Can Spirituality in Children Be a Source of Happiness and Emotional Stability?
What does Spirituality in Children Mean?
Studies have shown that adults who have an inner belief system do better at surviving traumatic events than adults who do not. They seem to fare better with life events such as the loss of a job or loss of a spouse. Adults who have a sense of connection with a larger cosmic whole seem to do better with physical illness and emotional stress. In fact,emotional stability seems predicated on an existential understanding of self and the world.
A recent study reveals that the same dynamics are true also with children. Children who have a sense of their own spirituality tend to see purpose and meaning in their lives. According to researcher Mark Holder at the University of British Columbia, it is spirituality,not religious practices, that has a direct correlation with children's happiness.
Edward Hoffman who has done extensive research on spirituality in children feels that even very young children are capable of an inner spiritual life.
One way to develop this inner life is by actively exposing children to nature because nature can have a profound effect on children's spiritual development. It is from nature that children learn that all life is connected. Exposing children to nature can take many forms--spending time close to a lake (as we did on Lake Manitou when our boys were young), camping in the wilds (as our son does with our grandson every summer in Algonquin), growing a vegetable or flower garden, or simply being outdoors as often as possible.
Spirituality in children takes the form of personal worth and personal meaning. Spirituality is an inner belief experience that anchors the child within a web of interconnectedness with family, friends, community, the natural world and the world at large.
Unlike religious practices which are largely external rituals, spirituality is an inner experience of personal connectedness and power.
How Can We Help Our Children Develop This Sense of Inner Connectedness?
There is no doubt that Children love the natural world because nature is the Great Teacher that can mold thoughts and inspire love.
Imagine running freely in the fields,then placing your ears against great leafy trunks so you can listen to the trees! Children understand that this freedom in nature is what gives them vitality and inspiration. It is the language of trees and birds that feeds the invisible self. Another way is to encourage the child to connect with his inner life through art, songs, dance and movement. Give children every opportunity to establish a flow between the inner and outer selves.Children have a natural understanding of the invisible realm, but this realm needs to be nurtured so that it is not stunted by our all too material world of things and logic.
Our grandchildren are surrounded by tools for expression--paper, crayons, cardboard, paint, glue. Their mother is a child of nature herself and understands fully what is needed to seed and nurture this "child."
By giving children the opportunity to interact with nature, we can help them develop a sense of empathy and connectedness which can eventually be directed towards fellow beings in the world through acts of kindness and responsibility.A deficit of empathy can produce serious consequences.
A good way is to start enlisting your children's participation in a sponsorship fund for a child in need through Plan International or World Vision. Having quarterly updates on this child allows them to understand that they are actively involved in shaping the realities of a child in need.
Another way is having your children help with Toy and Book Drive campaigns for less fortunate children in the community. These campaigns run through the summers and holiday seasons.
Spirituality in children is more than religious practices; it is an experience of connectedness with a power larger than the self that can ultimately move outward into their relationships with others in the world at large.
Rooting our children in the love and support of family, friends and community will not only bolster their sense of self and confidence, it will enhance their spiritual life.
"Five Ways to Encourage Your Child's Spirituality."