14285 Health Library | Health and Wellness | Wellmont Health System
  • Teaching Kids About Spirituality

    IMAGE According to some experts, spirituality can help kids make their way through life. Having a spiritual grounding can help kids deal with crisis, resist peer pressure, and avoid negative influences such as drugs and alcohol, says Lisa Miller, PhD, professor of psychotherapy and spirituality at Teachers College, Columbia University. According to Dr. Miller, studies have shown that a relationship with the Divine, however you define the term, is "the most protective element for children."

    Debunking Misconceptions

    Knowing how to "talk faith" can be tough. This is especially true for adults who grew up without a spiritual education, who married someone of a different religion, or who do not feel comfortable with traditional religious teachings.
    Often, though, what keeps people from assuming the role of family spiritual leader are misconceptions about what spirituality is and how to convey it to children.

    Myth #1: Spirituality and Religion Are the Same Thing.

    One of the most prevalent misconceptions about spirituality is that it is synonymous with religion. That is not necessarily true. Spirituality means "honoring our connection to our creation and our creator," says Patricia McWhorter, PhD, author of the Pulitzer Prize-nominated book, Cry of Our Native Soul: Our Instinct for Creation-Centered Spirituality .
    Even if you do not believe in the traditional concept of "God," you can live spiritually by recognizing that you are connected to all living things, and by paying attention to and respecting those connections, says Dr. McWhorter.
    "It's not about going to church on Sunday at all," she explains. "It's about how you live your life."
    Whether you practice a traditional religion or whether your idea of spirituality leans toward the need to respect the earth, you can still convey your ideas to your children. What is important is not the label you give it, but the connection to something larger than yourself. With that sense of connection comes "a sense of companionship," says Dr. Miller, which, in turn, makes kids more resilient to life's troubles, both big and small.

    Myth #2: Kids Do Not Really Care About This Stuff.

    "At a very young age, kids start asking the same philosophical and existential questions that people have asked for millennia," says Chris Boyatzis, PhD, associate professor of psychology at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. "Kids are genuinely interested and concerned about these questions."
    Do not underestimate your children's curiosity; just as sureas they are going to one day ask why the sky is blue, they are going to wonder what happens when we die, where we came from, and why the world works the way it does.

    Myth #3: I Do Not Know All the Answers, so Why Even Bring up the Topic?

    Children, especially young ones, are notorious for asking all kinds of questions, including unanswerable ones. When it comes to issues of faith, though, you do not need all the answers. In fact, helping your child to sort things out independently can be more important than knowing the "right" response to his or her various queries.
    Dr. Boyatzis speaks of the importance of "establishing spiritual dialogue," which means not only sharing your beliefs, but also asking your child about his or hers.
    "Turn the questions around," he suggests. "Get them to think about these issues." Think of your role as parent as not the supplier of answers, but as the provider of a language about which you can discuss faith-oriented topics.

    Myth #4: It Is Too Hard to Teach Young Children Abstract Concepts.

    Any parent knows that when explaining tough concepts to kids, it is best to keep things in simple terms. While it can be difficult to simplify concepts like "faith" and "spirit," our actions are more important than our words.
    "Faith is not just what we say, but what we do," says Dr. Boyatzis.
    To teach a child to live a spiritual life, parents should start with themselves. Examine your own beliefs and faith and ask the tough questions. Why do you think we are here? What are your beliefs regarding God or a creator? How should we treat each other? What values are important in your life? How can you demonstrate these on a daily basis?
    Rather than teaching grand lessons about life and philosophy, it is more effective to use the little moments to guide your children. Do not overlook the power of thankfulness. Something as easy as listing the gifts in your life or saying a simple "thank you" before a meal can be a spiritual experience.

    Forgetting About Perfection

    Regardless of your own upbringing or current beliefs, you can give your child the gift of a spiritual upbringing. And, like most areas of parenting, you do not have to be perfect.
    "It's about doing the best you can," says Dr. Miller.

    RESOURCES

    All About Spirituality http://www.allaboutspirituality.org/

    Parenting.org http://www.parenting.org/

    CANADIAN RESOURCES

    Canadian Child Care Federation http://cccf-fcsge.ca/

    Religions in Canada http://www12.statcan.ca/

    References

    How can spirituality affect your family's health? KidsHealth website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/parent/emotions/feelings/spirituality.html#. Updated August 2011. Accessed September 15, 2011.

    McWhorter P. Cry of Our Native Soul: Our Instinct for Creation-Centered Spirituality . Rainbow Books; 1998.

    Prather H, Prather G. Spiritual Parenting: A Guide to Understanding and Nurturing the Heart of Your Child . Crown Publishing; 1997.

    Walch MD, Walch MF. 10 Principles for Spiritual Parenting: Nurturing Your Child's Soul . Harperperennial Library; 1998.

    Revision Information

  • Join WellZones today.

    Make a Change For LifeLearn more

    Wellmont LiveWell is creating a new tradition of wellness in the mountains by providing individuals with tools and encouragement to live healthier lifestyles.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    At risk for a heart attack? Learn more

    Fight heart disease early and prevent heart attacks with HeartSHAPE® - a painless, non-invasive test that takes pictures of your heart to scan for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.


  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.