An acquaintance of mine, a preschool teacher, describes a time when she saw God’s heart reflected in a child’s actions.
“One of the children in my class became upset and started to cry. Her classmate, Miguel, immediately stopped what he was doing, grabbed a tissue and literally wiped her eyes. He then sat next to her and comforted her. Miguel is filled with a deep sense of compassion and justice. I praised Miguel for that compassion and for caring for his friend.”
1) See experiences through the child’s eyes.
Miguel’s empathy reflected God’s heart toward his friend. He had understanding and insight into his friend’s thoughts and feelings. He took action to comfort her.
Empathy is not an easy skill to use, especially for those who were raised to minimize feelings, or skip over feelings and go right to changing or fixing them. When we practice empathy we communicate to children that we care.
2) Respond with empathy to reflect God’s heart of love toward children:
- That hurts, doesn’t it?
- I’m so sorry.
- Good for you! You did it!
- I remember feeling that way when I was a child–it’s exciting, isn’t it?
- It’s scary to feel all alone.
3) Support the child’s bond with God and God’s bond with the child.
Obviously bonding requires presence. Mere information about someone does not make a strong bond. We reflect God’s heart toward children when we support God’s bond with the child. This is difficult because we’re dealing with a Higher Power who is invisible. But when you are with the child, it is also easy to find God’s presence.
- Look for kind acts and loving gestures wherever you go. Why? Because that’s where God is making an appearance. Develop a family habit to point out the good, not the stupid or rude.
- Notice and verbalize signs of God’s love: in nature, in movies, music, children’s literature, in happy surprises.
- Focus on God’s nurturing, comforting, gentle presence in difficult times and give God the benefit of the doubt.
Tweetable: Understand & support a child’s bond with God even when you don’t have one, or don’t have the same kind. Click to Tweet
As children grow, we mark their progress in a number of ways. We mark their height on the wall. We post their report cards on our refrigerator. We place their most recent school photo on our mantel. As these milestones pass, we share our joy with our family and friends.
In the same way, we would like to share our joy with you as we mark a new milestone in our development.
Since our inception in 2013, Child-centered Spirituality has been focused on sharing content with our readers that is relevant and meaningful, creating opportunities for conversation on the topic of spirituality as it relates to children.
Child-centered Spirituality has grown since then, and we are now on our way toward publishing our first book, Child-centered Spirituality: Helping children develop their own spirituality.
Whether you are a parent, family member, teacher, mentor, or friend, you likely have opportunities in your “world” to encourage a child’s spirituality. By opening yourself up to their world — listening, asking questions, and sharing your insight — you honor the spirituality that already lives within them and helps them to establish their own sense of values and beliefs about themselves, others, and God.
Our blog, and our soon-to-be-released book, is geared to help you do just that.
Late last week you may have received an email notification from our site stating “Hello world!”
Although we didn’t expect that to be sent (thanks technology!), it has provided a perfect opportunity to re-introduce ourselves to you and invite you to explore our freshly updated website.
Read more about our new book and sign up to be one of the first to be notified when it is available here. As our thank you, you’ll receive our downloadable PDF “Why Childhood Spirituality Matters: Top five benefits for kids who are given opportunities to connect with God.”
Thank you for being a part of Child-centered Spirituality!
At any given age children experience normal fears and anxieties. If a family becomes concerned about a child’s unusually high level of anxiety, plenty of psychological resources exist. But there is an additional, important resource to be found in anchoring children at their core—in their spirit.
We all need a place to take our troubles and fears.
For centuries the Bible has been a reliable source of wisdom and offers a powerful picture of what God is like. In one of it’s most meaningful, familiar passages, the 23rd Psalm, a fearful young man writes his prayer:
“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
And much later in the book: “Give all your worries and cares to God, for God cares about you.”
Laura Turner states, “The admonition not to fear is the most frequently repeated instruction in the Bible.”
What my parents did
At a very young age, my parents gave me the following words, recorded in Genesis, spoken by God to Jacob: “I am with you and will keep you in all places.” They explained that nothing could separate me from the love of God, even when harm came to me.
“People have choices,” they said, “and some people hurt others, but when bad things happen to you, God is right there with you. God understands, and you will never be alone.”
Time and time again, these words–God is with me and will keep me in all places–comforted, reassured and built my sense of security not dependent upon my circumstances.
Security–a most valuable gift
Through the dangers, disappointments and losses of my life, God remains a steady presence in the depths of my spirit. I speak of this to the children I love so that they can develop a sense of security rooted in the presence of God and of people who love them.
Note: Bible quotes are Psalm 23:4, Genesis 28:15, 1 Peter 5:7
Tweetable: How my parents instilled a sense of security deep in my spirit that continues to this day. Click to Tweet
In an old issue of Psychology Today, I ran across an article featuring the words of Dennis Rosen, M.D.
Sometimes children seem so self absorbed and so preoccupied with gadgets and toys, we wonder whether they are aware of, or care about, what goes on around them. We like to tell ourselves, “Something” must be wrong with this generation.
Except there isn’t. The problem lies with us, the adults, who could be challenging them to think about others, and leading them to action.
Prior to going to Haiti to volunteer at a hospital, Dr. Rosen spoke to his daughter’s second grade class about the conditions there, showing them pictures of what life is like for children just like them. Following his visit, the class collected over 7,000 vitamins for him to give out.
“The empathy and genuine interest of these seven year olds was so impressive, and yet, upon reflection, not really that surprising. To help others in need is a very basic human instinct (though one that is not always acted upon).”
5 fun activities teach kids to think of others.
Author Cat Skorupski’s ideas I’m going to use with the kids in my life this summer:
- Surprise parents by making a favorite food for each of them and present it at the next meal.
- Do a chore without being asked. This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s one that will resonate big-time with parents. The more annoying the chore, the better. Make a movie of each child doing it and show their parents.
- Raise money for a cause dear to someone’s heart. Showing that you care about something he or she cares about—enough to invest your time and energy—is a huge compliment.
- Take a song you already know and write new words to it, making it about someone special to you! It doesn’t have to be complicated—heck, it doesn’t even have to be on-key. It’s the thought that counts! Then record it onto a phone or computer and send it to them.
- Create a scavenger hunt. Hide affirmation notes around the house for a sibling or other relative to find. The notes could be hidden in sequence with clues that lead the hunter to the next treasure or they could just be hidden randomly.
Tweetable: Show kids how you care about others, then guide them do this directly on their own with 5 new ideas. Click to Tweet
A dreaded part of my childhood piano lessons came on the days I got excused from school to go before an adjudicator for grading on my skills. I was very nervous, but I did well enough to receive small silver and gold pins signifying my competency.
At times I felt disappointed by my piano performances, and my mother seemed to know the words to say when I knew I messed up. But when her arm, slung around my drooping shoulders, pulled me close the real comfort set in. Touch can mean more than words.
Meaningful touch blesses a child physically.
We can give almost every child a pat on the shoulder, a high five, a fist bump. Temperament is a factor in how much touch and what kind of touch a child wants. And the touch must be right for the relationship you have with that child, as well as being culturally appropriate.
- Auntie gives a manicure.
- An uncle arm wrestles.
- A family friend sneaks up behind, covers your eyes with their hands and says, “Guess who?”
- Grandma holds your hand in both of hers.
Obviously you can hug your own children but not every neighbor child or friend of your child. Follow the child’s cues. Touch is meaningful when it is done for the benefit of the child, not our own. It symbolizes acceptance. Conversely, if someone refuses to shake hands with you or touch you, it symbolizes lack of acceptance.
Appropriate touch blesses a child emotionally.
If we are consistent about being a source of blessing to others, we will begin to recognize the number of biochemical changes taking place when we reach out and touch. Deep emotional needs are met.
With all the media reports of child abuse and inappropriate touching, we back away from touch. Realize, however, that avoiding healthy, appropriate, meaningful touch sacrifices physical and emotional health in a child’s life.
How can children feel the touch of God?
Obviously God, being spirit, does not touch us physically. God’s touch is inward. It is a lack of fear. It is the absence of anxiety. It’s the knowledge that no matter what noise, what disappointment, what complications surround you—you are held. We crave these touches because they will not come and go with each passing circumstance. These are God’s meaningful touches for us and the children we love.
Ways to bless children right now with meaningful touch.
- Give a spontaneous hug.
- Put your arm around a child while watching a movie.
- Give a goodbye kiss on the head when kids are heading out to school.
Note: The concept of the blessing, along with some of the ideas under “Ways to bless children right now,” are taken from John Trent’s book The Blessing.
Tweetable: How can children feel the touch of God? See how our meaningful touch can facilitate it. Click to Tweet