Helping Children Grow Spiritually

Helping Children Grow Spiritually

The following article is adapted from “Children and Spirituality,” a brochure developed by the Mother’s Union

 

Spirituality: An Essential Part of Life

The word spirituality comes from a word meaning “breath.” Human beings are spiritual because the breath of God is within them. Spirituality is about how we experiences and relate to God. As adults, the most important thing we can do is listen to children and value what they tell us. We need to stop worrying over what we can teach children about spirituality. We should be wondering instead what children might teach us.

Spirituality is not an add-on extra. It is there already, a part of being human. Spirituality is a big piece in the jigsaw of life, and if we don’t see it, the picture won’t make sense. Religion and spirituality are related, but they are not the same thing. In a culture in which we hear the words, “spiritual, but not religious” and “none” it is important to introduce our children to a specific religion. One of the greatest needs of children is for relationship. Spirituality is our encounter and relationship with God. By bringing a child to church will introduce them to a God who is love. And for Christians, this is manifested in Jesus. When they are older they can make their own choice, but if one has “nothing” to serve as a baseline, they will be joining the group of “none” without ever knowing the Story of which we are called and loved.

Nurturing a child’s spiritual development means:

  • Time to think about themselves, other people, and the world.
  • Space to enjoy new experiences.
  • Security so that they feel able to question and explore.
  • Affirmation that their thoughts about God, life and the universe are interesting and important.

Parents (or Sunday School teachers) don’t need to be a saint, have a degree in theology, or have all the right answers to help a child on their spiritual journey. Like your child, you have the breath of God within you. Like your child, you are growing up in Christ.

Practical things to do:

  • Focus on the five senses – sight, touch, hearing, taste, and smell – and find ways to bring them to your child’s attention.
  • Take time to set for even 30 seconds and enjoy complete silence and stillness.
  • Notice the shape of the clouds, the phases of the moon, or how a tree changes through the seasons.
  • Listen to and appreciate a child’s enthusiasm about animals, plants, and even rocks and dinosaurs.
  • Help your child listen to others, as well as experience being listened to. Ask your child about their day, and tell them about yours.
  • Talk about thoughts and feelings.
  • Encourage children to collect “treasures” such as feathers or leaves.
  • Go for an “eyes shut” walk, with one of you guiding and describing what you see. Have a child lead you!
  • Imagine what it would have been like at the time of Jesus or one of the saints. What would you say to them, or ask them?
  • Choose a special place where you keep a children’s Bible, a cross, or a religious picture or icon. This could be a place where your child can go to be quiet or to say a prayer.
  • As part of the bedtime routine, bless your child with the sign of the cross or sing a special song.
  • Let your child watch or listen when you pray silently or with words.
  • When you go to church, give your child time to explore before or after the service, looking at all the objects and illustrations (such as stained glass windows) that tell the stories of faith.
  • Make sure you sit where your child can see what is happening during worship services.

Bearing Fruit

Children’s spirituality is not limited to talking about God, using special language, or going to church. Simple things, like the sight of snow, being hugged, or gazing up into the night sky, can be spiritual events. Everyday experiences and concern about other people and our environment can lead naturally to the wonder and questioning which are doors to spirituality. As you nurture the spirituality of another, you will find that your relationship with God will grow too!

 

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