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
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
These ideas for discussing the possibilities of such a relationship are written at a child’s vocabulary level. Adapt it as needed for a child’s unique situation.
Your connection with God starts with God.
From the beginning of your life, God provides a family for you, intending that you will learn what love, nurture and care are. As an infant you responded to God when you experienced delight in looking at your parents’ faces, feeling warm bath water on your skin or being cuddled.
God’s bond with you is ready for you to join in whenever you want to.
God has been preparing it all along. Your human spirit–inside of you–is where this relationship develops. Since God is spirit, God provided you with your human spirit so you would have the inner space to hold a relationship with God.
You have been responding to God, even when you did not recognize it.
When you see the night sky with countless stars and feel amazement at how big and wide it is, you are responding to God’s glory.
When you see someone’s talent expressed you are responding to God’s handiwork. When you feel love and kindness being shown to you, you are sensing God’s presence.
If you take time right now to think about it, you would remember many times you connected with God. Something special was going on but you did not recognize that it was because of God.
Connect more directly with God the same ways you connect with people.
Starting in early childhood and continuing through your whole life, you have plenty of things to go to God about. You have lots to talk about and question. These questions, conversations and encounters, along with the feelings they produce, form the foundation of a real relationship.
Think about the relationships in your life.
You go places together, hang out, laugh, play, work, eat, talk, argue. With God, you do many of the same things. God has feelings. God is delighted when you are having fun. God feels anger when people hurt each other and feels happy when you are generous. God feels disappointed when someone breaks a promise. God understands everything you feel inside. When you are upset, maybe crying, you can be sure that God is aware of every tear. When you are celebrating a special occasion, God’s heart is full of joy. God knows and loves everything about you.
Note: These traits of God are taken from the Bible’s stories.
Tweetable: What do you say when kids ask, “Can people actually make a connection with God?” Some good ideas here. Click to Tweet
I’ve never been good at multi-tasking. It’s not that I didn’t try. I tried for years. I just can’t hold my thoughts together when I’m working on multiple projects at once. It’s always been this way, so it’s not just because I’m getting older. I admit being jealous of people who have bookmarks in several books right now, digital or otherwise. To keep plot lines in context? Not a chance.
Suddenly an inability to divide attention is a hot commodity.
To listen with full attention is in demand. Personal devices, certainly good and necessary, are perhaps the most common enemy of our desire to give all our attention to what our loved one has to say. To be emotionally present with others communicates their importance.
As we finish this series of blog posts on the topic of blessing children, we will now focus on making an active commitment to giving them our undivided attention.
What we can do to develop their spirit
Look for opportunities to talk with them and find out what is going on in their minds. Ask good questions that allow them to respond however they want. Help them sort through their dreams, opinions, wishes, and just generally be available. Be honest with them about your own thoughts and goals. Integrate their faith and morals when it is natural to do so.
Author Gary Smalley wrote about spiritual growth, “Our purpose in listening with full attention is to be able to take what children share and weave it into words and stories that teach new truths and communicate not only a blessing, but also principles for living.”
Expect to pay a price
From his own experience with his three children, Gary found that his commitment to bless them meant:
- Hard work–to provide a blessing to each child
- Time—to meaningfully touch and hug them
- Courage—to put into a spoken message the words of love that have been on the tip of my tongue
- Wisdom and boldness—to highly value them
- Creativity—to picture a future for them filled with hope and with God’s best for their lives
Yet we also get a blessing from the joy we feel at seeing a child’s life bloom and grow because of our commitment to them. It is in the giving that we receive.
Ways to bless children right now
- Let the child wear something of yours (a necklace, a baseball cap) during dinner because you trust the child can handle it.
- Ask, “What would it take for this to be a great weekend for you?” and try to see that it happens.
- Learn a new age-appropriate joke and tell them.
- Make their favorite dinner on a day other than their birthday.
Note: The concept of the blessing, along with some of the ideas here are taken from the book, The Blessing.
Tweetable: When you commit yourself to give undivided attention to kids more often, expect to pay a price. Click to Tweet
4 ideas to bless kids with your undivided attention beyond making eye contact and listening. Find them here. Click to Tweet
Affan Abdullah is a Muslim American. He doesn’t celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah. He feels, however, that we can find basic common ground and beliefs, no matter our faith or non-faith.* What is this common ground?
We offer each other holiday wishes, often along these lines:
- A wish that we all will live up to the values the holidays represent, not just talk about them.
- A wish that we will live into the spirit of the season, helping those who need it and sharing with others from whatever we have.
What is the spirit of Christmas?
- For children old enough to recognize that difficulties, trouble and disappointments have entered their lives, Christmas offers hope. Tradition records that Jesus described humanity as filled with both the characteristics of God and with self-defeating tendencies. Christmas brings the hope that good will overcome the bad, and Jesus laid out his way of doing that.
- The need for community and fellowship. Jan Sutton sees the weeks of festivities and reunions as a way to hold communities together. She points out that there is nothing religious about giving and generosity.*
- Spiritual intensity. Marianne Williamson, herself a non-Christian offer this: “One doesn’t have to be a Christian to appreciate the fact that Jesus is a magnificent spiritual force. Jesus gives to Christmas its spiritual intensity, hidden behind all the… sounds of the season.”
“Because no words are as powerful as our human lives.” (Scott Korb)
We can respect the powerful life of Jesus as a figure of peace and authentic justice….. Jesus as someone who fed the poor and comforted the grieving. Christians remind themselves of the good work Jesus began and of his call to do them to do likewise.
Tweetable: Christmas brings hope to children and all of us that the good will overcome the bad. Click to Tweet
Children need to know there are so many ways spirituality fosters community, not division and strife. Click to Tweet
*USA Today, 12/21/14