Nurturing your child’s spiritual sensitivity

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In our fast-paced world, filled with material excesses, over-stimulated activity, and feelings of disenfranchisement, it is essential that we help our children find meaning in the midst of the daily pressures they face.


By James P. Krehbiel, Ed.S., LPC
author, freelance writer, and nationally certified cognitive-behavioral therapist
practicing in Scottsdale, Arizona. His personal growth book, Stepping Out of
the Bubble is available at www.amazon.com. James can be reached at www.krehbielcounseling.com.
 
In our fast-paced world, filled with material excesses, over-stimulated activity,
and feelings of disenfranchisement, it is essential that we help our children find meaning in the midst of the daily pressures they face. Spiritual sensitivity
can be expressed in many ways - including worship, helping others, learning to
be tolerant of cultural and lifestyle differences, and learning respect for the
well-being of our environment. It is a parental responsibility through modeling
and nurturing, to encourage our children to feel at home within their inner life
of spirituality.
 
Our children are inquisitive, and will begin at an early age to ask us questions
related to life`s meaning and purpose. They will wonder out loud about issues
that may make us uncomfortable but warrant further exploration by the adults in
their lives. As parents, we must be ready to respond to the spiritual exploration
of our young, questioning minds. Children expect sincere responses, not necessarily
lengthy explanations. It is acceptable to tell our children that we have no clear-cut
answers to their questions. They can handle uncertainty. Our children may surprise
us with probing questions without forewarning. As parents, we need to understand
that the process of a child`s exploration of perplexing questions is more important
than the outcome.
 
Often, simple explanations to complex problems are more important than the answer.
Children may want to know more about life and death, separation and divorce, one`s
concept of God, and why things work the way they do. They may ask, “Why do bad
things happen to people? Why do people die before they are ready? What is God
like? What makes our voice tone change? These questions require a parent`s understanding
and responsiveness. Sometimes, questions are rhetorical and have emotional overtones.
In a moment of frustration, I recall my five year old son retorting, “Dad, it
seems like everything breaks and everything dies!” This was a moment for nurturing,
reassurance and hope for a disappointed little one.
 
I believe that children need spiritual traditions. Holiday celebrations and regular practice in one`s
faith serve to sustain our children. Our families need to find ways to create
traditions and rituals founded upon spiritual principles such as meal-time prayer
and discussions, family educational activities, and bedtime inspirational reading
with parents.
 
Help your children to build a pattern of solitude. Excessive isolation is not
healthy, but children should be taught to slow themselves down from their hectic,
electronically stimulated life and learn to appreciate what it means to live in
the moment. Children need to learn how to relax by turning off excessive stimulation
and practicing living in the present with a sense of serenity.
 
Share your spiritual beliefs and faith with your children. Allow them to question
their beliefs trusting that doubt and wondering is a natural part of faith development.
Kids are more interested in what their parents think about spiritual concepts
than listening to what the clerical experts might say. It is critical to give
your children the permission to question the nature of spiritual truth and reality.
Parents can solidify spiritual values in their children through these additional
measures:
 
- Role-model caring, compassionate behavior.
- Encourage your children`s involvement in volunteer service.
- Teach your children to appreciate and cherish what they have been given.
- Encourage your children to pray for and connect with others in need.
- Teach your children to respect and tolerate differences in people who
share a different faith, have emotional needs, and embrace a different lifestyle.
- Teach your kids to respect the global environment. Encourage them
to join organizations and activities that promote environmental health.
- Explore with your children their concept of God. Help them to expand
and broaden their concept of a Higher Power.
- Using your own mistakes as learning tools, teach your children better
ways of behaving. Exploring mistake-making is important in modeling the ability
to change and forgive others.
 
Children are trying to sort out what it means to be a spiritual individual. Parents
can assist in this process by role-modeling, re-examining, and creating new faith-based
patterns of behavior in an effort to foster their children`s spiritual growth
and development.


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