A ring to rally against vi­o­lence and ha­tred

What to do when your kids need an­swers

North York Post - - Kids - by Joanne Kates

I was in New York last week, and while talk­ing to a 10-year-old girl and her mother, the mom told me that her daugh­ter had a night­mare, the night be­fore, that the UN build­ing got blown up by ter­ror­ists.

This is what 10-year-olds are think­ing about. Is it only 10-yearolds in New York? Not a chance.

Thanks to the global vil­lage and the on­line info-ex­plo­sion, we all, even our young ones, know too much about the sor­rows of the world. Too much to feel safe. Which cre­ates an ur­gent ques­tion: How do we talk to kids about this frac­tured and fear-in­duc­ing world?

The first an­swer to that ques­tion is about what not to do. Many of us, these days, feel de­s­pair and fear. Not so great for us as adults. But imag­ine the turbo-charged ef­fect of that mind­set on our kids. We’re formed. Our psy­ches were set in a time of greater per­ceived global har­mony and safety. Not so our chil­dren. And we hold re­spon­si­bil­ity for this in our hands — which means we have to get cre­ative about how to talk to them about those po­lit­i­cal and global con­flict mat­ters that up­set us.

If we give in to (and thus teach our chil­dren) pas­siv­ity, we do them great harm. Pas­siv­ity is a prob­lem for both us and by ex­ten­sion our kids. Pas­siv­ity breeds and mod­els de­s­pair and paral­y­sis in the face of events we can­not ap­par­ently con­trol or change. Pas­siv­ity is dead­en­ing. Pas­siv­ity fu­els anx­i­ety and fear.

What we can do is help our kids to find a way to be in­stru­men­tal in the world, be­cause do­ing some­thing is al­ways bet­ter than feel­ing pow­er­less. Start with con­ver­sa­tions about the other. Let’s get some homework go­ing. Prob­a­bly more in­ter­est­ing than most homework. Maybe kids might want to do a re­search pro­ject on these peo­ple who are other and whom we fear. They will surely dis­cover that the vast ma­jor­ity of those who are other are no threat to any­one.

At which point the con­ver­sa­tion around your din­ner ta­ble can turn to: Do we want to be an ally to those peo­ple? What would be good about that? How might we do it? Can we think of some ways? Would it be good for us or just them? What about be­ing an ally to peo­ple we know who are bul­lied or ex­cluded? Would that be good for us or just them? Be­cause this work starts at the mi­cro level with tol­er­ance and em­pa­thy and in­clu­sion of those who are other. You’ll no­tice this con­ver­sa­tion in­cludes the grownups ask­ing ques­tions and lis­ten­ing to the kids — which in my ex­pe­ri­ence is the best way to foster kids’ buy-in.

Af­ter the tragic mur­der of the men at prayers in the Que­bec City mosque, I was in­spired by the lead­er­ship and good deeds of Holy Blos­som Tem­ple. They, in turn in­spired by a hu­man chain cre­ated around a syn­a­gogue in Oslo af­ter an at­tack, cre­ated a sym­bolic ring of pro­tec­tion. Holy Blos­som con­gre­gants formed a Ring of Peace out­side a Toronto mosque dur­ing Fri­day prayers, to say: “We stand with and for you.”

Seven Rings of Peace were cre­ated around seven mosques in the GTA, and Rings of Peace are grow­ing else­where — to stand against vi­o­lence and ha­tred. Some might think to pro­tect chil­dren from such a demon­stra­tion of pro­tec­tion. Some might want to shield chil­dren from knowl­edge of at­tacks. But that cat is out of the bag. Kids know about these sad events. And con­trary to our fear of get­ting them in­volved — act­ing against ha­tred is em­pow­er­ing for chil­dren. It will give them hope, which they des­per­ately need.

Hope comes from ac­tion. Hope comes from be­liev­ing you can make a dif­fer­ence. No­body is too young for that.The small­est ac­tions to­ward mend­ing the world, whether it’s kind­ness to a vul­ner­a­ble child on their school­yard or join­ing hands in a Ring of Peace, will grow our chil­dren’s em­pa­thy, in­clu­sion and be­lief in their own abil­ity to make the world a bet­ter place. This is how we de­feat our chil­dren’s de­s­pair and fear.

The Rings of Peace serve to help com­fort

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