Spiritual practices aren’t just for adults. Children come naturally to many of the time-honored ways that people use to get closer to the sacred; to family, friends, and community; and to the world around them. They can teach adults about being present, enthusiasm, imagination, play, and wonder—to name just a few. Here are some ideas for how parents and other adults can encourage children’s spirituality.
- Give thanks before you eat, not just for the food, but also for everything that contributed to your having this meal--the earth, the rain, the sun, the farmer, the store, the cook, even the cooking equipment. Gratitude is an essential spiritual practice.
- When watching television or a video, choose a favorite or interesting character and “step into the story” to see how you would act in his or her place. This exercise uses imagination and supports compassion for others and hospitality toward the media.
- When doing chores, such as picking up toys or putting away the dishes, imagine that you are returning these things to their homes where they will be more comfortable. Reframing chores in this way teaches reverence for your surroundings, kindness, and nurturing.
- Experiment with silence by lying on the ground for 15 minutes without saying anything. Pay attention to what you are thinking about. Then notice the reports of your senses of sight and smell. This is the practice of wonder.
- Practice meaning by choosing symbolic names for your home and your room.
- Create a party for your pet. Indulge the animal with a favorite treat or activity. Name some of the lessons you have learned from living with this teacher.
- At bedtime, identify one good thing and one bad thing that has happened during the day. For children, these are times to practice enthusiasm and forgiveness. For parents, these are opportunities to practice openness and listening.
- Have a moon-viewing party, complete with special food and costumes appropriate to the season of the year. Talk about the beauty of the natural world. Then imagine how the moon sees the world, an exercise that teaches connections and the unity of all Creation.
The words in bold type are part of the Alphabet of Spiritual Literacy, 37 essential spiritual practices recognized by the world's religions. Follow the links to visit the homepages for each practice at SpiritualityandPractice.com, where you'll find recommended children's books, DVDs, family projects, spiritual exercises, prayers, and many more ways to encourage children's spirituality.
This summer Spirituality & Practice has a wonderful way for you to explore many other ways to encourage children's spirituality. Practicing Spirituality with Children, a 40-part e-course, sends you emails with short passages we've found in a book about children's spirituality or spiritual parenting. We've mixed it up, and thrown in a few passages just for your inner child. Following the quote will be a practice suggestion, something you can do with children or in honor of those you've known, including yourself. Discover the blessings of being spiritual companions to our children, grandchildren, and young friends.