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Why look for truth in distant lands? Seek it in the depths of your own heart. — Buddhist saying, adapted
IN TODAY'S SESSION...
We heard a Buddhist story about conscience, or inner voice, in which a child recognizes that no matter what he does, or who else is watching, he always sees his own actions. We did a drama activity in which we stepped into the shoes of the characters to better understand the ideas in the story.
We introduced a visual aid, the "Moral Compass" poster. In each session of Moral Tales, children explore a different direction one can go, or a virtue one can tap, to act with goodness and justice. Today, the children talked about using one's conscience or inner voice to find direction. They also talked about remembering the interdependence of every living being on Earth as another virtue that can lead us to decide and act with goodness and justice.
We also introduced the "Gem of Goodness" project today. Please read the handout (Letter to Parents) describing this activity. A Gems of Goodness activity will happen each time the children meet. Your participation will ensure your child is ready to participate each time and gain maximum benefit from this project.
EXPLORE THE TOPIC TOGETHER.
A book about developing social conscience in children is Raising Resilient Children by Robert Coles and Sam Goldstein (Chicago: Contemporary Books, 2001). Coles and Goldstein offer some principles for parents to help children develop responsibility, compassion and social conscience. The first principle is, "Serve as a role model of responsibility." The second is, "Provide opportunities for children to feel that they are helping others, which includes acknowledging the helpful things they do each day."
Tell your child some examples of times when you have noticed him/her using their conscience, as well as times when you have used yours.
EXTEND THE TOPIC TOGETHER. TRY...
Start a list this week of times each day when a family member has used their conscience to make a decision. You might pick certain areas to focus on, such as dealing kindly or fairly with others at school or work, sibling interactions, awareness of taking care of the Earth, or clean-up at home.
A FAMILY RITUAL
Start a family ritual in which the Moral Tales story is retold at a meal, soon after the session. Then invite family members to share a question or a feeling about the story and tell a personal story about a time when something like that happened to them.
The stories used in Moral Tales are part of the Tapestry of Faith religious education program published online by the Unitarian Universalist Association. You can find "The Wise Teacher's Tale," the Buddhist story your child heard today, along with the full Moral Tales curriculum and all the session's central stories.
You are your child's best teachers and the personal stories you share of how you have learned and grown from experience will stay with them for guidance and comfort.
The quotation above comes from Kindness: A Treasury of Buddhist Wisdom for Children and Parents by Sarah Conover (Boston: Skinner House, 2010), a collection of Buddhist stories for children.
Other books with Buddhist stories for children are:
Zen Shorts by Jon Muth (N.Y. Scholastic Press, 2006)
One Hand Clapping: Zen Stories for All Ages, by Rafe Martin (New York: Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., 1995)
A book to help children understand Buddhism is What Makes Me A Buddhist by Charles George (Farmington Hills, MI: Kidhaven Press, 2004).