Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Talking to Your Child about Spirituality

If you want your child to think exactly as you do then this article is not for you. All you have to do is tell them what to think. If however you wish to explore spirituality with your child and grow closer to him/her as a result, then herein lie a few suggestions.

Usually children are exposed to the religion of their parents through holidays, stories and religious practices and customs. Rarely, if ever are children asked for their own thoughts or spiritual experiences. Children however very often have their own thoughts about spirituality, questions or experiences they shy away from expressing because there is never a forum for that. It is my experience that thinking things through for one’s self and sharing one’s spiritual experiences is spiritually empowering. Far too often in practicing a religion we give our own power away to the priest, minister, rabbi or whoever. We want them to lead us to God or illuminate our minds. There is nothing wrong with seeking the council of those who dedicate their lives to spiritual pursuits, in fact it is usually necessary, but to expect someone else to do the work for us is counterproductive. It is a way of further separating ourselves from the truth we seek.

A way to open up a conversation with your child about God would be to ask: Have you ever thought about God? If your child’s answer is “no” then wait until he or she has begun to think about God. If the answer is yes, then proceed with a series of questions to draw out how your child thinks on this subject. The idea is to let your child know you are interested in listening to what he or she has to say. If your child asks you questions you can respond with: What do you think? If he or she really wants to know what you think he/she will ask again and at that time it would be appropriate to share your belief or experience. Children can ask questions that require us to think through our spiritual beliefs and grope to find words to express them. “What is God?” and “Why can’t we see God?” may need answers that use a metaphor or analogy. Above all if you don’t have an answer it’s best to say “I don’t know.” This leaves the door open for further exploration for both you and your child.

If your child expresses gratitude, wishes well to another, or feels sorry you can point out that these are spiritual experiences. Prayer is at heart a well-wishing as is the Buddhist practice of metta (compassion). These practices can be illustrated to children in very simple terms by giving concrete examples of how to apply well-wishing in your child’s life.
It is my opinion that there are no wrong answers to spiritual questions. At any given time there are only provisional answers which may change during the life long quest for spiritual knowledge. If your spiritual belief system has ever changed or evolved you know the truth of this.

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