Not only are children’s interests different, but how they connect with other people is different. In a similar way, how they connect with God is going to be different.
Main idea: Some kids feel closest to God when they think and think, until they really understand something.
Meditation: “Come now, let us reason together,’ says the Lord…” Isaiah 1:18. “Test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good.” 1 Thessalonians 5:21
Let’s talk: When you’re using your mind, how are you seeing life through God’s eyes?
To be able to sense God’s presence in everyday life is something many people desire. One way we strengthen that way of living is to stop for a minute in the day and consciously focus on God’s goodness.
Main idea: God loves to care for you and give you what you need.
Meditation: “Give all your worries to him, because he cares for you.” I Peter 5:7
Let’s talk: Agree or Disagree —God is the one person you can trust to know what you need better than you do yourself. If you agree, why? If you disagree, why?
For some children, the accuracy of their beliefs is very important because, from these beliefs, he or she will stand for a cause, even at great personal expense.
Main idea: When you understand the truth of a situation or a principle, you stand up for it.
Meditation: “The Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8
Let’s talk: How did you express your Christian beliefs or ethics this past week?
Just as no two snowflakes are alike and no two sets of fingerprints are alike, no two connections between God a human being are alike.
Main idea: Many kids are able to experience God in the beauty of nature. They care strongly for the environment around them.
Mediation: “Ask the animals and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?” Job 12:7-9
Let’s talk: How does nature connect you with who God is?
It hit me like a bolt of lightning as I was preparing a workshop that I presented at a national children’s spirituality summit last month. (My topic was spiritual learning styles and how a child most naturally connects with God.) God is a primary caregiver and attachment theory applies to a human being’s relationship with God, not only to our human relationships.
Others have the same perspective.
For example, Peter Lovenheim, author of The Attachment Effect, discovered:
“Of course I can have a true attachment relationship with God even though God cannot be seen. My sister, after all, had been unseen by me for more than a year now, yet I still had a relationship with her that met the attachment criteria…. I continue to keep her close (proximity) with photos and other objects, and by talking to her. And our love continues to strengthen me (secure love) and comfort me in times of stress (safe haven). My love for Jane and hers for me survives her death, as does our attachment relationship.”
We are born to connect.
Harry Reis, Professor of Psychology at the University of Rochester, writes: “Attachment theory always captivates students. When I lecture about attachment theory, even the most distracted student soon starts to pay attention.”
In my experience, if the subject of a relationship with God has come up in conversations I’ve had, everyone has admitted, “If it were possible, I would want to know God personally.” Kids are no different. Most of us want to feel attached to God.
How can I help a child strengthen his or her attachment bond with God?
All of these previous blog posts give a description of different styles children use while bonding to God, with practical ideas and conversation starters. This is so valuable to a child’s continued growth in faith.
“Attachment theory’s observations are at once wise, astute, and intensely personal–it’s hard to listen to an account of attachment theory without thinking, “Yes, that’s it!” (Professor Harry Reis)
Tweetable: Is your child asking about God or interested in knowing about God? Or maybe your kids resist going to religious services? Be sure you know the child’s natural way to connect with God. It’s almost certainly not the same as yours. Click to Tweet
“We don’t ask each other questions. Instead, we speak—sometimes tweet—statements at each other.”*
What response do we get when we assert our own ideas before we attempt to understand the other person? What tone does this set in our family relationships and in social settings? Can children show us a better way?
Reminder #1: Questions form a bond
Haven’t we all answered a 3-year-old’s question, only to be asked and answered again—and again—and again? Finally it dawns on us that the child is bonding with us. The give-and-take of her Q &A session produces dialogue and dialogue forms bonds.
Reminder #2: Questions lead to self-awareness
I find that the “Would you rather…” questions work best with most kids. I get blank stares with general questions. For example, “Would you rather take piano lessons or painting lessons?” works better than, “What kind of lessons do you want to take?” in finding out how we can develop their innate talents.
Reminder #3: Questions strengthen critical thinking skills
Ellen Galinsky, author of Mind in the Making, suggests these questions: “What ideas do you have?” and “What do you think is happening here?” Respect responses whether you view them as correct or not. You could say, “That is interesting. Tell me why you think that.” Use phrases like “I am interested to hear your thinking about this.” “How would you solve this problem?”
Ask God questions
Children relate well to God when they form an image of a personal God, one who loves them, cares about them and knows them by name. I like to say “Let’s ask God about that and see how God answers us.” I do this with confidence because years ago I added question-asking to my own relationship with God. I began to hear the world around me with new ears and to see my environment with new eyes.
Through nonverbal cues and just plain acting out, kids remind us to ask them questions and provide them with choices.
“It’s hard, because we live in a world that is perfectly comfortable with making statements. And perfectly uncomfortable asking questions.”– Douglas Estes, assistant professor at South University Columbia, SC
Tweetable: Kids can keep us from working so hard to get our point across because they respond so positively when, instead, we ask questions and offer choices. A good practice with peers too. Click to Tweet