When adults try to help children relate to others authentically, we generally promote qualities like patience, forgiveness, honesty, love, etc.  These come to us by way of our human spirit. Strong spiritual awareness can figure prominently into our ability to form healthy relationships.

authentic relationships

We become the live action video.

To help children develop these qualities means we must model them ourselves.We become the live action video– the indelible image of how to form authentic relationships.

To what degree have you practiced behaviors like these with the important children in your life?

  1. The child observes occasions when my actions and words respect persons different from me, allowing us to engage in dialogue about how to treat people with respect.
  2. Since people offend me at times, and the child knows about it, I am open about my ups and downs on the road to forgiveness and reconciliation.
  3. I model and encourage time for social gatherings, including spiritual or religious services.
  4. The child sees me listen to someone’s spiritual journey without injecting my own opinion.
  5. I encourage the child to find trusted adults besides me with whom they can talk about life and God.

 You will adapt them to fit with your spiritual tradition.

Remember that in some cases you may need to adapt them to fit with your spiritual tradition, the qualities you value, and even your culture. For example, in #1 above, different people might reconcile “treat people with respect” with “standing up for oneself” in different ways. Here’s one mother’s 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.

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.

friends elem on dockThe result was a restored friendship, rather than the growing distance that occurs when hurt feelings go unaddressed.

Our family was later able to talk about that experience of recognizing when you have done something wrong, then asking for and receiving forgiveness, in the context of our Catholic tradition.

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