How To Introduce Spirituality To A Child
But many parents who don’t participate in organized religion still want their children to have a larger sense of themselves and the respect for others that often come with believing in a higher power or consciousness.
Five Atlanta-area spiritual leaders offer suggestions on ways parents can bring spirituality into their children’s lives at any age.
Walking a Spiritual Path
“I took my daughter on her first walk in the woods when she was about 3 years old. We strolled among the ancient masters, who stood regal and strong, and provided shade from the summer sun. Our bare feet drifted atop the earth; our hair danced to the song of the wind. I distinctly remember her asking more than once, ‘Where are we going, mama?’ My reply was that we had no destination—our only goal was to be with each other and nature that afternoon.
Since then, we have learned how to collaborate with nature as an inspiration and guide for our sacred time together. We approach the environment with respect and reverence, collect stones to create altars on our property, engage in seasonal rituals to identify and manifest intentions, and offer blessings to the land and waters
These simple acts represent ways we live in reciprocity with Spirit and Earth. In my view, there is no greater way to know Spirit than to live its qualities and to teach our children how to model a similar adoration for all living things.
Reverend Lisa Wiggins, Ph.D., is a shamanic practitioner and third-degree priestess based in Roswell. Learn more at LisaWiggins.com.
First Bread, then Football, then the Gita
Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Vedanta draws no line of demarcation between the secular and spiritual; every aspect of life is seen as part of a spectrum that is a compound of the two.
My title is a phrase from a talk by Swami Vivekananda: “First Bread:” Encourage and allow a growing child to be self-reliant, confident of his or her ability to get ahead in the world and make a decent living. The child’s most powerful tool in this endeavor is imagination. As Einstein said, “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairytales.” Fairytales are the realm of imagination, and of problem solving in unusual situations.
blem solving in unusual situations. “Then Football:” This tells us what’s needed on the playing field of life: Football (soccer) demands intense, sustained individual effort, yet great skill in teamwork and the ability to endure a high level of frustration (Final score 0-0!). Success is all but assured for the child who develops a strong ability to cooperate with others in challenging circumstances. Leaders learn their craft as capable followers.
“Then the Gita:” Self-reliance and the ability to work well with others offer a young adult peace of mind. This is the attribute most needed to hear and assimilate the lessons of the scriptures.
Brother Shankara is resident minister of the Vedanta Center of Atlanta. He may be reached at [email protected].
Engaging Children Promotes Connectedness
Many of the fundamentals surrounding our ability to navigate healthily in the world are formed from engagement. The polarities of engagement and isolation determine the lens through which we define what we see.
When parenting is an engaged act, creating space for the expression of feeling, creativity, as well as exposure to options and variations on critical thinking, then any one of us in that environment will hold all options, all participants, all viewpoints as sacred.
When parenting is isolationist, leaving guardianship to devices, then by default any of us become accustomed to not seeking much outside the framework of a silo existence.
I recently stayed with a host family whose 9- and 11-year-olds practiced active engagement. Because they lived on a farm, the 9-year-old was given the opportunity to make leadership decisions based on the care of the animals and the 11-yearold was offered the same role regarding the agriculture. Their ideas and decisions were listened to and genuinely considered.
Being with them and seeing their engagement was remarkable. Their understanding of all things connected was as beautiful a demonstration of what I consider spirituality to be as anything preached or lectured about from a stage. How do we foster such engagement with all children?
Rev. Dr. David Ault, author and leadership coach, is senior minister and dean of education for the Spiritual Living Center of Atlanta. He is the founder of Kaleidoscope Child Foundation. Learn more at DavidAult.com
Independence Brings Higher Wisdom
Childhood is a magnificent playground for exploration; kids, given a safe and encouraging environment, will naturally ask and answer questions about life, themselves, humanity and the universe.
The secret for us is to create spaces that allow them to process for themselves, without dogmatic, theological interference. That’s easier said than done, but if successful, we guide them to a place of imagination, wonder and empowerment, which inevitably leads to great spiritual discoveries. Unity movement co-founder Myrtle Fillmore wrote, “Who meddles with the rosebud? What fingers are deft enough to pry open that marvel of folded beauty? We are wise enough to leave it alone to follow the glad law of its own unfolding. But our children! Have we dealt as wisely with these buds of marvelous possibility? Have we remembered that they, too, must quicken and unfold through the innate law of their own genius?”
Children understand at a deep soul level that they are spiritual. Our job is to resist offering predetermined answers to their inevitable spiritual questions.
Who am I? Why am I here? Where did I come from? Where am I going? Why do bad things happen? Who is God? I find it best to answer these questions with one more: What do you think? In doing so, out of the mouths of babes comes wisdom more beautiful than a rose, and a path back to the playground of God that I may have forgotten.
Rev. Richard Burdick is the spiritual leader at Unity North Atlanta. He may be reached at [email protected]
Foster Innate Knowledge
In my more than 50 years of parenting, 40 of those including hundreds of foster kids, I discovered that empowering each with the idea that we all have a light, an energy within us that shines into all the nooks and crannies of our beings, awakens us to all we need to survive and thrive.
All knowledge is within us waiting for our awakening. Each of us has the power of choice in how we experience life.
I reminded each that as a baby, they had no awareness of how to sit up, crawl, walk or climb, yet all this was already in them to be discovered as they grew and practiced. And practice is what it takes. They already knew how; they just hadn’t “learned” yet.
When our granddaughter was 4 she wanted to join the neighborhood swim team. She said, “Grandma, I know how to swim. I just haven’t learned yet!”
Children don’t have to be taught how to do things as much as they need to be reminded and encouraged that with practice they can reach inside to the power that is their innate nature.
Suzie Burdick is a mother of six and grandmother of 15. Married to Rev. Richard Burdick, she is Uniteens Coordinator at Unity North and can be reached at [email protected].