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Teaching Kids About the Dignity of Life

by David B. Ryan

Teaching kids about the dignity of life begins can be started in early childhood and continued through adolescence. Young children understand the importance of life by watching you interact with people and animals, but kids also need to discuss dignity issues with you in terms they can easily understand. Religious teachings provide different interpretations on how to demonstrate dignity for the living, but all organized religions agree on some basic principles. Your children can learn these by doing a few activities as they grow.

Elderly Volunteer Work

Caring for the elderly teaches kids that all people eventually grow old, and that there is dignity in aging well. Helping the aged in the community demonstrates sanctity for human life. Ask your children to craft small homemade gifts and write notes for the elderly, including one who isn't among your family members and close friends. Recognize this person on holidays and important days such as the senior's birthday. Bring your children to visit and encourage the kids to ask about interesting events or things that happened during the senior's life.

Family Pets

The family pet teaches kids how to treat all living things with dignity. Pets typically have shorter life expectancies, and children become aware of the animal's physical limitations as your pet ages. Involve your child in making the necessary accommodations to handle aging, such as making a coat for an older dog to wear in cold weather. The death of a pet also teaches kids the reality that all people and animals die. Discuss the importance of providing a quality life for your pet and what that entails. Give your children regular age-appropriate pet care duties, and model how to show love to the animal so your child learns proper ways to show affection. If your living arrangement doesn't allow for family pets, volunteer at a local shelter or clinic, or ask a neighbor with animals to allow your children to help out with pet chores and love duty.

Extended Family

Visit your parents, grandparents and extended family regularly to demonstrate the importance of relationships in life. Develop a family tree and talk to your child about the people on the document. Your child may not understand the difference between a grandmother or a second cousin, but understanding the concept of family helps teach the importance of nurturing dignified relationships. Family stories help kids learn to have empathy for others, according to the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley. Encourage your child to cut images from magazines, write a word or draw a picture to send to extended family living far away. Take photos of your child to share with family and ask relatives to return photos for your child to keep.

Child's Garden Project

The dignity of life involves humans and all living things, and a small garden project designed specifically for children teaches kids about wildlife, insects, plant life, and also the role plants play in sustaining human life. A tiny garden that rotates plants from the spring through fall helps make children aware of the seasons and the important role insects and birds play in growing the food we eat. Take food from the garden for family meals and to share with others, and allow your children to invite a friend to share the story of the child's garden and the experience of dining on the harvest.

About the Author

David B. Ryan has been a professional writer since 1989. His work includes various books, articles for "The Plain Dealer" in Cleveland and essays for Oxford University Press. Ryan holds degrees from the University of Cincinnati and Indiana University and certifications in emergency management and health disaster response.

Photo Credits

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