Childhood spiritual styles: Rational Style

In what environment does your child feel particularly close to God? It’s not that God is objectively closer to them in those situations, but that they feel God’s closeness more, they sense God to be closer to them.

These “locations” reveal a child’s spiritual style.

Spiritual style is the way we receive the never-ending stream of communication God sends out to humankind.–Christian A. Schwarz

rational high school studentsThe Rational Style: A child understands the nature of God through logic and science.

Note the items that apply to children in your life to determine whether they likely possess a rational style of spirituality.

  1. The child’s views the study of science as a wonderful way to learn more about God.
  2. You would say that the child loves God with her mind.
  3. The child is curious to find truth wherever it may appear.
  4. Intellectually learning something new about God is a deep spiritual experience for the child.
  5. The child considers it positive to have a critical mindset toward spiritual questions.
  6. The child is skeptical toward a faith that constantly offers “easy solutions.”
  7. It is important for the child’s faith that his mind is regularly stimulated.

Discovery questions for rational children

rational middle school studentIf you notice five or more of these characteristics, the child probably has a well-established pattern of expressing spirituality with their mind.

The following questions may be useful as you seek to strengthen their connection with God:

  • What questions about God does this raise?
  • What is puzzling about it?
  • Where is God’s truth in it?
  • How are your doubts causing your own faith to gain power and depth?
  • What do you want to explore further?

Coming up: The Bold Idealistic Style

Adapted from The 3 Colors of Your Spirituality, by Christian A. Schwarz

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Childhood spiritual styles: Sensory Style

“A spiritual style is a God-given antenna for the divine.” German philosopher Christian Schwarz’ research into how people connect with God gives insight into the way each child most naturally experiences God.

Many years ago I adapted Mr. Schwarz’ findings for my own personal use with the children in my life and I will pass this along in the next several posts.

sensory surfers love the big waveThe Sensory Style:  A child enjoys the works of God through beauty and perception.

Note the items that apply to children in your life to determine whether they likely possess a sensory style of spirituality.

  1. The child’s awareness of God is very much influenced by artistic or natural beauty.
  2. You would say that the child is very perceptive to what is happening around him.
  3. The child’s faith grows with her ability to enjoy nature more fully.
  4. Art has a high spiritual impact on the child.
  5. The child frequently perceives God’s presence in the everyday aspects of life where other people see nothing spiritual.
  6. The child likes to use touch, smell, taste, sight and hearing to encounter God.
  7. The child enjoys being surrounded by physical objects that have spiritual meaning.

cherries on a tree sensory treatDiscovery questions for sensory children

If you notice five or more of these characteristics, the child probably has a well-established pattern of expressing spirituality through their senses.

The following questions may be useful as you seek to strengthen their connection with God:

  • What does this show you about God?
  • What characteristics of God do you see?
  • What do you like about that?
  • How does that connect with who God is?
  • What thoughts and feelings come up?
  • How does that relate to God?
  • How do you experience God in this?

Coming up: The Rational Style

Adapted from The 3 Colors of Your Spirituality, by Christian A. Schwarz.

Tweetable:  A sensory child enjoys the works of God through beauty and perception. Read more here. Click to Tweet

 

Kids ask, “How can I let God know I love God?”

Hopefully these sample answers, which you can adapt to your specific beliefs, provide some seed ideas for conversation. They are written at a child’s vocabulary level. What you are saying and doing now will help lay crucial groundwork for their exploration of God later in life.

You can use any way you want to let God know you love God.

It’s just like you have different ways of letting your family and friends know how you feel. Some kids like to write a letter to God. Most tell God in words they say out loud or keep in their thoughts (this is called prayer). Others draw something that expresses their love, write a poem or a song.

One important way to express your love for God is to love yourself.

Take very good care of yourself. You know many ways to do that, like giving your body enough sleep and healthy food, staying safe by listening to wise adults, and paying attention to your relationship with God. You love God when you admire and care for yourself.

Another way is to love people.

An equally important way to express your love for God is to love people by being as good to them as you are to yourself. That can mean sacrificing your comfort or happiness in order to treat someone well. A lot of trouble would vanish if everyone were as good to other people as they are to themselves.

Spend time with others who love God as much or more than you do.

Your family can help you find a youth group, a church, synagogue, or other place with kids your age who have a connection with God. You can find a sense of belonging. You might learn different ways they use to let God know how much they love God.

Tweetable: What to say when a child asks, “How can I let God know I love God?” Seed ideas here for you to adapt. Click to Tweet

Activities to increase a child’s empathy

Unstructured summer days lie ahead. What activities can we use to enrich kids’ lives while having fun at the same time?

Strengthen a child’s empathy this summer and you may see these results in the upcoming school year*:

  • more relaxed physically, with lower levels of stress hormones
  • pay attention better and learn more effectively
  • fewer behavior problems, such as aggressiveness

Children learn empathy very well by doing acts of service.

For example, you make a donation to a food pantry and you discuss with your children about how others are hungry. Sheila Sjolseth shares her experience.

The service acts where I see the most distinctive difference in my boys are when we interact with others in our community—those acts where they helped someone in a completely different situation than their own.  By far, the acts of service that have been the most profound were when we helped:

  • the elderly in nursing homes
  • those who are experiencing homelessness
  • those who have great medical need
  • animals in shelters

Beyond taking in a neighbor’s trash cans or holding the door for someone–

–good as these are, empathy building means finding experiences where kids will see the needs of others and choose to meet them.

  • Prepare and take healthy treats to the fire department or police station.
  • Write a thank-you note or picture for the trash truck driver.
  • Make a chemo care package for a family friend.
  • Do an internet search for more ideas….

Here’s how:

  1. Get ready. Brainstorm who we want to help. Talk about how the person’s life is different from the child’s. What can we expect?
  2. Keep it short. Think 10 minutes (not counting prep time).
  3. Show them how. Model the behavior you’d like to see them copy.
  4. Let them help. Even let them take the lead as they get ideas and want to initiate service.
  5. Reflect and debrief. Sheila asks her kids: “Was it what you expected?  Why or why not?  How did your service help the other person?”  And I add, “How did you like doing it? What did the other person say or do to show how they felt?”

 Try it once and see if it’s worth the effort.

*Harris, P.L.  Children and Emotion: The Development of Psychological Understanding, 1989.

Tweetable:  Do summer activities here to strengthen a child’s empathy and you might lower their stress hormones. Click to Tweet

Teach kids a spiritual vocabulary

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.

32216_3319children's litIt’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.

Tweetable:

  • 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

 

Children and their thrill in holiday giving

kwanzaRohatsu, 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.

childrens-booksThis 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:

  • dog-foodCheck 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

 

Tweetable:

  • 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  

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