I think for me, the worst part of dealing with intolerance was when it affected my daughter. I didn’t expect it to, and I was totally unprepared when it happened. Marian was 4 years old. She was out playing in the yard and I was watching her from the patio. I was on the phone and not really paying much attention to the kids that were walking up the road. I didn’t see any reason to worry about them anyway, they had played with her before. They were just kids ages, 4, 7,and 9. I had even babysitted them a few times.

They came to the road in front of my driveway , grabbed some rocks and mud and started throwing them at Marian and calling her “devil girl”. She didn’t run, she just stood there crying. I think she may have been a bit in shock, after all these kids were her friends, she had played with them lots of times. I put my younger daughter, Nefreteri, who was only 2 months old at the time, in the house and ran out there after them. I picked Marian up and screamed at them to stop. They stopped and froze, as if they were scared of me. I asked them why they did it. The youngest, he was about 4, said “My daddy says you’re a witch.”

Hmm. So much for calling their parents.

I took Marian in and cleaned the mud off of her. She didn’t speak for an hour, she just cried and sniffled. I called the police to report it, and they refused to even make a report. I was told “They’re just kids.”

This incident in part was one of the reasons I decided to homeschool my girls. I don’t think that it could have been prevented, but I do think I could have prepared Marian better for it.

If you have children and practice an alternative religion, here are some things you might find useful.

Preparation: This is where I messed up. I didn’t prepare my daughter for the possibility that she may have to deal with intolerance because of my personal beliefs. I think it is important that you let your child know that there are people in the world who hate others because of their religion. Let them know the reasons for this, and make sure they know that it is not right and that they do not have to believe what any of these people tell them. I explained to my daughters that religion is just an opinion, and that they need not fear anything simply for not believing the way other people believe. Exlplain that some people are ignorant, and simply don't know the facts, and don't care enough to learn them before they judge and comment. Also explain that there are mentally ill individuals in the world. When explaining this part of it, I use the same examples I use on the subject of talking to strangers. Some people are sick and can't be trusted. I think this is especially important, because unfortunately, there are a few sick people in the world that like to frighten small children into believing a certain way with threats of “hell” and bad things happening to them.

Arm your child with facts: Educate your child about your religious beliefs. Make sure they know the details of what you practice, even if you choose not to raise them to be religious or expose them to religion. This may help your child clear up any misconceptions other children may have about your religion. (Including the “witch fear” so many children seem to pick up from television and movies).

Family: This can be a sticky situation, especially if it is an inlaw. You do NOT have to accept another person prostelyzing to your child, nor do you have to accept them criticizing them or you, for your beliefs. If this happens, let the person know exactly where you stand on the issue. if they refuse to stop, you may want to consider not allowing them around your child. This may sound harsh, but I think it is a positive step for two reasons. To begin with, you might be protecting your child from a person who may be emotionally abusive. If a person would frighten a small child or attempt to brainwash them into believing something, or that people that don’t believe a certain way are “evil”, then this could be defined as emotional abuse.

The second reason is, you will be setting an example by showing that you will not accept intolerance from ANYONE and he/she doesn’t have to either.

Take Action: If your child is being harassed at school or anywhere else, take action. If they are being harrassed at school, arrange a meeting with the principal and guidance counselor. If at any time, your child is harassed by the school staff, I would suggest contacting the school board immediately. If you do not get anywhere with this, contact an attorney. No adult has the right to prostelyze to your child, and your child has the same right every other child has to have a comfortable learning environment without being subjected to the beliefs of others.

Violence: If your child is the victim of any type of violence, report it to law enforcement. I did this and was unsuccessful, but it may depend on the circumstances and the state you live in.

Teach your child to be tolerant: Last, but not least, it is important that you teach your child to be tolerant of the religious beliefs of others. Let them know that, just as they and you, have the right to your own beliefs, other people have the right to theirs, and they should not ridicule others for having beliefs different than theirs, or make negative comments about them.

Please help fight intolerance for the sake of our children, and help them deal with it when it cannot be avoided. Ridicule and hatred can be very damaging to your child's self esteem. Teach them that respecting the opinions and beliefs of others is the right thing to do, and give them all the emotional support and reassurance they need when they have to deal with people that can't do the same.

Young AREN
Pagan Kids and their parents
Standing Up For Your Kids
Dealing With Nightmares and Teasing