A few days ago, the husband and I were having an argument on what kind of bookshelf to buy for the house. He wanted something quirky that the baby would enjoy and I wanted something sophisticated. It was a fairly inconsequential argument, and we knew that we’d stop thinking about it soon enough. Throughout this time, my two-year-old was walking around in the hall aimlessly. When we picked her up, she was close to tears.
That’s the thing about children- their survival instinct makes them think that everything is about them. She really believed that something bad was happening and that she was somehow involved in it. Now, think about the kids who are caught in conflict around the world. From Syrian refugees to those killed in the recent Paris attacks, kids are victims too. Once they’re old enough to watch the news, kids have a fair idea of what the world is coming to, and it scares them. As parents, how do we address their fears and allay them? How to we teach them the idea of peace in a world that seems to be falling apart?
1. Teach Them To Be Kind
The first thing that comes to my mind is that we can teach them to be better people. Very early on, we can send them the message that violence is for cowards, and peace and harmony are what make us human. We can do this through small acts of kindness and generosity directed at strangers. The next time you see someone at the bus stop, smile. When you see someone struggling to cross the road, help out. Experience has taught me that kids learn best by seeing us, and these are great lessons. A person who is inclined to help others understands the notion of peace and kindness very well.
2. Give Them Some Real Role Models
We cannot be exemplary all the time, so, it’s a good idea to encourage them to derive inspiration from great personalities in history. Young kids will understand the service Mother Teresa did, or stories of the Buddha’s kindness. Older kids will benefit from stories of people in Nazi Germany who saved the jews, or of those people who opened their hearts and doors to victims during various terror attacks. These are all people who believe that humankind can do better than to kill each other.
3. Create A Peaceful Home Environment
Another oft-ignored aspect is peace in the family. Arguments may be inconsequential, but domestic violence is not. As we speak, there are many families across the world being torn apart by it. There are many kids who are being exposed to it and learning that abuse is okay. The best we can do is to teach our own kids that families and communities always work on the ideals of peace and harmony. Demonstrate this to them in as many ways as you can think of.
4. Encourage Participation In Community Activities
And finally, schools play a pivotal role in shaping children’s perceptions, understanding, and eventually, their characters. Community activities such as looking after the downtrodden once a month, collecting donations for worthy causes and openly talking to children about violence and its ill-effects are a great way to round off the experience. These are all suggestions you can make to your child’s school, which can be readily implemented.
I’ll leave you with something a widower said after losing his wife to the Paris attacks. He has a 17 month old son. ‘The greatest revenge my son will extract on the terrorists is by being happy and healthy every day, by leading a life full of purpose and joy’. I couldn’t agree more. The best we can do is let our children thrive and grow into compassionate adults who can change the world for the better.