Helping Kids Think About Death

The Bug Cemetery (New York Holt, 2002). Kids find a dead ladybug and conduct a mock funeral, then another and another for all the dead bugs in the neighborhood. All is fun and games until Billy's cat is hit by a car, and sadness becomes real. Not unlike Margaret Wise Brown's classic The Dead Bird, but the twist makes it even more powerful. Ages 4-8. Brown, Laurie Krasny, and Marc Brown. When Dinosaurs Die A Guide to Understanding Death (New York Little, Brown Young Readers,...

Human Knot

All ages best for groups of eight to fifteen. Can be used with multiple groups of that size at once. Materials an open floor space or field 1. Have everyone in the group stand shoulder to shoulder together in circle facing each other, tightly together. 2. Each person reaches both hands into the circle and grabs two other hands. You may not grab the hands of the people right next to you, and you can't grab both hands with the same person. 3. The group tries to disentangle the knot into a circle...

Word Association for Mixed Marriages

Take this list of words and talk about their meaning to you and your partner. See if you and your partner can agree on (1) which words both of you could use with your children, (2) which are too loaded to use, and (3) which you could create your own family meaning for. Sample words altar, amen, awe, baptize, bible, blessing, benediction, born again, Christ, communion, church, confession, covenant, crucifixion, devil, divine, enlightenment, evil faith, God, gospel, grace, heaven, hell, holy,...

Yeah

Groups of two to eight. If more are participating, break them into a few groups. Materials Topics for argument appropriate to the age group. This is an activity used at Camp Quest to encourage kids to think on their feet and argue both sides of an issue. It's adapted from an activity called Chain Debate that is used as a warmup for high school policy debate teams. It's good for small groups of kids ages 8 and up. It can also be used as a way to air a disagreement in the group and...

Humanistic Jewish Congregations

For those who are nontheistic but remain committed to cultural or ethnic Jewish identity and tradition, there are twenty-nine congregations in North America identified with Humanistic Judaism. Humanistic Jewish congregations celebrate Jewish holidays and practice Jewish traditions in a way that is free of supernatural elements. The congregations offer programs for children, and the Society for Humanistic Judaism offers youth conferences. To learn about their youth programs, go to www.shj.org....

Common Bonds

All ages, groups of eight or more the more, the better Materials scratch pads, pens, butcher paper, markers 2. Each pair talks to discover something they have in common (an interest, a preference, a talent, an experience, etc.), then writes it down. 3. Each pair then finds another pair. Kids determine something that all four members have in common and write it down. 4. Each group of four then finds another group of four and determines something all eight have in common. 6. Make a mural...

Celebrating Difference

Love Makes a Family Portraits of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Parents and Their Families (Amherst, MA University of Massachusetts Press, 1999). Age 14+. Mills, Andy, Becky Osborn, and Erica Neitz. Shapesville (Carlsbad, CA Gurze Books, 2003). An early introduction to a healthy attitude regarding body image and diversity. Shapesville is a town in which friends of different shapes, sizes, colors, and skills discuss their differences and celebrate what...

Christmas

Angel Pig and the Hidden Christmas (London Puffin Books, 2000). Shows the joy of turning away from commercialism and making your own gifts. Ages 4-8. Robinson, Jo, and Jean Staehel. Unplug the Christmas Machine (New York William Morrow Publishing, 1991). A classic for parents (now in its thirteenth printing) on ways to decommercialize Christmas. Special attention is paid to the nonreligious. Adult. Elliot, Jock. Inventing Christmas How Our Holiday Came to Be (New York Harry N....

Widening the Circles of Empathy

A good case can be made that acceptance and appreciation of difference is the central value of humanistic ethics. Although this is explored in greater detail in Finding and Creating Community chapter 8, here are a few ways for families to accentuate and celebrate difference. Who's in your boat In our social relationships, empathy is based on the feeling that we have something in common with others the awareness that We're in the same boat.Yet cultural awareness usually classifies us into a few...

Questions and Answers

Q How can a nonreligious person comfort a child who has experienced a devastating loss A Nonreligious parents who suffered the loss of a close relative when they were young often tell of the well-meaning but very unhelpful things that were said to them I know your mother is in heaven with God. Jesus took her because she was so good. (Now be a good girl and eat your peas.) It's hard to find a mainstream expert on grief who considers religious consolations useful or even advisable when comforting...

For the Grieving Child

Help Me Say Goodbye Activities for Helping Kids Cope When a Special Person Dies (Hudson, NY Fairview, 1999). An art therapy book with activities for grieving kids. Ages 4-8. Dennison, Amy, Allie, and David. Our Dad Died The True Story of Three Kids Whose Lives Changed (Minneapolis Free Spirit, 2003). Dad died unexpectedly in his sleep from arrhythmia. Mom had the kids (8,8, and 4 at the time) journal for two years. Although the family is Jewish, there is very little reference...

All My Friends and Neighbors

All ages, groups often to sixty or more. Kids and adults can play this game together. Materials open field or floor space and enough chairs for everyone in the group minus one. This is a game we play at Camp Quest to help everyone get to know each other. Set up the chairs in a circle, with one chair fewer than the number of participants. The person starting the game stands in the middle and says something true about him- or herself, beginning with the phrase All my friends and neighbors . . ....

Resources

Ethical People and How They Get to Be That Way (in press). This book will be available through the Ethical Humanist Society of Long Island. Check for availability at www.ehsli.org pubs index.php. Dobrin has taught a wide range of courses including moral education at Hofstra University and led the Ethical Humanist Society of Long Island for over thirty years. Ethical People is academic and philosophical in tone, with in-depth treatments of topics including research on children's...

Unitarian Universalist Fellowships

Unitarian fellowships are creedless, meaning they require no expression of shared dogmas, doctrines, or religious beliefs. In lieu of doctrines, the denomination is organized around Seven UU Principles (outlined in the Appendix). The majority of Unitarian Universalists identify as atheists or agnostics, and an even larger percentage (91 percent) include humanist as one of their self-identities.8 Unitarian Universalist congregations have a well-developed religious education program for kids,...

Living and Teaching Ethics in Your Family

Ask Lois Kellerman, a longtime Ethical Culture Leader, what she's thinking when she creates moral education programs for children, and the first thing she says is, You're creating more than a curriculum you're building a culture that nurtures the growth of humane values. Even tiny details make a difference. For example, at the Humanist Community Sunday School in Palo Alto, we had kids take their shoes off for two reasons It was a noncoercive but effective way to keep kids from running around...

Curricula

Sample curriculum _Neighbor_exploration.pdf The American Ethical Union publishes some of its religious education curricula for kids on its website. The Love Your Neighbor curriculum is its ethics and values curriculum for preschool through early elementary school. If you are starting a children's program, you may find some of the stories and activities useful. If you are considering an Ethical Society, you may also find this curriculum interesting as an example of the children's programs...

The Buddha and the Mustard Seed

When I lost a baby in an ectopic pregnancy, it was a sad and scary time for my 5-year-old. Just a couple of weeks earlier, we had been happily making up songs about the new baby we would be welcoming into our family. But then her mommy spent three days in the hospital for surgery. When I came home, I had to tell my daughter that our baby was not going to be born, and I was too sore to take her on my lap and comfort her. We could still snuggle, though, and a few days later, as we cuddled on the...

The Question of the Pledge

During her afterschool snack one day, Delaney 6 asked, What does 'liberty' mean I knew immediately why she would ask and was once again ashamed of myself in comparison to my kids. I don't think I pondered the meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance until I was well into middle school. When I was her age, I'm certain I thought EyePlejjaleejins was one word that meant something like, Hey, look at the flag. I certainly didn't know I was promising undying loyalty to something. Liberty means freedom, I...

Molleen Matsumura

Next to parenthood, writing the Sweet Reason advice column was the best preparation for contributing to this book. So, deepest thanks to Matt Cherry for inviting me to launch it sometimes our friends know us better than we know ourselves. Elaine Friedman and Ruth Geller have been friendly and thoughtful editors. So has Duncan Crary, who goes the extra ten miles in giving support. Jone Johnson-Lewis, Don Montagna, and Lois Kellerman gave permission to include Steps to Seeking Forgiveness Jone...

Finding Our Voiceand Each Other

When I first approached agents and publishers with the idea of a book on non-religious parenting in 2003, I was confidently informed that no real audience existed for such a book. There was a book titled How to Be a Jewish Parent, serving the 2.5 percent of the U.S. population that is Jewish another titled Effective Islamic Parenting for the 1 percent that is Islamic and even one called Raising Witches Teaching the Wiccan Faith to Children for that 0.004 percent slice of the U.S. pie. But the...