and do not forget the over 500,000 children in foster care that have no one to write a letter to.
I am grateful to have the Baha’i scriptures to draw upon in providing detailed answers to some of my daughter’s questions about death, especially several years ago when our family faced loss twice in one year, first of my brother and then of my father. It was a difficult year for our family.
I suspect those who celebrate Christmas will be familiar with the way I felt a day or so after last Eid. Having received numerous toys, the kids took a cursory look at each and then left them to one side, forgotten.
Never has the concept of attachment and the idea of letting go come more sharply in focus than when thinking about our children. In Buddhism, attachment is one of the main causes of suffering.
Next week we are heading to the Ukraine to adopt our seventh child. I have tried to block out time from my day to study Russian, but just haven’t been able to make any progress with it.
Although Muslim children do not usually fast, this does not mean that Ramadan, the holiest of months in the Islamic calendar, is not important for them. Because children are present at the breaking of the fast, often children associate fasting with food and not hunger.
One of the most contentious issues any non-Israeli Jew must face is how to think and speak about Israel. So what should I teach my kids about Israel?
When my daughter Amrita was an infant, I had to be very careful with what I ate or her stomach would get upset...
What these parents tell their daughter about reincarnation after the death of her grandfather.
This Jewish Dad explains the difficulty of eating kosher and free range.
In the past, when I have written about Islam’s perspective on child discipline, I described it as one where gentleness is preferred according to the tradition of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the examples set during his own life.
I was brought up with Passover Seders that were anything but didactic. Instead, they usually involved adults reading every English word in the Haggadah, cover to cover, and calling on the kids whenever a musical interlude was needed.
I had an interesting conversation with my sister-in-law recently about an old friend of hers who had moved to the States and become a Christian, despite being raised in a practising Muslim household. It made me think about what aspect of her former faith led her to believe that Islam was not for her.
So, I caved! I gave my 12-year-old Ethiopian daughter a cell phone this year. As she was heading into middle school, I realized that she needed it to stay connected to us “in case of emergencies.” Well, as you can imagine, the phone has become an invisible lifeline between my sweet Grace and her friends.
In the summer of my tenth year, my grandmother visited us in Maine for the first time. Usually, we had always gone to see her in Canada. She arrived on the day Baha’is commemorate the Declaration of the Bab, and it seemed as though my grandmother’s arrival on this holy day was a gift from God.
Sex education is a bit of a minefield for me as a Muslim mother, as I am sure it is for most parents, whether Muslim or not. As a Muslim, I would encourage my children to view sex as a pleasurable, positive element of a happy marriage. I would remind them of the responsibilities that go with it and the Islamic perspective on it as being both quite liberal (for instance a woman’s right in Islam to sexual gratification) but also with restrictions (only having sex with someone you are married to).
My children tell me the story of when they were in the orphanage in Ethiopia and how they had lost hope that a family would adopt them. We adopted three children who were siblings.
Come April, I dream of roses. Not about planting them or about cultivating them. The roses I dream of grow only in my imagination and begin to bloom there about the third week of April, during the Baha’i festival of Ridvan, when I call to mind the intoxicating scent of the sweet flower of my childhood that once grew in my grandmother’s garden—the Peace rose.
We are about to embark on another adoption journey. This time we call it an accidental adoption but it really is more like supernatural conception and childbirth. We thought we were done.
Now that my daughter Amrita is two, the focus of my parenting has shifted from questions on navigating our way through the daily routines of life, to more philosophical ones.
I have a small poster on my fridge, now old and slightly yellowed, which my children love. It's called the "Children's Rights and Responsibilities" and lists all of the basic things to which every child is entitled. They love seeing it and having it read to them—it makes them feel that as children they matter in their own right...
Throughout much of Asia, spring is the time to observe the Buddha's birthday in Mahayana Buddhism.
After the birth of my first child, there was a thought that kept crossing my mind regarding the status of mothers in Islam. Growing up I had heard of hadith (Prophetic sayings) such as, "Your paradise lies under the feet of your mother," and not given much thought to them.
The Baha'i fast is assigned a spiritual significance that can be puzzling to those from religious traditions, cultures and societies in which fasting is not widely practiced.

Charity and Children

Only a small percentage of Christians are extending themselves for the orphan. With 163 million orphans and counting, the statistics show us that if only 7% of the over two billion Christians in the world would adopt, the orphan crisis would be eliminated.
There is a belief common in several Eastern traditions where it is said that the soul of the unborn child enters the body on the 120th day of pregnancy.

Happy O-Higan!

One of my favorite holidays in Japan and Buddhism occurs not once, but twice a year around the spring and fall equinox: O-higan. The holiday literally translates as "the other shore."
"What's a camel doing in the closet—in the winter, in Maine?" The camel, I told the children in my daughter's class, had come all the way from the Middle East, where our religion began. She was too big to fit into a chimney, so she came right in through the front door, and the coat closet right beside that door seemed the most obvious place for her to leave the presents.
A funny thing happened one day recently as we were driving to preschool. We were talking about people who have different shades of skin (my effort to instill a we-are-the-world lesson) and Willow declared that she and I have the same skin; that she looks just like me.

Matea: Gift from God

A prophetic dream became reality.
Guilt seems to be an integral part of modern motherhood. It sometimes seems that no matter what you do, you are not good enough as a mother. Stay at home mothers sometimes feel they miss out on things they want to do and are accused of living through their children, going into overkill mode with every birthday party and milestone, turning their children into spoilt, selfish little monsters.

Little Buddha at Home

My daughter has recently reached four years old, and has blossomed mentally and physically. What surprises me at this age is how her mind has matured and how she picks up on things that I might overlook. Recently, she started to imitate the Buddha seated in meditation as a joke.
The bleak midwinter months test our patience, but for our children, as for ourselves, the season offers opportunities for growth. Nature may be sleeping, but the human soul is not. The dynamic process of spiritual growth is unstoppable.
I felt a connection to a woman who had lived across the continent in Ethiopia. We had never met. She was the birth mother of my three Ethiopian kids and died of AIDS. I can honestly say that I felt a call from her heart to "mother" her children via adoption.
I am not close with members of my family of origin, nor do I live near any of its members. Since my husband is not Jewish, any efforts to raise our four-year-old daughter with a sense of her Jewish maternal heritage rest, naturally, with me.
I was raised with a balance of spiritual exposure and inspiration from Sikhism and Paramahansa Yogananda. Even though Yogananda is my Guru, I do not feel the need to choose one path. I believe all religions are different faces of the same God.
New Year's is a huge festivity in Japan, larger than any other holiday observed there. After my first experience in 2008, I couldn't help thinking that it was Christmas and Thanksgiving in the U.S. all rolled into one three-day festivity.
Christmas is a favourite time of year for most people, parties, gifts, special foods and family traditions--what is not to like? But for most Muslim's this time of year always brings with it a host of issues to consider: should we participate? Should we join in the office parties and games of Secret Santa? Or should we avoid the celebration totally, writing it off as not part of our faith.
It is the season of stars--the star that led the magi to the Christ child; the Star of David, central symbol of the Jewish people, which shines so brightly on the world during the celebration of Hanukkah; and the nine-pointed Baha'i star that rises a little later in the winter season, in February, during Ayyam-i-Ha, the five days of hospitality and gift-giving that precede the Baha'i fast.
We belong to an international Christian church that is very diverse. We are blessed to have people from all different nations available to help us with cultural differences in raising our children.
Now I find myself again in a period of conflict, this time with my own parents, a situation that quickly grew from a cinder into a raging fire consuming the entire acreage of our history together.
When I think of my daughter some day spreading her wings and heading off into the world on her own, I feel a mix of pangs of personal loss combined with an incredible excitement for the experiences that lay before her. Where will she go? Whom will she meet? What will she experience? Who will she become?
For most Americans or residents in the West, December is synonymous with certain holidays like Christmas or Hanukkah. I can fondly remember Christmas morning at my grandmother's house, opening presents, seeing beloved relatives and having a large feast before trundling home sleepy and well fed. Everything seemed more festive, brighter and larger as a child. But times are somewhat different for me now. My Japanese wife and I are raising our little girl Buddhist, which presents some challenges in a country where Buddhism is little understood and hardly visible.
How one family celebrates the biggest Muslim holiday

Raising Good Muslims

I am facing one of the biggest challenges I have ever met: how to raise good Muslims. I have always found progress very easy in my academic and working life and have enjoyed the feeling of sailing through these spheres most of the time. This leads a person to the feeling, especially when you are young, that you are oh-so-clever.
I can remember as a small child thinking that every family was just like my own; I had no base of experience to think otherwise. As I grew I discovered what a rich and diverse world we live in. Every parent must look at their life and choose the experiences that they want to repeat with their children. What kind of home world does one want to create? What traditions and beliefs do they want to share and instill? For some, it will be something very close to their own upbringing, and for others it will be entirely different
Buddhism began for me as it did for many converts in the West: I saw an inspiring TV show about Asian philosophy at the age of 16, read some books and began meditating. But by college I felt myself wavering and leaving Buddhism for something more stimulating only to get bored again and move on once more.
The Baha'i faith was born in the spring, in 1863, in a garden in Baghdad. During Ridvan, the festival that commemorates that beginning, Baha'is around the world celebrate the declaration of Baha'u'llah, whose claim to be the Promised One foretold by all the religions of the past was astonishing to some, incredible to others and to a few, the answer to long search and much prayer.
Both my husband and myself are used to living our lives as members of minorities...Perhaps it allows us to be fitting parents to our daughter, who, like each of us, was born into a culture (Chinese) quite different than the one in which she resides (American).
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