At some point in their lives, most children start to become curious religion, spirituality, life and death. Questions will come up about where human beings go when they die, and eventually move further into subjects such as the existence of a higher power. Quite often, parents are comfortable in their own beliefs and share these with their children as queries arise. However, it is important that children have the freedom to discover their own spirituality. It is nice to share the same philosophies on life as your children, but they need to have their own sense of self and their spiritual beliefs have to connect with their personal identity. Still, the best way to nurture a child's spiritual side is by informing them of the various options and ideas that are perceived around the world.
Having the Other 'Talk'
It can be difficult for parents to have the God talk with their kids. The belief in a higher power is very elusive, yet this concept is generally accepted with fairly good understanding by young minds perhaps because their imaginations haven't yet become inhibited by the gravity of reality. Rabbi Sherre Hirsch recommends parents approach the subject of God from a non-denominational and open-minded perspective. She also mentions the importance of forming your own opinion on the subject in order to provide your child with the tools to form their own beliefs on the subject. This is essential in helping your child to find out where they fall on the spectrum of religion and spirituality simply because having input allows them to formulate informed beliefs.
In addition, it is imperative that each parent is supports the other’s ideals and is able to openly discuss spiritual beliefs with each other and their child. This will help your child to realize that there are a multitude of belief systems and philosophies for them to learn about and choose from. Furthermore, they need to understand that their philosophies about religion and spirituality are their choice.
Religion 101 For Children
Religion is a huge part of some families' lives. Western philosophy autonomously introduces us to Christianity, but there are many other religions that can provide your child with the information that may be required for them to choose their spiritual path more wisely. Religion is a great tool for introducing children to spiritual ideas and moral lessons. Rabbi Hirsch explains the usefulness of educating children on various other religions because it helps children to arrive at the spiritual destination that's right for them. However, emphasis must be placed on the idea that the true goal is attaining a personal belief system. Religion helps children to make the informed decision of whether or not their beliefs are aligning with the tenets of the specific religion they are practicing. If so, children will be able to easily develop a spiritual identity of their own through their newfound self-awareness.
If this is not the case, allow the child to explore whichever religion appeals to them at that moment in time. In this way, children can choose a religion that is right for them or take the bits and pieces that resonate within their own hearts to form their own unique set of beliefs. At the very least, children will be given the guidance needed to develop this area of life without unnecessary confusion or unreliable information that steers them in a dangerous direction.
Spirituality vs. Religion
Although religion is a vital aspect of a family's life, there is a definitive difference between religion and spirituality. Religion is predominantly centered on one or many deities. There is also a steady undercurrent of worship for the deity. As is common knowledge, religion typically has guidelines and traditions. These can help to build character within yourself and your children. Spirituality exists outside of religion, but it isn't focused on matters such as conduct or morals as much as religion is. Religion is important for personal growth, but spirituality often exclusively focuses on it. Practicing spirituality often includes exercises that address mind/body health alongside spiritual health like yoga, reiki, meditation, chakra balancing, and deep breathing techniques. Actor Rob Morrow shares examples of the spiritual practices that he and his wife perform on a daily basis that effectively demonstrate to his children the various other avenues of spirituality that can be examined. These activities foster self-awareness and improve a child's ability to cope with stress, manage pain, calm anxiety, and maintain an even temper. More importantly, they keep your children in touch with their own higher self, which is extremely invaluable to a child's growth now and into their future.
A child's spiritual awakening is an exciting, yet harrowing ordeal for many parents. The key to making their transition into spiritual learning a success is tolerance. Be open-minded and encouraging of their adventures from one faith to another. If you have a deep-seated belief system, it is perfectly normal to feel uneasy about what path your children may stumble onto, but it is of paramount importance to give them the freedom that they need to explore and choose for themselves. You can instill values into your children without limiting the growth of their own. Allowing a child to choose these beliefs for themselves is not only the right thing to do but also the best thing that can be done for your child's spiritual growth.