Kids ask, “How can I let God know I love God?”

Kids ask, “How can I let God know I love God?”

Hopefully these sample answers, which you can adapt to your specific beliefs, provide some seed ideas for conversation. They are written at a child’s vocabulary level. What you are saying and doing now will help lay crucial groundwork for their exploration of God later in life.

You can use any way you want to let God know you love God.

It’s just like you have different ways of letting your family and friends know how you feel. Some kids like to write a letter to God. Most tell God in words they say out loud or keep in their thoughts (this is called prayer). Others draw something that expresses their love, write a poem or a song.

One important way to express your love for God is to love yourself.

Take very good care of yourself. You know many ways to do that, like giving your body enough sleep and healthy food, staying safe by listening to wise adults, and paying attention to your relationship with God. You love God when you admire and care for yourself.

Another way is to love people.

An equally important way to express your love for God is to love people by being as good to them as you are to yourself. That can mean sacrificing your comfort or happiness in order to treat someone well. A lot of trouble would vanish if everyone were as good to other people as they are to themselves.

Spend time with others who love God as much or more than you do.

Your family can help you find a youth group, a church, synagogue, or other place with kids your age who have a connection with God. You can find a sense of belonging. You might learn different ways they use to let God know how much they love God.

Tweetable: What to say when a child asks, “How can I let God know I love God?” Seed ideas here for you to adapt. Click to Tweet

Activities to increase a child’s empathy

Activities to increase a child’s empathy

Unstructured summer days lie ahead. What activities can we use to enrich kids’ lives while having fun at the same time?

Strengthen a child’s empathy this summer and you may see these results in the upcoming school year*:

  • more relaxed physically, with lower levels of stress hormones
  • pay attention better and learn more effectively
  • fewer behavior problems, such as aggressiveness

Children learn empathy very well by doing acts of service.

For example, you make a donation to a food pantry and you discuss with your children about how others are hungry. Sheila Sjolseth shares her experience.

The service acts where I see the most distinctive difference in my boys are when we interact with others in our community—those acts where they helped someone in a completely different situation than their own.  By far, the acts of service that have been the most profound were when we helped:

  • the elderly in nursing homes
  • those who are experiencing homelessness
  • those who have great medical need
  • animals in shelters

Beyond taking in a neighbor’s trash cans or holding the door for someone–

–good as these are, empathy building means finding experiences where kids will see the needs of others and choose to meet them.

  • Prepare and take healthy treats to the fire department or police station.
  • Write a thank-you note or picture for the trash truck driver.
  • Make a chemo care package for a family friend.
  • Do an internet search for more ideas….

Here’s how:

  1. Get ready. Brainstorm who we want to help. Talk about how the person’s life is different from the child’s. What can we expect?
  2. Keep it short. Think 10 minutes (not counting prep time).
  3. Show them how. Model the behavior you’d like to see them copy.
  4. Let them help. Even let them take the lead as they get ideas and want to initiate service.
  5. Reflect and debrief. Sheila asks her kids: “Was it what you expected?  Why or why not?  How did your service help the other person?”  And I add, “How did you like doing it? What did the other person say or do to show how they felt?”

 Try it once and see if it’s worth the effort.

*Harris, P.L.  Children and Emotion: The Development of Psychological Understanding, 1989.

Tweetable:  Do summer activities here to strengthen a child’s empathy and you might lower their stress hormones. Click to Tweet

Teach kids a spiritual vocabulary

Teach kids a spiritual vocabulary

After five years of interviewing adults about their childhood spiritual experiences, I’ve seen common threads. Here’s one: As children, they didn’t have the vocabulary to express how they were processing spirituality and God. Can’t you see it in what this man told me?

“I remember I was four or five years old and feeding white ducks bread crumbs from the top of a playground slide. It seemed very wonderful to me for some reason and I dreamed about it and I can still see myself doing it. My thoughts couldn’t have been very abstract or sophisticated or articulated in any vocabulary I had at the time, but I felt I was in the presence of something greater than myself, in a world beyond the surface world where I was tossing down food onto the white ducks and feeling very whole, free, peaceful.”

That it, isn’t it? Children can’t articulate with the vocabulary they have at the time.

But we can help children build a spiritual vocabulary. We use the same methods we did when we taught them basic vocabulary words.

When they learned animal names, we had picture books of animals, “Where’s the bird? What does the bird say?” And when we went outdoors, “See the bird? Hear the bird?”

Use children’s literature to teach spiritual vocabulary.

32216_3319children's litIt’s packed with stories about the human spirit developing and prevailing.  When you read to children, emphasize and repeat age-appropriate spiritual vocabulary words such as right, wrong, conscience, character, wise, forgive, as these concepts come up in the book. Use these vocabulary words in normal everyday conversations. As children get older, you can move on to words like mindful, ethics, purpose, presence, worship, spirit, soul, self and reason.

There’s no need to bottle it up inside.

When they know words like these, they’ll be equipped with a vocabulary to express themselves as they begin to work out the complexities of life.  With no need to bottle it up inside, they will talk freely and listen to others, thus understanding how normal and widespread is the spiritual dimension of life.

Tweetable:

  • Ideas to help children build a spiritual vocabulary by the same method you taught them basic vocabulary. Click to Tweet
  •  Children don’t know the words to use to express their spiritual experiences. See some ideas here. Click to Tweet

 

Children and their thrill in holiday giving

Children and their thrill in holiday giving

kwanzaRohatsu, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, Christmas, Hanukkah, and Yule. Most of us have some big plans brewing to make happy December holidays for the kids we love.

What makes a holiday experience thrilling?

Its impact on the human spirit or soul.

Because the memories of  “giving experiences” remain vivid long after toys break or fade away.

Because, as Bono said, “love needs to find form, intimacy needs to be whispered. It’s actually logical. Essence has to manifest itself. Love has to become an action or something concrete.”

One family’s story:

When my daughter passed away at the age of 7 her brothers wanted to do something to help other children who are ill and stuck in the hospital or in bed at home, so we gathered books together and took them to the office of the Palliative care team that took such good care of my daughter and our family.

childrens-booksThis became what is now “Cheyenne’s Lending library” it is full of books and blankets, toys and craft items for kids and even parents who stay with their children. The idea is to take their mind off of their illness for a little while.

Each year we drop off new books on Cheyenne’s birthday and at Christmas. Sometimes in between. We have been doing this since 2004.

Plan ahead to make giving this season’s highlight.

When you do an Internet search you will find a range of giving opportunities that children can see and experience. And because the season is notoriously stressful, you may find the best ideas are low-key and low energy, such as:

  • dog-foodCheck with your local SPCA and purchase their approved items such as cat litter, cat food, and dog food. Obviously, the more engagement the children have in purchasing and delivering donations, the more memorable it will be for them.
  • Contact your local food bank for ideas of their needs.Take the kids with you to the store and let them pick out items from the list so it becomes the child’s achievement.
  • Ask a hospital for approval to have kids gather books and deliver them to the office.  A hospital in my city allows the children to see where in the hospital their donations will be used, enhancing their feeling of accomplishment.

“Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.” – Lao Tzu

 

Tweetable:

  • Looking for low-key, low energy ways for kids to give and do something good this season? Go here. Click to Tweet
  • Lao Tzu: “Kindness in giving creates love.” Show kids how to have fun giving this holiday season. Go here. Click to Tweet  

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Surprising source of hope for children of addicts/alcoholics

Surprising source of hope for children of addicts/alcoholics

boys-on-matI teach Life Skills courses at drug treatment centers across L.A. County.  Last night I sat across from a woman who asked, “What hope do my children have of avoiding addiction when both their father and I are addicts?” In the first of a two-part blog, I offer my perspective.

Can addiction be prevented?

As I’ve sat with addicts, both in and out of recovery, I’ve spent a lot of time wondering  how we could prevent addiction in the first place, and what kinds of broader societal changes might help.

The solution is probably surprising to the general public.

The solution—while not surprising to anyone who has spent time in AA—is probably surprising to the general public: spirituality.  You can’t do it on your own. You need to turn to a power greater than yourself.

Put more attention into spiritual development.

0xyUnless we put more time and attention into supporting the spiritual development of young people, Americans will continue to see unhealthy solutions like prescription drug addiction becoming more and more normal for those overwhelmed by life.

Life without God or spirituality seems fine when things are going well.

But when difficulties come and people are at the end of their rope, having depleted their own resources, they will turn to something else. If it’s not a loving God, it may be prescription drugs or heroin.

Spirituality is often an off-limits topic.

Yet investing in the spiritual development of our children is our best hope for preventing— and recovering from— our recent epidemic of painkiller addiction.

Next week, I will share a story from one of my students that prompted me to write on this topic.

Tweetable:

  • A surprising solution to the current epidemic of addiction to pain killers and street drugs like heroin. Click to Tweet
  • A surprising source of hope for children of addicts/alcoholics. Click to Tweet
Tired of the small stuff?

Tired of the small stuff?

“We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee.” –Marian Wright Edelman

At times, I fight to believe these words.

Small daily differences don’t bring me recognition. Sometimes not even a thank you. They don’t give me any sense of achievement or accomplishment. Waiting for them to add up to some kind of big difference seems hopeless. At my lowest times, I’ve read accounts of small daily differences, written by the person who observed them, and found inspiration to keep going.

sunflowerA small daily difference in one man’s relationship

Chris Erskine tells the story of a man who traveled across the country to tend to his ex-wife, helping see her through an agonizing stem cell transplant at City of Hope. It hadn’t helped so much, and now more chemo, more agony.

He explained how he’d stay with his ex-wife on those long days when her current husband needed to go home to rest a little. Mr. Erskine noted, “Marriage is hard. It succeeds pretty rarely. When it fails, the scars are often nasty and long-lasting.  How many of us would have the decency and character to come back the way he has? What a lesson for kids.”

sunflowerA small daily difference in one man’s career

Meg James tells the story of Ralph Roberts, founder of media giant Comcast Cable, who began taking his school-age son to meetings with investment bankers when they were doing deals. But after Brian Roberts graduated from the Wharton School, he didn’t start out at corporate headquarters. Instead, Ralph Roberts sent his son out in the field to install cable lines in people’s homes.

Brian could have started in a corner office, but he didn’t. Ralph told him that “you will share my values, and your mother’s values, or you won’t work here.” Ms. James notes, “A lot of fathers try to pass their legacy and family business to their children but few have done it better than Ralph.”

sunflowerA small daily difference a young child can make right now

We supply the building blocks of a child’s conscience and character. Small blocks like Kindness Love Notes and many others, stacked consistently, make a big, strong tower.

 

Tweetable:  Persevere in small acts of goodness; they add up to a big difference in your soul. Case in point here. Click to Tweet