Recently we were asked how parents who are home-schooling their children during the pandemic might pass on their spirituality at the same time.
We had to admit that we didn't learn a lot about spirituality when we were growing up and going to Sunday School, confirmation classes, and youth group, although we did learn about the beliefs of our faith. Spirituality came later when we met a variety of teachers and attended conferences and workshops. The spiritual life, we discovered, is a way of being in the world, and it is marked by activities and experiences. So that is where parents can start — with things you can do every day.
Fortunately, 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. Adults in turn can show children how they can "be spiritual" during the day. Here are some ways, starting with common practices in the Alphabet of Spiritual Literacy.
- 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 DVD, 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 and empathy for others.
- 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. If a child learns kindness toward a toy, he or she will be more likely to be kind to animals and people.
- 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 to find recommended children's books, movies, family projects, spiritual exercises, prayers, and many more ways to encourage children's spirituality.