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Any Advice?


Phoebe123
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Hi everyone,

 

A parent has registered their child to start at my setting in September, so I have plenty of time to consider how best to accommodate their requests re festivals and birthdays. They are Jehovah's Witnesses and do not celebrate birthdays. Birthdays are a particular aspect of our routines, we have a special circle time in which the child brings photos of themselves one at birth, one at one year, one at two and so on. We discuss how they have changed over the years and the passage of time - always a difficult concept for young children. They then walk around a candle holding a globe to show how the earth has gone around the sun a year for each year of their life and so on. After Happy Birthday, the child blows out the candle and has the chance of choosing their favourite songs. Some bring in cakes, some send in other cultural items. It is a really special time. I feel sorry that this child will not be able to share in this activity and conscious that I need to plan for her to have something for herself that will not just mean she is pushed away each time we do this.

 

Don't need to mention all the Christmas and Easter things she will obviously miss out on too. It's a difficult one, but I am sure we can do it. Any ideas?

 

Lesley :o

 

PS: Have discussed this with parent, who still wishes her to come.

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Hi Lesley

 

Athough I'm getting on a bit now and am not a JW (turned my back when I was in my teens) - I was that child, no assemblies, birthday parties, etc xD .

 

A lot of how you accommodate this particular child depends upon how strict the parents are. TBH in my case the photo thing would have been OK but the candle and singing happy birthday would have been a no no. The basis of not celebrating birthdays (too long winded for the whole explaination) is about not 'glorifying the individual'. Also, anything that would involve so called 'pagan' rituals is ruled out.

 

I'd have a chat with mom and tell her what you do for birthdays, Easter, Christmas and ask what she would like her child to do. I know many families who have kept the child at home when it is Christmas party day or the nativity play etc.

 

BUT, it may also be an idea to speak to your development officer first about how this would fit in with EYFS - because it's just occured to me that it may be considered as going against the unique child ethos not to offer an alternative activity (not sure how that will fit in with staffing, etc).

 

I'm sure there are plenty of wise people here who have come across this issue before and have worked around it.

 

Good luck (oh JWs can't say that either :o)

 

RR

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Hi Lesley,

we too celebrate the children's birthdays as you do, something I learnt in my Montessori training, and the children really enjoy it and get so involved in suggesting what they could do when they were 1, 2, 3 etc.

I was at school with a girl who was a JW and she always had to sit by herself with a book when we carried out activities for birthdays, Christmas, Easter etc. and I always remember feeling really sorry for her, and she didn't look too happy about it either!

Sorry don't know what the answer is, unless you have a TA who could maybe do something with her while celebrations are going on - preparing snack for later, mixing paints - sorting out collage materials - anything but sending her to the table to read a book by herself!!

 

jackie.

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We will have a JW starting next year - so I'll be interested to read the comments in this thread!

 

I would hope that the parents will make an allowance for the fact that the child is only going to be 3 and then 4 with us, and honestly, do they understand really? Especially if there's no great impetus from home. I hope that when the time comes, my discussions with the mum and grandparents (mum is only 16) will be such that they understand that we celebrate each child's individuality.

 

I'll wait and see.

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Hi

 

We've had JW children in the past being near a Kingdom Hall with no problems but you do have to respect the parents choices. It's too complicated to go into why they don't celebrate birthdays and appear not to celebrate Christmas and Easter.We re-arranged our routines so that birthdays were celebrated at the end of the session. We quietly spoke to mums that it was a 'birthday day' and they picked up 15 minutes earlier. Because they didn't celebrate the childs birthday day we suggested that on another day in the year they brought 'thankyou for being my friends' buns/ cake etc to share at snack instead and they did. One parent's child had a 'party' for friends again not near her birthday and another ask if their child could bring a new toy they had to show so they didn't miss out on the speaking to the group about their life. Becareful of the hidden events-teddy having a birthday, cakes being made in playdough. If they accure naturally in play it's ok and the child will understand as it is explain to them at home that other children and families do these things but is not really fair to plan them as whole setting events.

 

Parents differ but we gave them plenty of warning about planned religious and cultural events so they could think over and consult with elders about what they wanted to do. One was against doing Chinese New Year at first request (we gave her a list about activites we had in mind) but with the advanced warning was able to ask at The Hall and the child was allowed to enjoy in all activities as it was considered cultural rather than religious. We did the input for Shove Tuesday, Easter Story at the end of session too.

 

The years we had a JW child we did 'spring'-chicks, flowers etc and avoided Easter eggs and Christmas we did Robins, Snow etc. All the JW children we had in nursery missed the last 2 weeks before Christmas and the last week before the summer holidays so we fitted the religious elements into the final 2 weeks.

 

Ask your parents for guidance from Kingdom Hall about having a JW child in your class. There are pamphlets available to advise you and its a recurring theme in the Watch Tower magazine.

 

In my experience JW parents were most grateful for the efforts we went to to respect their wishes and always gave staff the fullest respect and support.

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I would hope that the parents will make an allowance for the fact that the child is only going to be 3 and then 4 with us, and honestly, do they understand really? ...

 

I'll wait and see.

 

The last thing I want to do is turn this into a critique of JWs but it is important to understand that JWs immerse their children into this from birth. They take them to the Kingdom Hall and on the 'work' (door to door preaching) as soon as they can physically get there.

 

There are no separate rooms for children(Sunday school, etc), they take part in the full meetings at all times. There are no concessions made to give them a gentle introduction. Young children will be included in listening to 'talks' (sermons) that criticise Higher Education, sexual matters (in graphic detail), women being in subjection to their husbands, etc, etc.

 

There can be no allowances made - you're in or you're out - no middle ground, sorry.

 

I really hope that this hasn't come across as a rant, but please be aware of what you're going to be dealing with. As I said earlier, it depends upon how strict the parents are but, any concessions will be made on your part, not theirs.

 

All you can do is make it the best experience you can for the child and show that us 'worldly' people are actually quite nice :o .

 

RR

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The last thing I want to do is turn this into a critique of JWs

 

 

Absolutely not! But it's interesting to try to understand the fundamentals of what is a branch, I think (someone please correct me if I'm wrong) of Christianity

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We have no children of Jehovah Witness faith at the moment but we have had two (not at the same time)

 

For me it's all about inclusion, including every child in the setting and welcoming them as individuals with their cultures/beliefs etc being part of who they are.

How we then 'cater' for these is down to negotiating/planning with the child's interests at the heart of discussions and the child's family fully involved.

 

For us, one child was not allowed to join in singing Christmas carols and the agreed way to enable this to happen was for the child to be 'chosen' to help a member of staff or given something 'special' to do. It's how it is put into practice that matters - it was certainly never ever a case of 'oh we are going to sing carols and you can't so off you go' kind of thing. Nor did it appear to others that this child was 'chosen' whenever carol singing occured. The child was unaware that he was 'missing' anything. When it came to making decorations, he was allowed to make a reindeer but not 'rudolph' or any links to stories, it was just an animal, he made 'pretty snowflakes' linked to the weather as opposed to a white Christmas, he made a bell as in a musical instrument and not related to Christmas.

 

The mother of another child was adamant about birthdays being an absolute no. In their family no one had a birthday but maybe once or twice a year they had 'present days' - never on the same date/month each year and in fact she said it was normally when finances were particularly good she would tell the children there would be a present day the following week. We were able to celebrate this day with him at circle time and the other children were fine about it all.

 

Sorry if I am waffling and not making sense but like lots of things it's a two way process, we accept/welcome/and work with parents to ensure children who are Jehovah Witnesses benefit from their time at preschool and do not feel isolated/excluded in any way. By the same token the parents understand that for many children birthdays are hugely important and celebrated in a variety of ways within preschool.

We have had no 'issues' with the children we have had which I am sure resulted from really good communication with parents and a mutual respect and understanding of our 'differences'. My only concern was our Christmas party and one parent chose for her child not to attend and the other chose to let her child come to see the entertainer, join in the games and food but collected him before Father Christmas arrived. We were allowed to give the child a present, but it was wrapped in plain paper and was given as an 'end of term' surprise.

 

I really think it is difficult to generalise and each child/family needs to be catered for according to their needs/beliefs which I think can vary from family to family. I think someone earlier said they can vary in 'strictness' and that is certainly my experience.

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I think a 'present day' sounds like a nice idea - I'll definitely remember that to ask when the child starts. I'm actually looking forward to it as I grew up Christian within a huge Jewish community in Leeds, so I can see it from another perspective, like ReaderRabbit

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To add my little bit, when I ran a playgroup we had a quite sizable JW community, so had lots of experience of this. The parents were always great and shared lots of information, working with us to make their children's experiences as positive as possible.

Some of those parents later removed their children from formal education, partly because the children were just left in a small room with a dinner lady and colouring at assemblies etc, despite offers from those mothers who had been so great with us to sit with the children on a rota basis and do 'JW' things with them, being bluntly told 'we don't do that here' !

 

Only thing I would add is, have you cleared the 'blood issue' thing? You will need it in writing to cover yourself, if you haven't seen to it yet.

 

Sue :o

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Only thing I would add is, have you cleared the 'blood issue' thing? You will need it in writing to cover yourself, if you haven't seen to it yet.

 

Sue :o

 

Hi there

 

Thanks to all who have replied and with so much helpful information. As the child has just been registered, I have not got to this matter. I think that the next step is to have a good chat with the parents, giving them a clear idea of what our routines involve and how we arrange celebrations. I think the idea of present days is lovely and could be easily incorporated.

 

Thanks so much and I will get down to writing up a procedure with the parents help.

 

Lesley xD

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Thanks so much and I will get down to writing up a procedure with the parents help.

All very good for true working in partnership with parents, based on empathy, equity and if only I could think of a third thing beginning with 'e'! :o

 

Seriously though: thanks to those who shared their knowledge of what it can be like for a child who is a Jehovah's Witness, and for groups who include these children in their settings. Whenever someone goes looking in the middle of the night for information about this subject, they'll have a lot of their questions answered.

 

Isn't this Forum fantastic?

 

Maz

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from my experience JW's don't celebtrate or acknowledge mothers' day either- the only occassion I've ever had JW children celebrate is their parents' wedding anniversary. Might be worth going through the whole year calendar with them to be sure you don't offend by mistake?

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from my experience JW's don't celebtrate or acknowledge mothers' day either- the only occassion I've ever had JW children celebrate is their parents' wedding anniversary. Might be worth going through the whole year calendar with them to be sure you don't offend by mistake?

 

 

That's interesting - what's so special about that? as opposed to anything else, I mean

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from my experience JW's don't celebtrate or acknowledge mothers' day either- the only occassion I've ever had JW children celebrate is their parents' wedding anniversary. Might be worth going through the whole year calendar with them to be sure you don't offend by mistake?

 

 

I think that's a good point Mozart, going through the calender with the parents then also maybe then you could learn some things about what Jehovahs Witnesses 'do' as well as what they don't do. Can some of their celebrations be introduced to the group?

 

Peggy

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That's interesting - what's so special about that? as opposed to anything else, I mean

 

It's about singling out individuals when the one to worship is Jehovah

 

Christmas and Easter

 

"Jesus was not born on December 25. He was born about October 1, a time of year when shepherds kept their flocks out-of-doors at night. Jesus never commanded Christians to celebrate his birth. Rather, he told his disciples to memorialize, or remember, his death. Christmas and its customs come from ancient false religions. The same is true of Easter customs, such as the use of eggs and rabbits. The early Christians did not celebrate Christmas or Easter, nor do true Christians today"

 

Birthdays

 

" The only two birthday celebrations spoken of in the Bible were held by persons who did not worship Jehovah. The early Christians did not celebrate birthdays. The custom of celebrating birthdays comes from ancient false religions. True Christians give gifts and have good times together at other times during the year"

 

JW's believe they are being true Christians by not celebrating. In their publications they do have a childrens Bible.

 

"My Book of Bible Stories

 

Its 116 Bible accounts appear in the order of their historical occurrence. The book is especially designed for young children, yet everyone can benefit from the book’s more than 125 beautiful illustrations. 256 pages"

 

As others have suggested go through your calendar with the parent even the trivial like dressing up for book day especially if you set a theme like 'superheros'. We found with 'tweeking' most could be done.Easter card was a Spring card, Mothers day was a Thankyou card.

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Reading this post with great interest. I am studying for my NVQ and its very interesting and informative to hear all the suggestions and ideas.

 

Hopefully if I come across the situation myself, I will remember some of the advice I have read on here!

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They may not celebrate but that does not mean that they should not know about other religions and celebrations. I have Tamil children who do not celebrate Christmas or Easter but it does not stop them from joining in and enjoying the activites

All cultures and diversity should be celebrated.

 

We do go into church every other week for a little sing song with the organ being played, the children love it. I had a child who was buddhist and parents were not sure about her going into the church, we explained that she didnt have to (none of our children have to go) but to look upon it a knowledge and they were fine with this.

 

Instead of celebrating a birthday maybe you can celebrate a milestone or just having a special day for this child , they can still bring in photos and blow out a canndle sing a different song instead of a birthday song

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Lots of good advice given , as usual. My first thoughts, whilst going through all the posts, would have been to talk with the parents to ascertain what would offend and what wouldn't and then take it from there.

However, Suers post has really hit the nail on the head for me, and changed my view. We all know the importance of accepting diversity in whatever form, and subsequently celebrate other cultures. Are we not, therefore challenging our policies, such as Equal Opportunities, Inclusion and Racial Equality. Exclusion, in no form is found anywhere in these policies.

Having thought long and hard about this, I think I would tell the parents that 'Johnny' would be very welcome to join our playschool, as per our Inclusion policy but point out that our policies do not promote exclusion in any form and that all cultures and religious beliefs are celebrated. And that should mean other religions celebrating Christianity.

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Hi again everyone and thanks for all the contributions so far, very interesting and thought provoking.

 

Yes, I agree with Esme, removing the child from activities could be seen as exclusion. We are situated right next to the village church (our building is the old Victorian primary school) and our walks very often include going through the graveyard and having a peep into the church. We often stop off there to look at people arranging flowers, or preparing it for a wedding. The vicar is brilliant with small children and we go into the church for Easter, Christmas and Harvest when he does a lovely talk geared for the 2-4 year olds. We always take the opportunity to take the children out to watch wedding groups arriving and of course there are often funerals too. It's all part of living in the community. All this will be explained to the parents and we will try to come to an agreement as to how best to accommodate the child.

 

Whilst I agree that Easter and Christmas celebrations can become a bit overblown with bunnies and chicks and so on, we do follow a mostly Christian ethos, something I have already mentioned to the child's mum. What I think I am saying is that as part of my inclusive practice I see that we need to make some adjustments, but we can't change everything we already do and which current parents and children love, so it will be a matter of tweaking rather than bending over backwards!

 

Next step is to inform my manager of all that has been contributed and then invite the parents in. At least I feel much better informed than I did when I posted my first message - thanks to all of you for your great advice.

 

Lesley :o

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Perhaps the word 'celebrated' is the root of some of the difficulty. Perhaps if parents thought we were not actively 'celebrating' festivals but rather learning about the cultures and beliefs of others, they may have no problem allowing their children to join in such activities. However, from reading what ReaderRabbit has said, I don't think this is likely to be the case with Jehovah's Witnesses because their own belief systems seem to actively preclude their children joining in such activities.

 

However, I think we do still have a responsibility to welcome all children into our communities and whilst we need to make our own ethos clear to parents before they enrol their child, we also have to look at whether what we provide and the way we provide it will cause offence to the families we work with, or make individual children feel uncomfortable or unwelcome.

 

I think information and knowledge is the key here: when teaching on a Level 2 course some years ago I only found out that one of my students was a Jehovah's Witness on the morning when planned session on festivals was about to take place. No mention of it on her enrolment form, and none in my own learner profile form which we complete in one of the first activities we do as a class as part of the 'getting to know you' session. We had discussed the forthcoming festivals session the week before but she hadn't thought to tell me that she couldn't take part in any 'celebrations'! We found a way round it and she was able to join in the activities and it did provide a thought provoking discussion about what challenges we all face in these situations.

 

These posts have demonstrated how flexible we can be when working with young children and their families - and once again it strikes me that early years settings are arguably the most inclusive places to be. It can be difficult balancing the rights of one child against the rights of all the others, and inevitably it involves compromise. I'm sure that with open and frank discussion with parents we can manage to do this, but ultimately parents may decide to withdraw their child from certain activities, or request that other arrangements be made for children when certain activities are taking place in the setting.

 

Maz

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A very interesting thread.

 

We all work so hard to 'get it right' for everyone.

 

I had a student last year - on work placement from sixth form - I already knew that she and her family are J.Witnesses and was interested to see that she made no mention of the fact during her time with us (one term), I wonder what impact this will have on her career and working practice within nursery/pre-school.

 

sunnyday

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