Confusion to Solution: Educating Children about the Sikh Identity

Guest blogged by Navjot Kaur

Usually, I can take quite a lot before something unsettles me. Today, my pressure cooker was whistling.

When you think things cant get much worse, they have a way of doing just that. When it rains, it pours, right? As I went to pick up my son at the end of his second day in Kindergarten, he appeared at the exit door with his patka almost off his head. I thought to myself, they probably had Gym class. But that wasnt the case. I was quickly informed that another Kindergartener had pulled my sons patka off his head while he sat on the carpet. I almost cried but didnt. I felt angry but held it together for my sons sake. I questioned whether it had been an action of curiosity? I hoped that the response would be positive but it was not. Bullying, in Kindergarten.

sp_banner.jpgYes, my son looks different in many ways. He has his visible faith-identity and he also has his deaf identity. Hes smaller than his peers and he has some special challenges but his personality is like the sunshine. Its rays can trickle into even the darkest cracks and brighten up your day. I would not allow this incident to darken his future school days.

We came home and once we had cuddled, I reassured him when he asked, You’re going to tell [boys name] to say sorry to me? I went into another room and cried. Im not sure why I felt so defeated for that tiny moment but I did. Nevertheless, after talking to my sister, who works for a non-profit organization lobbying for change on such issues, I gained my strength and prepared next steps.

My son’s teacher handled the situation by approaching the other childs parent who consequently apologized to us personally which was truly appreciated. The teacher agreed to have me come into the class to present about the Sikh identity since she was honest enough to accept that she was not well informed enough about the identity herself. I was grateful for an opportunity to change my anger at ignorance into a more constructive response.

Although our son was hesitant to return to school, I gave him a day filled with love and cuddles at home before grappling with a year of unknowns. For the first time, I understood why a faith-based school feels safe and secure for immigrant families and even began searching for my local ones. It was a gut reaction. But then, the world is a global encounter and life happens.

Whether you are a member of a visible identity or living with a special challenge, bullying and ignorance hurts. Presenting such an issue to Kindergartners is never easy but they had to be given an opportunity to become solutionaries and so, I tried to be positive and embraced the support from the teachers to do just that.

5216_101013043246750_100000141633980_24912_7213715_n.jpgI began with a reading of A Lion’s Mane. I was surprised at how engaged the kids remained with the story. After my presentation, the students were eager to create puppets and “crowns” of their own, and the teacher’s enthusiasm and interest to learn something new was genuine. The school day ended with the students wearing their roaring lion masks and proudly wearing their “crowns” alongside my son and his patka. And yes, everyone stared. Not because these children looked different but because these bystanders too wanted to learn something new. My sons face was the brightest of all and when he told me: Mummy, thank you for reading A Lions Mane to my class, it made my heart smile. Small people can create big change. Authentic voices are needed but children can be raised to become solutionaries and become the informed leaders we need for tomorrows world.

If you are faced with a similar situation or if your child is being bullied, here are a few suggestions:

1. Contact your childs teacher immediately and discuss your concerns.

2. Ensure that your child feels like his/her voice is being heard. Listen to your child and teach them to say no.

3. Schools offer interpreters, so if you are not comfortable handling the situation yourself, approach a community member or group who can advocate for your child.

4. Offer resources to the school to help them understand your childs needs [link].

5. Encourage visits to local museums (the Sikh exhibit is up for another two years at theWingLukeMuseumof the Asian Pacific American Experience).

6. Find support for yourself and your family.

Do you have other suggestions? Please share if you do. In the meantime, look out for some additional free resources that Ill be sharing with you soon. If you would like to learn more about my presentation to use in your child’s classroom, please feel free to contact me.

::

Navjot Kaur is the award-winning children’s book author of A Lion’s Mane and Dreams of Hope, published by Saffron Press.


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53 Responses to “Confusion to Solution: Educating Children about the Sikh Identity”

  1. Jodha says:

    Both – timely and touching Navjot Kaur. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Shelly kaur says:

    Thanks word is not enough for your Sewa..my friend Amrita Kaur gifted that book to my daughter..she just started her kindergarten..I’m thinking to buy more books for my dtr’s class as a gift..although I have 3 girls..don’t know how they gonna present themselves yet but I still want their surrounding to be aware about their faith..also my thoughts are that Sikh parents should be more active in schools activities..my dtr’s school offer all different kind of volunter work..where u can engage with other parents and staff..and it’s gives you opportunity to share you thoughts..I don’t have that much experience yet since she is my first child going to school but I’m learning..

  3. Navjot, this is very poignantly written piece with a powerful message. I love how the book "A Lion's Mane" uses the Sikh identity to connect with other cultures, which is something I find lacking in these sorts of books. The way you, your son, the other boy's parents, and the school handled the situation is commendable. Often, when the bullying is more subtle, it goes unnoticed, or when these sorts of things are passed off as "kids being kids," it sends the wrong message to everyone involved and encourages this sort of behavior.

    I am curious as to your suggestion(s) on handling a situation where either the parents of the bully or perhaps the school authorities don't believe an incident is a result of discrimination, and is simply "kids being kids?" Thank you for this much needed post!

  4. "Small people can create big change. Authentic voices are needed, but children can be raised to become solutionaries and become the informed leaders we need for tomorrow’s world."

    I think so often it is really easy to forget this — but in every little thing we do, children are absorbing, learning and forming habits and opinions. I love the word "solutionaries." It really encapsulates the idea that the time to teach our children is now. I can't wait till our daughter Kavya is old enough to embrace the message of "A Lion's Mane."

  5. Prabhjot Singh says:

    Really beautiful and productive story.

  6. kaurpower says:

    my sisters son JUST faced this exact issue and my brother faced the exact issue 22 years ago (as we were born and raised here in the US). The exact sentiments – the exact feelings = were present in both generations – either thats a reflection on how things haven't changed in 22 years or how we should all make an effort that more kids aren't faced with this. Your book is inspiring as well as this blog post – thank you!

  7. Is there kantay says:

    Yuba city

  8. Tej says:

    It's also important to attend PTA meetings & school board meetings. Even though I don't have kids yet, as a taxpayer, I attend both whenever I can. I really wish that all gurdwaras had weekly discussion forums or groups where parents, kids & others could discuss & take preventative actions on the issues raised in this article & ensuing comments. Unfortunately, we tend to be a reactive people, rather than proactive. Although Sikhs want their kids to maintain a Sikh identity, we don't seem to make it easy for our kids to be Sikhs. Sometimes I doubt if I'll have the strength to raise Sikh kids. I'm also apprehensive about the emotional & psychological toll that I would be inflecting by raising my future kids as Sikhs. I also wonder what kind of help, emotional, psychological or otherwise, will a parent like Navjot or a kid like her's get from our community.

  9. Sundari says:

    This is good news for students in California: on Sunday California Gov. Jerry Brown signed Seth's Law, a bill named in memory of Seth Walsh, who was just 13 last year when he committed suicide, reportedly after enduring bullying in school for being gay.

    The law, which goes into effect in July, will create an anti-bullying system at all California schools by requiring school districts to institute anti-harassment policies and an online complaint procedure, with shorter timelines for investigating claims of bullying. It would require schools to establish policies to prevent bullying, be responsive to complaints about bullying, train personnel on recognizing and intervening on bullying, and make resources available to victims of bullying.

  10. tanyamarise says:

    Beautiful! Thank you Navjot. You are a truly inspiring woman. Please thank your son for me.

  11. Satnam kaur says:

    Very well done. We need these kind of exposure for our young kids.Iknow for boys the identity of Dastar but equally important for girls of all ages to keep long here and keep them neet &tidy.Thanks for your great effort.Continue this seva.

  12. Adi Shakti Kaur says:

    Dear Navjot Kaur, Thank you for your post, creating safe environments for our children is not always easy, but your approach to the bullying and ignorance (which builds the foundation for tomorrow's racism) was proactive and shifted the world for all those children, and most of all for your son. He witnessed his mother approach this challenging situation proactively, with love and kindness, but also a clear message that differences can have a space to exist and be celebrated, and whether we are different or similar, there is still oneness … Ek Onkar. For me, as a fellow mother and a Sikh, you demonstrated the social justice responsibility we hold so dearly as Sikhs, as warrior saints, and your thoughtful approach represents empowerment, interconnectedness, and to be of service. Thank you for not only delivering what was best for this potentially traumatic experience but writing about this, your sevaa will have far more ripples … Thank you.

  13. :) says:

    agreed, nice story.

  14. Ernestina says:

    very nice post, i definitely enjoy this amazing site, persist with it

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