Is the Spiritual Growth of Children Important?
‘If we can guide them from an early age
Then they won’t need to be middle age to know…
Many of the answers come from within’ (Pick-a-WooWoo)
Before you think that this article is about Religion, please stop. Spirituality is considered to be a ‘part of a genre of talking about meaning, and talking about what's sacred in life but not necessarily being part of a specific religious tradition.’ Many people these days say they are spiritual but not religious. So what does it mean and why is it important for our children?
As the wonderful Shirley MacLaine states “We care for our body, we educate our mind, but all too often we ignore the most vital part of ourselves. Imagine what the world could be if each of us were more cognizant and nurturing of our spirit”.
Put simply, ‘Spirituality is a state of connectedness to all life, honouring diversity in unity. It is about a deeper sense of purpose and place. It is an experience of being, belonging and caring. It is sensitivity and compassion, joy and hope. It is the harmony between the inner life and the outer life. It is the sense of wonder and reverence for the mysteries of the universe and a feeling of the purposefulness of life. It is about connectedness and the highest aspirations of the human spirit’.
To grow spiritually in a world defined by power, money, and influence is a mammoth task not only for us adults, but for our children too. Modern conveniences for the adult and child such as electronic equipments, gadgets and tools as well as entertainment through television and the web have predisposed us to confine our attention mostly to physical needs and wants.
As a result, our perception of self-worth and self-meaning are often muddled. Many of us have sought to strike the balance between the material and spiritual aspects of our lives. As parents we also have the responsibility to keep our children engaged with their spirit (their compass within) so that they too can use this to journey through their lives.
A ‘Spiritual Parent’ honours the inner life of their children rather than just paying attention to their behaviour. They set out to nurture and to ignite that connection that our children come to us with.
Or would you prefer your child to be spiritually illiterate? Meaning, the child does not see the web which connects us with other people and the natural world. They do not have access to open doors of information and inspiration that leads to more fulfilling lives. Like other illiteracies it is possible your child could live in a shallower world with fewer opportunities, limited meaning and a reduced capacity to create preferred futures.
In ‘Care of the Soul’ by T.Moores he states “Some might go further to say that being spiritually illiterate can lead to increased feelings of purposelessness, disconnection, isolation and loneliness in the world.”
Spirituality and morality are a celebration of the human spirit and therefore an essential part of all life. The teaching of values that encourage caring and loving people and a compassionate and loving society should not be left to chance.
Parents can help children express and experience their spirituality in whatever way works for them. An excellent starting point can be for us to see things through the child’s eyes. Essentially, this helps us see the individuality of every child; whatever makes them happy, what captivates them and what questions they seek answers for. This course of action will in turn enhance our own spirituality.
It is scientifically proven that happy children have happy parents and interesting parents create interesting children. Therefore it goes without saying that we have to ‘walk-our-talk’ when it comes to our spiritual growth, in order for it to be seen in our children.
Help children to see what their real values are in life and what is innate within themselves and how they treat others and not in what they possess. . Show them there is no value in things, the constant need for more, as it is only temporary and you are never fulfilled.
As adults, parents, grandparents or caregivers, you can offer spiritual nurturing throughout the day in a number of very simple ways. It can be done through a reply to a child’s conversation, or listening to words of an enchanting song; delighting in the clouds in the sky and the wonders and beauty of nature or simply resting in the quietness of the moment. Even our pets can be the best model to show what unconditional love looks like.
Spiritual nurturing can occur when you carefully select stories that are about reading the sacred in everyday life, in nature, at home or even in the classroom. Stories that embrace love, touch the heart, kindle the spirit and enlighten the mind.
Equally, you can be models of acceptance and show respect for all life...plants, animals, Mother Earth and humans. As an adult or parent you can help a child to see that everyone has something special to offer, that life is not about winning or losing but love, compassion and understanding. You can help a child practise conflict resolution or not to develop envy for example, if someone has something bigger or better be genuinely pleased for them.
It is important that you help your children to develop a sense of their own self-direction, confidence, independence and inter-dependence . Before they can understand how outside energies work human’s need to comprehend how they themselves work. When your child is ready you can also teach them how to sit down quietly and look deeply within to see what is happening within (which is important for us to do as well).
Many well know international authors such as Deepak Chopra are indeed as passionate about children’s spiritual skills.
“A child raised with spiritual skills will be able to answer the most basic questions about how the universe works. They will understand the source of creativity both within and outside themselves. They will be able to practice non-judgment, acceptance and truth….And they will be free from crippling fear and anxiety about the meaning of life that is the secret dry rot inside the hearts of many adults.” Deepak Chopra.
Nurturing your child’s spirituality by sharing spiritual stories, exposing them to nature, listening to them, loving them, helping them expand their imagination, encouraging their dreams and celebrating or creating rituals with them, is a gift you can give them that will last their entire lives. In fact, this could be the most valuable legacy you leave your children.
Rachael Kessler of ‘The Soul of Education’ so eloquently and succinctly put why nurturing our child’s spirituality is so important… “The body of a child will not grow if it is not fed: the mind will not flourish unless it is stimulated and guided. And the spirit will suffer if it is not nurtured”.
Growth is a progression thus to grow in spirit is a day-to-day occurrence. Sometimes it is easy sometimes it is hard, but the most crucial point is that we learn and from this knowledge, further spiritual growth is made possible. This is a spiritual journey for you and your child to enjoy.