Although children often say they see spirituality differently, many adults insist either that we need never bring up spiritual matters at all or that we must instill our own beliefs about God into children.
Assumption #1: Spiritual matters are of little importance to children.
The first option may be found among adults who assume that spiritual matters are of little importance to children. The upshot can be to discourage open-minded exploration and discovery where almost all children are curious. Or simply to eliminate yourself as an interested party when children reach out to talk with someone about life and death and meaning.
Assumption #2: Children are blank slates.
The second option is common among more religious adults. The assumption is that children are blank slates, having no natural engagement with God on their own, and therefore need to be taught.
Sometimes the results can be damaging: children feeling forced into rigid belief systems at a time when they more naturally lean toward possibilities and questions. That can lead children to run from the very mention of God.
There is a third way…. Assumption #3: Spirituality already exists in the heart of every child.
What if we listen to and nurture what God has already placed inside of them? What if we serve more as guides or even fellow journeyers than we do as teachers?
What if we work on the assumption that spirituality already exists inside the heart of every child and that God is already active there? Maybe that’s a cleaner window into their spirit.
And our role is not to tell them what to see out the window or to close the curtains on the window, but to facilitate and encourage them so they can see clearly for themselves.
Tweetable: If you’re a child, you want someone to pay closer attention to your human spirit and you deserve it. Click to Tweet
The question pops up in some families with young children. Here’s a summary of my favorite approach to answering many questions asked by children:
- Some people think X
- Some people think Y
- Some people think Z
- [optional] I think Z because___
- What do you think?
Here is how this approach plays out with Santa Claus.
There are many opinions on this subject. Below are quotes from children about whether Santa is real, courtesy of Answers.com, and in general they can be broken down into three categories.
The first group of children says that Santa Claus is real
He wears a red suit, and he lives at the North Pole, making presents for kids and delivering them all over the world on Christmas Eve in his sleigh.
Yes, Santa Claus WAS a real man. He lived in Turkey.
Santa is real and everyone knows it! He is so real because he has brought me presents every year and he will do the same every year. I love him too!
The second group of children says that Santa Claus doesn’t exist
….and those things are impossible.
Totally not, it is just a silly rumor to get children to do what they are told.
No, sorry. He was derived from a person named to be St. Nicholas. He gave toys to children, and wore red bishop’s clothing. He also is believed to have dropped things down chimneys at night, to avoid being seen. But this was a long time ago and he died.
No there is no Santa Claus as we know him, but there are nice people out there who are like mini-Santas. So yes your mom or dad were buying the presents, and there’s no point writing letters. I actually cried when my mom first told me.
The third group admits that he doesn’t have a tangible presence but is nonetheless real
… in the hearts and minds of parents and children and in the spirit of Christmas. We as a society make him real.
Well, Santa Clause is sort of real and sort of not because St Nicholas is Santa Claus and he lived a long time ago and gave to the poor and the wealthy making gifts out of wood.
Santa Claus is real to some people but not to others. He is real to all those who believe. Keep believing!
Tweetable: Here’s an idea of what to say when children ask if Santa is real. Click to Tweet
“It took me years to figure out what my kids aren’t getting, so I could go out and get it.”
Disappointment hung on these words: because of a lack of knowledge; for the difficulty of facing down what’s fragile in life; for the uncertainty around what really matters in the end.
In the same breath, hope burns brightly.
This parent went out and got it—decided what investments to make in the child and took steps to make it happen.
The legacy I want to leave through this blog is connected to this parent’s statement.
I want every reader to discover your unique role and responsibilities within the spiritual development of the important children in your life and to achieve it with excellence.
With the five minutes of your time each week it takes to read Child-Centered Spirituality…..
….I challenge you to reflect, evaluate and act now. I ask questions like, “How can I promote a fulfilling, meaningful life for this child?” “How should I respond to the hard questions?” “How do I engage with children about the wrongs I have done?” “What will I leave behind as a legacy?”
I try to increase your awareness of what children are and are not getting from you.
I do this by giving ideas for forming new habits of engagement with children, rather than just letting life happen to you in the same old way.
In the weeks following my mother’s death in August, an insight dawned: My parents equipped me fully to live without them. I have everything I need for life.
How did they do this? Not perfectly by any external standard. But they did it perfectly for me. I have been able to fill in the missing parts, learned from the hardships and joys of life. It hasn’t been all good but all things have worked together for good in my life.
Standing on this foundation, I write each week.
In addition, several talented people collaborate with me in the writing and distribution of the blog. Tara Miller edits and contributes ideas. Alisha Ule assists with social media. Annette Schalk does the German translation. Ryan Schultz provides technical support.
Thanks to all of my readers on this 2nd anniversary of the Child-centered Spirituality blog!
Your Likes, Shares and Comments lift my spirit, and for the most frequent of these, I say a special thanks to Bob L, Richard M, Patricia G, Laura L, Aloyce L, Megan R, Michelle U, and Shan S.
Tweetable: A blog where you actually get practical ideas so that kids get from you what they need for spiritual development. Click to Tweet