Young 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.
Basic building blocks of spirituality are
- a healthy sense of oneself as a human being and unique individual
- attending to things of eternal significance
Giving children your undivided attention when issues of self-image, conscience or character show up in your interactions with them 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.
Routines that contribute to growth in their human spirit
Ages 12-36 months
- Name the child’s emotions: When your bath is finished, you feel happy.
- Respond as quickly as possible when the child indicates a need like reaching for a book.
- Fold hands before meals to establish a routine of gratitude.
Ages 3-6 years
- When possible, make snacks and meals at the same time every day, building security around “having enough.”.
- Encourage the child to stay at the table for the duration of the meal for social interaction.
- Keep developing your young child’s inner sense of security with these practical ideas for 18 mo – 6 yrs. Click to Tweet
- Routines here can give young children a sense of safety allowing freedom to explore, risk and discover. Click to Tweet
After five years of interviewing adults about their childhood spiritual experiences, I’ve seen common threads. Here’s one: As children, they didn’t have the vocabulary to express how they were processing spirituality and God. Can’t you see it in what this man told me?
“I remember I was four or five years old and feeding white ducks bread crumbs from the top of a playground slide. It seemed very wonderful to me for some reason and I dreamed about it and I can still see myself doing it. My thoughts couldn’t have been very abstract or sophisticated or articulated in any vocabulary I had at the time, but I felt I was in the presence of something greater than myself, in a world beyond the surface world where I was tossing down food onto the white ducks and feeling very whole, free, peaceful.”
That it, isn’t it? Children can’t articulate with the vocabulary they have at the time.
But we can help children build a spiritual vocabulary. We use the same methods we did when we taught them basic vocabulary words.
When they learned animal names, we had picture books of animals, “Where’s the bird? What does the bird say?” And when we went outdoors, “See the bird? Hear the bird?”
Use children’s literature to teach spiritual vocabulary.
It’s packed with stories about the human spirit developing and prevailing. When you read to children, emphasize and repeat age-appropriate spiritual vocabulary words such as right, wrong, conscience, character, wise, forgive, as these concepts come up in the book. Use these vocabulary words in normal everyday conversations. As children get older, you can move on to words like mindful, ethics, purpose, presence, worship, spirit, soul, self and reason.
There’s no need to bottle it up inside.
When they know words like these, they’ll be equipped with a vocabulary to express themselves as they begin to work out the complexities of life. With no need to bottle it up inside, they will talk freely and listen to others, thus understanding how normal and widespread is the spiritual dimension of life.
- Ideas to help children build a spiritual vocabulary by the same method you taught them basic vocabulary. Click to Tweet
- Children don’t know the words to use to express their spiritual experiences. See some ideas here. Click to Tweet
As we approach the 3rd anniversary of our blog, I give thanks for the trust many of you have placed in us as we offer wisdom for the most important children in your life. I can’t express enough my gratitude for our incredible Child-Centered Spirituality team and the joy every member takes in making the posts and articles happen at a high standard.
- Tara Miller
- Alisha Ule
- Annette Schalk
- Michelle Coe
Our imperative is to clarify why the health of a child’s soul and spirit is worth your engagement, fitting it with their emotional, mental and physical development.
Our aim is not answers but growth in spiritual development.
We seek to inspire you through a relatable story, to make you laugh or think, and to add value to your interactions with children. We hope any of our ideas that you choose to try make it easier for you to respond confidently when kids bring up life’s intangibles such as morality, conscience, God, character, purpose and more.
As we begin Year 4, together we will allow ourselves to be open to spiritual explorations and the directions they will take us. We’re figuring it out as we go, stumbling along, celebrating our progress, and loving the children in our lives the best we can.
Happiness comes when your work and words are of benefit to yourself and others.
Tweetable: Happy 3rd Anniversary, Child-Centered Spirituality. Making room for persons of all faiths and of no faith. Click to Tweet
Rohatsu, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, Christmas, Hanukkah, and Yule. Most of us have some big plans brewing to make happy December holidays for the kids we love.
What makes a holiday experience thrilling?
Its impact on the human spirit or soul.
Because the memories of “giving experiences” remain vivid long after toys break or fade away.
Because, as Bono said, “love needs to find form, intimacy needs to be whispered. It’s actually logical. Essence has to manifest itself. Love has to become an action or something concrete.”
One family’s story:
When my daughter passed away at the age of 7 her brothers wanted to do something to help other children who are ill and stuck in the hospital or in bed at home, so we gathered books together and took them to the office of the Palliative care team that took such good care of my daughter and our family.
This became what is now “Cheyenne’s Lending library” it is full of books and blankets, toys and craft items for kids and even parents who stay with their children. The idea is to take their mind off of their illness for a little while.
Each year we drop off new books on Cheyenne’s birthday and at Christmas. Sometimes in between. We have been doing this since 2004.
Plan ahead to make giving this season’s highlight.
When you do an Internet search you will find a range of giving opportunities that children can see and experience. And because the season is notoriously stressful, you may find the best ideas are low-key and low energy, such as:
- Check with your local SPCA and purchase their approved items such as cat litter, cat food, and dog food. Obviously, the more engagement the children have in purchasing and delivering donations, the more memorable it will be for them.
- Contact your local food bank for ideas of their needs.Take the kids with you to the store and let them pick out items from the list so it becomes the child’s achievement.
- Ask a hospital for approval to have kids gather books and deliver them to the office. A hospital in my city allows the children to see where in the hospital their donations will be used, enhancing their feeling of accomplishment.
“Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.” – Lao Tzu
- Looking for low-key, low energy ways for kids to give and do something good this season? Go here. Click to Tweet
- Lao Tzu: “Kindness in giving creates love.” Show kids how to have fun giving this holiday season. Go here. Click to Tweet