Lessons from Man­dela

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FAMILY - By AN­GELA JACK­SON

AS the world mourns the pass­ing of Nel­son Man­dela, I couldn’t help but think that his legacy of peace, re­silience, tol­er­ance and for­give­ness are valu­able lessons that we can pass on to our chil­dren.

As par­ents, how can we use his legacy to in­spire a new gen­er­a­tion to lead, in big and small ways, on the world stage or in their com­mu­ni­ties and per­sonal lives. Man­dela’s life and jour­ney are a les­son in peace and equal­ity and in the trans­for­ma­tive power of re­silience and for­give­ness. Th­ese are all qual­i­ties that most par­ents would be pleased to have their child em­body.

Con­sider ask­ing your child, as you watch the news re­ports on Man­dela’s life to­gether, what they know about him. Read­ing an ar­ti­cle to your child is another great way to try and per­son­alise Man­dela’s legacy for them. High­light the val­ues from Man­dela’s life that res­onate most with you as a par­ent.

Ask your child which of Man­dela’s val­ues they see in them­selves or seek for them­self. Ask them to point out peo­ple in their world – teach­ers, rel­a­tives and even you – who em­body th­ese val­ues.

I re­mem­ber when my god­son was four years old and he’d de­scribe his friends as “the boy with the yel­low hair” or “the girl with the big smile and freck­les.”

He never de­scribed is friends as “black,” “white” or oth­er­wise. He de­scribed them based on their per­son­al­i­ties or true fa­cial fea­tures.

As adults, we some­times find our­selves putting peo­ple in boxes that are most ac­cepted by so­ci­ety. The beauty of our chil- dren is that they don’t see th­ese boxes at all.

The op­por­tu­nity to use Man­dela’s life to talk about build­ing char­ac­ter will al­low your child to ex­plore things that are be­yond the sur­face, which is what most of us be­lieve truly mat­ters about oth­ers.

This pass­ing of Man­dela is also a mo­ment to al­low chil­dren to be in­quis­i­tive. They might not un­der­stand the val­ues that can be learned at this time, but this is where you can step in as a par­ent to guide and ex­plain, by giv­ing liv­ing ex­am­ples of th­ese val­ues in ac­tion.

The key is to teach our chil­dren to recog­nise what char­ac­ter looks like. Ask your child if the val­ues they think are most im­por­tant are ones that they would like to imi­tate.

As we know, words are pow­er­ful. Re­searchers all over the world tout the im­por­tance of hav­ing nat­u­ral con­ver­sa­tions with chil­dren, be it ask­ing ques­tions while read­ing books with them or help­ing chil­dren iden­tify words dur­ing play­time; all of th­ese ac­tiv­i­ties lead to in­creased lit­er­acy for chil­dren.

By us­ing Man­dela’s life as a topic of con­ver­sa­tion, not only are you giv­ing your child a deeper per­spec­tive than they would nat­u­rally have had, but you will also give them a gift of in­creased per­cep­tion of self, and an ex­panded vo­cab­u­lary, which will serve them a life­time.

An­gela Jack­son is the founder of the Global Lan­guage Project, a non­profit pro­gram that teaches youth a sec­ond lan­guage while pre­par­ing them and em­pow­er­ing them to com­pete in a global work­force. Learn more at www. glob­al­lan­guage­pro­ject.org.

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