Blog’s 5th anniversary and 5 answers

When did you realize you wanted to blog?

When I finished writing Child-Centered Spirituality but before its publication, several smart people recommended that I start a blog so that I’d have a place to raise issues around the subject.

How did you feel when you started writing?

Nervous. Unsure. I wondered if there would be enough to write about and whether anyone was going to read it.

What did you learn from the past five years?

I learned that child-centered spirituality is of interest to many families and to (almost) all children.  Once adults realize that we don’t talk about religion here, but matters of the spirit, their guard goes down and they focus on understanding a child’s own special way of relating with God, supporting and resourcing it, even when it’s different from the adult’s style.

Who helped you along the way toward this 5th blog anniversary?

  1. Tara Miller, coauthor of Child-Centered Spirituality,  read all the posts and offered suggestions. She’s been a guest blogger on occasion.
  2. Alisha Ule provided technical support and set up Instagram, a Facebook page, and Twitter account. She contributes the art ideas, creates the posters for quotations  and more.
  3. Michelle Coe steered the book launch and designed the book cover.
  4. Annette Schalk did the German translations for four years.
  5. Robert Logan provided major funding for the project.
  6. Readers gave ideas for discussion through their questions and comments.

Why did you decide to offer Child-Centered Spirituality Workshop events?

blog anniversary bookAfter the book came out in November 2017 (Amazon & Kindle) I was impressed with an idea that wouldn’t go away:

Through the book’s message, families can recognize the great need to pay attention to children’s spiritual development to the same degree that they encourage intellectual, social, emotional and physical growth. The book describes the big picture issues with age-appropriate aids for adults to utilize with kids. But how does this happen in the ordinariness of everyday life? How does a child form a bond with God?

blog anniversary evebtThe workshop uncovers seven styles people use to connect with God in their most natural way, with emphasis on children.

The first workshop was held in April 2018 in Pasadena, CA. Since then, it’s been in Nashville and Colorado Springs, with more coming in 2019. Contact janet@childcenteredspirituality If your faith community, service organization or parochial school wants more info.

Tweetable: Book now for a Child-centered Spirituality workshop to come to your service organization, faith community or parochial school. Go here for details. Click to Tweet.

Two moms team up to teach daughters conflict resolution

conflict resolutionRobert Fulghum famously said, “All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten.” Two years after they graduated from kindergarten these girls expanded upon “Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody,” thanks to their mothers joining forces to teach some conflict resolution.

A good friend of mine told me her experience.

“My 7-year-old daughter Sophie came home one day very upset because her best friend Mariah said something insensitive about her height.

Sophie was very short for her age, and sensitive about it. Mariah, who was tall for her age, had no understanding that someone might be sensitive about her height.

I called Mariah’s mom and explained the situation. Both of us wanted to teach our daughters how to work through conflict productively.

Moms and daughters get together.

We set up a meeting time for Sophie to share how she felt, for Mariah to hear, understand it, and apologize, and for Sophie to accept the apology and restore the relationship.

Both girls were afraid, as neither liked conflict, but they worked through the process as we coached them.

The result was a restored friendship, rather than the growing distance that occurs when hurt feelings go unaddressed.

The family gets involved.

Our family was later able to talk about that experience of recognizing when you have done something wrong and using courtesy when asking for and receiving forgiveness.”

Tweetable:  Two moms join forces to teach a simple lesson in conflict resolution to their daughters. To what degree are you and your closest friends teaming up for some of these important life lessons? Click to Tweet

A single focused conversation made a difference

Robert Logan, guest blogger, shares a conversation he had when we were foster parents.

conversation with our foster child

One highlight I remember from my time as a foster parent was a particular conversation– brief but meaningful. Heather (not her real name, and not pictured here) was a 14-year-old girl and had been with us for less than a year. One evening we were having dinner and I was chatting with her about her schoolwork (which was not good).

Here’s my reason…

She said, “The reason I’m failing Spanish is because I don’t like the attitude of my teacher.” It was one excuse after another. Things weren’t fair. The teacher had it in for her. And so on.
I responded in a soft voice, “You know, Heather, you’ve had a lot of hard things happen to you. I’m sure you haven’t told us everything, but what you have said is bad enough. No kid should have to deal with that. But at some point in your life, you’re going to have to stop blaming everyone else for your problems.”
She responded with a flare of anger: “I’m not blaming everyone else for all my problems!” I paused, then in a soft voice, quietly said: “Well, you just told me all of the reasons you’re failing Spanish. This happened because of that. I don’t know what you call that, but I call that blaming.” She was really angry, and shortly after that our conversation ended. It was the single longest focused conversation we’d ever managed to have– probably five minutes all together.

And here’s my apology…

While I was driving her to youth group that night, Heather apologized for the first and only time… for being “such a brat.”  Perhaps this was a turning point in taking responsibility.
Although we lost track of her over the years, she did graduate high school, got a job, and had a boyfriend who respected her. Teens are at such a crossroads in deciding how to shape their own values and the choices they will make… regardless of the choices other important people in their lives have made– or not made– for them.
Tweetable: It doesn’t happen frequently, but once in a lifetime, a single conversation can make a difference in someone’s life. A foster parents talks about the only one he ever had–here. Click to Tweet

A single focused conversation made a difference

Robert Logan, guest blogger, shares a conversation he had when we were foster parents.

conversation with our foster child

One highlight I remember from my time as a foster parent was a particular conversation– brief but meaningful. Heather (not her real name, and not pictured here) was a 14-year-old girl and had been with us for less than a year. One evening we were having dinner and I was chatting with her about her schoolwork (which was not good).
She said, “The reason I’m failing Spanish is because I don’t like the attitude of my teacher.” It was one excuse after another. Things weren’t fair. The teacher had it in for her. And so on.
I responded in a soft voice, “You know, Heather, you’ve had a lot of hard things happen to you. I’m sure you haven’t told us everything, but what you have said is bad enough. No kid should have to deal with that. But at some point in your life, you’re going to have to stop blaming everyone else for your problems.”
She responded with a flare of anger: “I’m not blaming everyone else for all my problems!” I paused, then in a soft voice, quietly said: “Well, you just told me all of the reasons you’re failing Spanish. This happened because of that. I don’t know what you call that, but I call that blaming.” She was really angry, and shortly after that our conversation ended. It was the single longest focused conversation we’d ever managed to have– probably five minutes all together.
While I was driving her to youth group that night, Heather apologized for the first and only time… for being “such a brat.”  Perhaps this was a turning point in taking responsibility.
Although we lost track of her over the years, she did graduate high school, got a job, and had a boyfriend who respected her. Teens are at such a crossroads in deciding how to shape their own values and the choices they will make… regardless of the choices other important people in their lives have made– or not made– for them.
Tweetable: It doesn’t happen frequently, but once in a lifetime, a single conversation can make a difference in someone’s life. A foster parents talks about the only one he ever had–here. Click to Tweet

Are you out of the loop about childhood spirituality?

What is child-centered spirituality and why is it important? Here’s the short answer and a story from someone who is in the loop with it.

What is child-centered spirituality?

loop of young child's spiritualityIt is listening to and nurturing what is already inside a child’s soul. The way to encourage children’s innate longing for the divine is found in opening yourself up to their world, in asking them questions and answering theirs, in listening. It is about honoring the soul–the sacred space within them.

It’s serving more as guides, or even fellow journeyers, than we do as teachers. It is working on the assumption that spirituality already exists inside the heart of every child, and that God is already at work there. Maybe our role is just to help facilitate and develop what is already resident there.

Why is it important?

Children’s faith in God’s presence with them, in God’s goodness and care for them, can sustain the mental and emotional resiliency they need to live. It can provide perspective on life and death, eternity, guilt, grace, forgiveness.  Children’s inner spiritual anchor can be a safe place to turn when life’s challenges come upon them. Older children will, as we all do, turn to something when they feel overwhelmed. Yesterday’s lead article in my local newspaper was, “Xanax abuse rising at schools.”

In the loop with Jay

father daughter loopI dove into teenage life for all it was worth. My energies and activities, my adventures, risks, and yes–faith meant I found a second home in faith communities independent of my family. I settled easily into the context of a church youth group and a Christian club at school.

My parents practiced child-centered spirituality. They recognized my need for adults outside the family who knew me well and I drank deeply from the water these adults provided. That I went on to become a high school English teacher was a natural extension of all I learned and eagerly wanted to offer others in those pivotal years.

Now with our own children, my wife and I take best practices from our parents and our own experiences that we hope will make a developmentally positive and enduring spiritual difference.

Tweetable: Get in the loop with childhood spirituality. The proven benefits of making peace with God should be encouragement enough to invest time and attention in their holistic development. Click to Tweet

 

 

 

 

Born to connect with the divine

A cornerstone of Child-Centered Spirituality is this conviction: We are born with the capability to connect with the divine, and this activity is centered in our soul or spirit.

New York Times columnist David Brooks adds his observations about humanity’s innate spirituality: “Of course people are driven by selfish motivations—for individual status, wealth and power. But they are also motivated by another set of drives—for solidarity, love and moral fulfillment—that are equally and sometimes more powerful.”

I’ve summarized Brooks’ thoughts below and you can read his entire column here.

People have a moral sense.

divine babies feel “They have a set of universal intuitions that help establish harmony between people. From their first moments, children are wired to feel each other’s pain. You don’t have to teach a child about what fairness is; they already know. There’s no society on Earth where people are admired for running away in battle or for lying to their friends.”

People have moral emotions.

“They feel rage at injustice, disgust toward greed, reverence for excellence, awe before the sacred and elevation in the face of goodness.”

People yearn for righteousness.

“They want to feel meaning and purpose in their lives, that their lives are oriented toward the good.”

People are attracted by goodness and repelled by selfishness.

divine help in snow“NYU social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has studied the surges of elevation we feel when we see somebody performing a selfless action. Haidt describes the time a guy spontaneously leapt out of a car to help an old lady shovel snow from her driveway.”

“One of his friends, who witnessed this small act, later wrote: ‘I felt like jumping out of the car and hugging this guy. I felt like singing and running, or skipping and laughing. Writing a beautiful poem or love song. Telling everybody about his deed.'”

Your child’s spiritual development is vital. Your efforts are neither wasted nor ignored.

One of the things I particularly like about this column is Brooks’ way of communicating the universally recognized nature of morality. We all instinctively recognize it when we see it. He captures our natural yearning for good, which still recognizing how challenging it can be to live out. It’s not easy, but it is worth it… and so is teaching it to our children. Moral teaching fits with what they already know on an instinctive level and helps them make sense of the world.

Tweetable: Child-Centered Spirituality champions balance in our efforts to guide a child’s physical, spiritual, intellectual and emotional development. Here NY Times columnist David Brooks shares observations about spiritual (moral) development. Click to Tweet