Teaching children about winter holidays
How can you teach children about all the different winter holidays and why is it important?
As the days get shorter and colder, and winter has made its grand entrance, we leap headfirst into holiday season. In our very diverse country, it can often seem like we only celebrate certain holidays. Stores and businesses often decorate for Christmas with trees and lights, but many other religious and spiritual celebrations are taking place during the same season, like Ramadan, Hanukah and Kwanzaa. It is important we teach children that holidays are not universal, not everyone celebrates the same traditions or celebrates in the same way.
Teaching children that every holiday tradition deserves respect is so important for helping children to grow up understanding the value of diversity and inclusion. You can teach children to understand and value this by showing them each person can choose what holidays they celebrate based on their own beliefs. We do this by giving value and respect to others’ celebrations, even if we may not understand them.
Michigan State University Extension has some ideas on how to help your children learn about other holidays and beliefs.
Investigate, ask questions and learn
Encourage your child to explore other traditions and holidays, to learn more than just how they decorate or when it is celebrated. Help them investigate why they celebrate that holiday, how it started and the different ways it is celebrated. Investigate by reading books or watching videos, like Sesame Street talking about winter holidays.
Attend a community event as a family and talk about what you learned. Try to make a traditional meal or snack from another culture or religious or spiritual practice, or ask a friend or neighbor who celebrates something different than your family if they would be willing to share about their beliefs and traditions.
Talk about how we are the same
Talk about the way people and traditions are similar or the same, and show your children that even though we may have a lot of differences, we are all connected. When we focus on the ways we are different, it is easy to forget that there are so many more ways we are the same. Talking about the things, beliefs or traditions we share, along with the ways we are different, teaches your child that different doesn’t mean wrong.
Talk about your own families traditions
Talk to your child about your family’s beliefs. Tell them what your beliefs mean to you as well as why you believe them. Involve them in the process of celebrating holidays and explain to them the significance of each action.
Model inclusion and respect
Children learn values and behaviors from watching adult behaviors. Teach them to respect the beliefs and celebrations of others by showing them that you do too. Send a card or visit someone to wish them a happy celebration of whatever holiday is their tradition. Teach your child respectful words to use. Instead of thinking of “us versus them,” tell your child what words they should use to describe people who are different from themselves. For example, “People who celebrate Hanukah are called Jewish.”
It’s important to note that learning about a specific holiday or religion is not the same as celebrating it. When your child learns about how others celebrate and what they believe, they are expanding their understanding of the world and building a foundation for understanding, respect and inclusion of all people.
For more articles on child development, academic success, parenting and life skill development, please visit the Michigan State University Extension website.