In this page I discuss the importance of building and nurturing a strong sense of identity in our children. This is especially important in today's fast moving technologically governed world where people are not always what they seem. Today's children routinely communicate with others through the internet and specifically through chat programs where they have no real idea of who is on the other end. Is the person you are communicating with really a 15 year old girl or is it some 50 year old man in a completely different country?
I believe it is vital to ensure our children are armed with a strong and secure sense of who they are as individuals, as a member of the family and as a citizen of the world. Without a sense of identity they are left lost wandering through the masses of information available to them without any clue as to what is factual and what is a bunch of baloney.
So how do we ensure they know who they are? First we need to know who we are. Identity changes over time. We start life as a son or daughter and even maybe a sibling, we become friends and partners and then husbands and wives, mums, dads , teacher, employee, employer, workmate, aunt, uncle, grandparent in an ever changing flow throughout our lives. We must embrace this change as it is inevitable. Secondly we must not fear change.
The last aspect of our identity that helps us to ensure our little pagans are set up for their adventure into the big wide world is to be clear about who we are spiritually. This does not always mean we have to have a clear label or that we should expect our little ones to embrace our path. Rather if we know and share what we are they have a starting point to use as a reference for their own journey. It is a bit like a compass that they can cross reference where they are at against.
I will give you an example, as always, from my own household. Until recently I called myself Pagan although that really wasn't specific enough. I therefore ditched the label pagan. It had become too generalised. The label has so many negative misinterpretations within the wider community. But there is no other term that encompasses it's diversity. I broke what I believe down into smaller pieces and came up with EPA. I am an Eclectic Polytheistic Aeonist. This had the carry over effect of making it more possible for my daughter to clarify her own spiritual identity.
Please read her first foray into Philisophical Writing belwo. This is her essay What is Religion?
She now can clearly identify herself as Eclectic. This is clearly where her beliefs are at present however, as stated earlier, the most important aspect to teach our children is that these things change over time, we are constantly evolving and learning new things and when we have done with learning we may as well be dead. New thoughts and ideas keep us youthful and fresh and keep our minds and imaginations active. Philisophical discussion is the realm of creative thinking that should not be kept just for the grown ups but involve children as well.
Like death, dying and the afterworld, are topics that should be discussed with children, our beliefs and our thoughts are structured in part by what we are exposed to as children and our identity is often mostly informed by our childhood. We need to have the freedom to grow and change and be unique when we are young. We need to have the freedom to choose what we are good at and what fulfills us within certain parameters and guidelines set by the family unit.
Most of all we need to allow our children to appreciate each other and themselves as the wonderful people they are just because they exist and not because they are the pretty one or the smart one. Being told this can often undermine a child's sense of personal identity. Being told you are the sane one does not help you appreciate your value to the community and being told you are the troublemaker only sets a child up for failure. These are reflective identities that require others to stand up to extensive scrutiny. We need a sense of who we are that stands alone, that reflects who we are inside and that builds our self esteem not undermines it.
Our identity is a tenuous thing structured from many varying facets built up over time and damaged by hurt and loss. We may have many faces that confuse how other see us whether we have a social face, and solitary face and a family face. These may confuse the world at large but if we are firm about who we are and strong in our self belief then what anyone says or does to us loses the power to hurt. We must always encourage our children to be strong, to never give their power over to bullies and to fight for their rights as valid citizens of the world.
We need to teach them this though as they learn from example so for some parents this may mean that there needs to be initially a period of self healing and building of inner strength. This inner strength is always within you whether you know it and recognise it or not. Strong independent parents raise strong independent children when balanced with love and affection.
We must educate the next generation about the importannce of identity and how it makes us feel like we belong somewhere and empower them to seek their own unique identity beyond the superficial, socially accepted parameters. We need to get them to delve into the depths of their spiritual beliefs and their creative centres to find that which will strengthen their own personal views of who they are as the unique individual that lives in this global society where everyone has a place and their presence is valid.
So hug your children, tell them you love them, call them beautiful, appreciate their uniqueness, foster their creativity, nurture their spirituality and build their sense of identity as strong, secure adults in the process.
And just remember to not stress... They will survive!
An organization that I am happy to support is Autism SA. I have many family members and friends who have Autism spectrum disorders and other such disorders and when I found out about this event I though how completely appropriate. Click on the link and register if you are in Australia as it is happening all round the country. http://drawtism.com.au
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© July 2009 by Louise O'Brien
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