In what environment does your child feel particularly close to God? It’s not that God is objectively closer to them in those situations, but that they feel God’s closeness more, they sense God to be closer to them.
These “locations” reveal a child’s spiritual style.
Spiritual style is the way we receive the never-ending stream of communication God sends out to humankind.–Christian A. Schwarz
The Rational Style: A child understands the nature of God through logic and science.
Note the items that apply to children in your life to determine whether they likely possess a rational style of spirituality.
- The child’s views the study of science as a wonderful way to learn more about God.
- You would say that the child loves God with her mind.
- The child is curious to find truth wherever it may appear.
- Intellectually learning something new about God is a deep spiritual experience for the child.
- The child considers it positive to have a critical mindset toward spiritual questions.
- The child is skeptical toward a faith that constantly offers “easy solutions.”
- It is important for the child’s faith that his mind is regularly stimulated.
Discovery questions for rational children
If you notice five or more of these characteristics, the child probably has a well-established pattern of expressing spirituality with their mind.
The following questions may be useful as you seek to strengthen their connection with God:
- What questions about God does this raise?
- What is puzzling about it?
- Where is God’s truth in it?
- How are your doubts causing your own faith to gain power and depth?
- What do you want to explore further?
Coming up: The Bold Idealistic Style
Adapted from The 3 Colors of Your Spirituality, by Christian A. Schwarz
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“A spiritual style is a God-given antenna for the divine.” German philosopher Christian Schwarz’ research into how people connect with God gives insight into the way each child most naturally experiences God.
Many years ago I adapted Mr. Schwarz’ findings for my own personal use with the children in my life and I will pass this along in the next several posts.
The Sensory Style: A child enjoys the works of God through beauty and perception.
Note the items that apply to children in your life to determine whether they likely possess a sensory style of spirituality.
- The child’s awareness of God is very much influenced by artistic or natural beauty.
- You would say that the child is very perceptive to what is happening around him.
- The child’s faith grows with her ability to enjoy nature more fully.
- Art has a high spiritual impact on the child.
- The child frequently perceives God’s presence in the everyday aspects of life where other people see nothing spiritual.
- The child likes to use touch, smell, taste, sight and hearing to encounter God.
- The child enjoys being surrounded by physical objects that have spiritual meaning.
Discovery questions for sensory children
If you notice five or more of these characteristics, the child probably has a well-established pattern of expressing spirituality through their senses.
The following questions may be useful as you seek to strengthen their connection with God:
- What does this show you about God?
- What characteristics of God do you see?
- What do you like about that?
- How does that connect with who God is?
- What thoughts and feelings come up?
- How does that relate to God?
- How do you experience God in this?
Coming up: The Rational Style
Adapted from The 3 Colors of Your Spirituality, by Christian A. Schwarz.
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“Eighty percent of success is just showing up,” according to Woody Allen. In building trust with kids, that is absolutely true.
Trusting relationships start with us.
One of my mentors, Linda Sibley, shares her perspective.
“Attention to little things over the long haul is key,” she says. That includes things like sharing meals together, creating a stable schedule for co-parenting or establishing and maintaining family traditions.
Sounds easy, doesn’t it?
Yet when our own life journey hits emotionally and physically draining situations, these “little things” can feel overwhelming!
Fortunately, we don’t have to be perfect to establish a trusting home. Trust is built by our consistent efforts –especially when we are tired or stressed—over the long haul.
Trusting relationships start– but don’t end– with us.
Along with trusting safe people, a young child’s natural trust in God also needs to be nurtured and fed with great care. We must tread very gently so as not to damage this innate bond with God. We all began life with it. Many parents can relate with this quote, a blogged note in response to a London Times online article:
I am completely unreligious. It is so strange that my 4 year old believes in god and talks about it once in a while. I never taught that to him. Anyway, sounds interesting, it’s partly human nature.*
Some of us did not receive much childhood assistance to develop our trust in God.
But we can choose a different approach with the children in our lives. One note of caution: Avoid linking the basis of a child’s trust to answered prayers or obtaining favors from God.
Their trust in God can be damaged when we lead them to believe that their prayers to God always get answered in the affirmative (i.e. mom and dad get back together or a cousin escapes a car accident with no injuries).
Instead, watch for expressions of love in daily life and you will find God at work there.
*Quoted in Born Believers by Justin Barrett, page 176.
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Sooner or later, every child sees trouble coming into life. Things go wrong. Even young children feel anger, disappointment, grief, pain and loss.
Older kids might not like the design of their body, the parents they got or didn’t get. They are surprised when they first learn that adults aren’t always fair or kind.
They are sad when the people who are supposed to keep them safe don’t do their job. They feel helpless when bad things happen or no one listens to them. Their anxiety level rises.
We cannot take away children’s uncomfortable feelings.
But we can reassure them that they are loved by their parents, family members, friends and very importantly—by God.
Guard against offering them false promises.
For example, when serious marital problems persist, avoid over-promising: “Your mom and I will work things out, and we’ll all be a family again.”
Likewise, we should be familiar with what God promises– and doesn’t promise– and stay true to this when we inform children about God. For instance, we can mislead children: “Say a prayer so that Grandpa will get well.” or “Stop doing that or God will punish you.”
Offer true promises backed up by God’s word and character.
I use several child-centered promises from the sacred writings of the Talmud and New Testament to reassure children in times of trouble. You can find others as well.
- God cares about you.
- God is love and all love comes from God.
- God is trustworthy.
- You will seek Me [God] and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.
- God understands everything you feel inside.
- I [God] am with you and will watch over you wherever you go.
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“Children carry family secrets. Their powers of observation add to the problem when they see, for example, one parent covering up for another or acting as if everything is okay when it obviously is not,” says author Linda Sibley. She continues…
Guideline #1: Tell children the truth.
In an effort to protect children from the painful side of life, family members often make the mistake of not talking to them about difficult family issues. Unfortunately, not talking to children about what is real does not protect them.
“Children always know…. They just don’t always know what they know.” –John Bradshaw
And when children know something is wrong and no one will talk to them about it at an age-appropriate level, they fill in the blanks for themselves. Their version will include distorted details.”
Truth sets free
In one of Jesus’ best known statements made to the people who believed in him, he declares: “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)
In reality, it is much easier for children to deal with the real truth about family issues than with their made-up version of it. For adults, the toughest part of these conversations is separating the information that children need from our own emotional baggage.
Trust that Jesus was right and give kids the truth they need.
Keep it age-appropriate. Gain your own composure so that you aren’t mixing in your embarrassment, anger or fear.
Guide them toward one or two safe people to tell.
For years, I’ve been leading support groups where children share their concerns with kids their own age under the supervision of a trained facilitator. Parents report that the children feel less anxious and burdened down. Kids realize, often for the first time, that no family is perfect and that other kids have similar feelings and concerns.
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