Teaching Spirituality to Our Children
May 19, 2011 in Family Dynamics
One of the biggest challenges of parents is deciding how to deal with their kid’s spiritual development. As Pagans we understand that there is no “right” path, and many of us hesitate to teach our children for fear of leading them to believe there is only one way. So this article is for all the parents, like me, who are trying to decide where to start in teaching spirituality to their children.
The benefits of spirituality can reach far and wide for our children; it is the sense of community that is so beneficial in society. Today’s times are so much different than ten years ago, and raising children today has different challenges than our parents may have had raising us. Children today are conditioned in a society that doesn’t promote responsibility, community or even spiritual accountability.
Without a value system in place for our children, it can become increasingly harder for them to cope with the adding pressures of life’s challenges as they grow older. Society is progressing in the direction of looking more for instant gratification over hard work and moral values. Today’s times of high unemployment rates and gas prices, cut school budgets and increasing environmental issues are showing our children that hard work doesn’t always give favorable results. How do these translate to a child and what is the best way to explain why hard work is important?
This is the beginning phase of what festers into a lack of accountability for personal choices and lacking a moral and ethical code that promotes community, self worth and growth. Creating a spiritual foundation for our children is one of the most useful tools to combating a mindset that could lead them to making choices that impact them in negative ways in the future.
When our children live without a spiritual foundation they are growing up disconnected from the world around them. Many children don’t feel that they are a part of anything, let alone a bigger plan. Part of our responsibility of raising children is to help them understand that they are a part of everything and that everything around them equally affects them.
When parents get to the place of understanding that spirituality is a must in the raising of their young ones, the next step becomes the next concern. What do we do next?
This is not an easy answer, and it will depend greatly on the family and their spiritual belief system. There are some things that are not as complicated though, and those are some of the things I looked at within my family unit. These are the things I would like to share with you.
We can only teach what we know. This is a very important thing for parents to remember and truly understand. As parents we can guide and teach, but we are not expected to have all the answers. This means I can teach my children by talking to them and showing them how to live with spirit in their hearts. I can teach by example and give them the opportunity to join in. It isn’t about forcing our children to be religious or to do anything they don‘t want to. It is about making our spiritual path a part of everyday normal life.
A spiritual path is not just about religion. I think a lot of us get confused there. I can show my kids how to respect the mother earth by recycling, gardening or conserving water and gas. I can show my kids the value of giving back by volunteering at the soup kitchen or shelter, saying “hi” to a homeless person, doing something nice for the neighbor or donating to Goodwill. These are all a part of teaching ethics, which directly tie into spirituality.
We parents must remember that spirituality is a way of living; it becomes normal life. Many people hide their spiritual self and only practice in private, but when teaching children these are the things you want them to see. Children have to see that mom lighting a candle, doing daily devotionals, kitchen witchery or even ritual is normal.
Children see mainstream Christian holidays and beliefs everywhere. So when parents can’t help to create balance, it leaves the impression that what we do is different than everyone else. And in a kid’s mind that makes it weird or secret. One of Pagan parents’ biggest challenges is to make it easier for our kids to see religious diversity and understand that no path is right or wrong. Kids hear many different things from others that will lead them to believe there is only one way, and we must be prepared to address this with our children.
Teach your children a set system of values, ethics and morals. Children learn all types of techniques to cope with life’s challenges; some are good and some are not. I have found that there is a difference between refraining from an action and understanding why it is good to refrain from the action beyond the easy answers. For example, a child can make a choice not to hit another child. Part of this decision could be based on the child’s need to stay at school and avoid suspension and consequences at home. That is a good reason. What if we add a spiritual and ethical aspect to compound the already good reason listed previously? What would happen if we taught this child what happens spiritually when we harm someone? We could talk about how we are filling our bodies with negativity then giving that to someone else. We could talk about how we want to do to others what we would like for them to do to us and that we wouldn’t want anyone sticking us with a huge ball of negativity. We could also talk about how when we pass negativity to people, it then leaks from them and passes negativity to those around them: people we did not intend to hurt.
We could go on and on. This is just a series of examples to illustrate how adding spiritual and ethical reasoning with coping skills can assist the child in understanding on a deeper level that might stick with them when the mundane consequences are not as clear.
I can’t tell anyone how to specifically answer their children’s questions, because everyone has a different spiritual path and the dynamic of each family is different. I can say that, like everything, this is a work in progress for my family.
I have begun the process of evaluating my children’s spiritual development and understanding it on an individual basis. Coming to terms with understanding that our children have their own minds and thoughts can be an interesting thing. I have to keep that in mind with each child.
My seven-year-old has a much different view of life than my fifteen-year-old. With that, I can’t plan the same kind of activities with both of them and expect them to learn the same lessons. They are going to filter what come into their lives through their own worldview.
Take the time to experiment and try new activities with your children. Talk to them about spirituality and their ideas. Give them a voice.