What must every child have to feel secure? The safety of routine.
Children are creatures of routine. As much as they may love the occasional adventure, they feel safer knowing they can fall back into their familiar patterns. See how this father creates a sense of security by making predictable routines for his son’s life:
“I have been actively guiding and setting boundaries with my little one and I know it takes a lot of practice and consistent monitoring. Generally, he will cry for a moment but then want me to comfort him. Before long he runs off to the next project. It is nice to see that he recovers so quickly. When I keep him and those around him (our dog) safe he does have a good time and laughs a lot.”
The human spirit develops a sense of safety in a similar way.
The most basic building blocks of spirituality are
- a healthy sense of oneself as a human being and unique individual
- attending to things of eternal significance
Give children your undivided attention when issues of self-image, conscience or character show up in your interactions with them. That attention will help them develop an inner sense of safety.
The beautiful part is that children with a deep sense of safety– physically, emotionally, and spiritually– give themselves the freedom to explore, risk and discover.
- Giving attention to self-image, conscience and character helps children develop an inner sense of safety. Click to Tweet
- Children with a deep sense of safety give themselves freedom to explore, risk and discover. Click to Tweet
The movie, “Noah,” will leave quite an impression on children and they will think about it. By rating it PG-13, it is obvious that the movie industry does not recommend it for children under 13.
If you see the movie with a child, you open up the possibility of conversation afterwards. Step back from your own views about God and ask the children to give theirs. Children have a natural curiosity about God and they want to process their thoughts with adults.
Here are some questions that might allow kids to talk about what they’ve seen.
- How do you feel about the idea that God destroys an entire group of people?
- How did you respond when you saw the destruction?
- What is the filmmaker’s opinion of the Creator?
- What is yours–based on your personal knowledge of God?
- How has your opinion of God changed after seeing the movie?
- What is justice? What is mercy?
If we keep in mind all those Active Listening principles we’ve learned and encourage their free expression, they might even ask us what we think. Or maybe they won’t.
Are you willing to leave some loose ends if they come away with opposing views to yours?
- Step back from your own views of the Noah movie and ask kids to give theirs. Click to Tweet
- Are you willing to leave some loose ends if they come away with opposing views to yours? Click to Tweet
Provide spiritual security by engaging with the child’s spiritual questions and curiosity. In the busyness of everyday life it can be easier to skip over their questions, or give pat answers, especially if spiritual topics make us uncomfortable anyway.
Notice how these adults were developing children’s physical and emotional security at the same time:
My friend Terah is a social worker. She was on a routine visit in a good, stable foster home where two children, in kindergarten and first grade, had recently been placed. During her visit, one of the children commented, “What we really like in this new house is that it has an alarm system so we can tell if anyone is leaving.” When they were up in their rooms at night, they knew that the foster parents were still home. The beep-beep-beep of the alarm every time an outside door opened gave them the security of knowing that the adults were not leaving.
Children strongly desire a sense of security. The world can be a scary place for little people who have little control over what happens to them. In the same way they feel secure physically and emotionally, they can feel secure spiritually too. What are some ways you could help the children in your life feel secure in their spirit?
In my next post: Prepare for spiritual questions when your child watches the new movie “Noah.”
- Children can feel secure spiritually in the same way they feel secure physically and emotionally. Click to Tweet
Caregivers who nurture a child’s spirit may begin to notice subtle behavior changes in him. He may show interest in nurturing and caring for others. Children put out what they take in. – Click to Tweet.
You can see this dynamic play out by watching how children care for their baby dolls. One little boy strapped it on his back and went for a bike ride. One little girl scolded her baby in very familiar phrasing for some form of wrongdoing. Guess what these little ones had experienced from their caregivers? Children are natural mimics.
In the same way, children who are spiritually nurtured are likely to act out that same behavior with others.
“Once when I visited my brother’s family my 3-year-old nephew and I were playing with the dog. For some strange reason we started looking closely at the dog’s mouth and teeth. “Why do his teeth look like that [crooked]?” “I don’t know. I guess that’s just how God made him.” “Instantly my nephew shot back, “Who is God?” I don’t recall my exact words–some simple description I’m sure.
About a year passed, now he’s four, and I was with the family again as I was telling them about my shoulder being hurt. “I need to ask God to take care of your shoulder,” my nephew said.
Nurture of the child’s spirituality creates an environment that allows him to experience what it means to be a child of God, even when he cannot find the words to tell a parent or caregivers how important this is to him.
- Children put out what they take in – Click to Tweet.
- Children who are spiritually nurtured are likely to act out that same behavior with others. – Click to Tweet.
Children can hear about God almost every day. On the playground, at the park, at the zoo, basically anywhere people are talking: Oh my God. Oh God, no! Goddammit! I swear to God….
They are curious about this. Children want to talk about and ask about God.
Who is God? Why can’t I see God? Where does God live and is his mom there? How old is God? Is he a person? Was God born from an Easter egg?
Children ask questions, and they expect and respond to a God who cares, nourishes and feeds. It’s their natural instinct:
“When my pet cat died I wanted to know where my cat went, why she couldn’t come back, etc. I was completely satisfied with my parents’ answers of ‘She went to heaven; God is watching over her now.’ That’s when I realized there was some other higher being out there. I felt peace. I remember it distinctly. It was peace knowing that there was someone watching and caring for us that we couldn’t see or touch, but they were out there.”
“Around age four I was hungry to read stories from a large Reader’s Digest Bible Story Book that my Mom had ordered. We didn’t go to church so these stories were completely new to me. I was amazed and was so drawn by the stories read to me by my Mom and sister.”
Caregivers nurture the human spirit when, in responding to questions and comments about God, they convey God’s love, affection, warmth and tenderness for the child, despite any reservations of their own that they may have.
- Children have a natural instinct to ask questions about God. Click to Tweet
- Parents must respond positively to questions about God despite reservations. Click to Tweet