Developing Spirituality in Children by Ellen Begley, M.Ed., RN, NCC, LPC (388)

“Do I have to give the rock? I want to give me to God.”

These were the words my husband heard from our five year old while attending a church retreat vespers service. The congregation was asked to pick a rock out of a basket and to think about God’s creation. Next, each person was asked to put that rock in an offering basket as a symbolic gift back to God.

Marc’s question presented the opportunity for discussion and a developing pathway along the road to spiritual development. As a pastoral counselor for children and adolescents, I find the internal sense of spirituality, the awareness of the presence of God or a higher being, is almost always just below the surface.

Interestingly, studies have shown a positive relationship between spirituality and school success and a negative correlation between spiritual growth and the use of alcohol, tobacco, violence and teen pregnancy.

So how do we grow our kids spiritually? Here are some thoughts:

  • Examine your own religious beliefs. Parenting encourages us to look at life in a new way that often includes our spiritual beliefs and religious practices. Consider what spiritual values you desire to instill in your child.
  • Consider whether you are associated with or wish to join a spiritual community. Spirituality encourages relationships with God, other people, and nature. I find myself saying often, “God made us to live in community, and we need to both give to and receive help from others.”
  • Model spiritual practices and priorities for your children. Let them see you helping others in need, participating in worship, honoring all people, and learning from involvement with other religious community members.
  • Infuse your spiritual values into your daily routine. Bedtime prayers, blessings at dinner, and a quick prayer on the way to school are all ways we incorporate spiritual values into everyday life.
  • Welcome questions. Sometimes, it can be a little scary when you are unable to give your child all the answers. However, God is big enough to handle it, and we should feel free to say to our children, “I don’t know.” They will still think we are okay. When they want to talk about good or evil, birth or death, any of the big why questions, they don’t need seminary responses, just reassurances with a chance to talk.