Nur­tur­ing chil­dren’s spir­i­tu­al­ity

Living Now - - Editorial - by Julie-ann Harper

If we can guide chil­dren from an early age, then they won’t need to wait un­til mid­dle age to re­alise that many of the an­swers come from within.

If we keep the minds of our chil­dren open to spir­i­tu­al­ity, they can only but show the traits we would hope to see in our­selves. Nur­tur­ing your child’s spir­i­tu­al­ity could be your most valu­able legacy.

Many of us seek en­light­en­ment or the spir­i­tual path when we tire of con­sumerism and seek nour­ish­ment for our soul. My ob­ser­va­tion is that, when in­di­vid­u­als hit the age of 40+ they start to seek spir­i­tu­al­ity or ques­tion: Why am I here? What is liv­ing in the now? What is my spirit and who am I re­ally? What do I want from life?… and on it goes.

When we seek to or learn to live a spir­i­tual life, we are learn­ing to look in­side of our­selves. In­side we find our ‘ true self’ or ‘spirit’. Our spirit is the source of our hap­pi­ness, self­con­fi­dence, power, and guid­ance. Our spirit is the true self. THE SPIR­I­TUAL WORLD OF CHIL­DREN “A child raised with spir­i­tual skills will be able to an­swer the most ba­sic ques­tions about how the uni­verse works. They will un­der­stand the source of cre­ativ­ity both within and out­side them­selves. They will be able to prac­tice non-judg­ment, ac­cep­tance and truth, and they will be free from crip­pling fear and anx­i­ety about the mean­ing of life that is the se­cret dry rot in­side the hearts of most adults.” [Deepak Cho­pra]

If we keep the minds of our chil­dren open to spir­i­tu­al­ity, they can only but show the traits we would hope to see in our­selves: love, com­pas­sion and ser­vice; hon­esty and au­then­tic­ity; phys­i­cal, emo­tional, men­tal, and spir­i­tual clar­ity; wis­dom and un­der­stand­ing; re­spon­si­bil­ity and dis­ci­pline; tol­er­ance and pa­tience; seren­ity and per­sonal free­dom; faith, trust, and in­ner se­cu­rity; grat­i­tude, hu­mil­ity, and will­ing­ness; hope, hap­pi­ness, joy, and hu­mour; con­nec­tion with na­ture, and ev­ery­day life; liv­ing in the present mo­ment; a sense of won­der and rev­er­ence to life; a sense of pur­pose and place in the uni­verse.

Dr. Mol­lie Pain­ton is a na­tion­ally recog­nised lec­turer on play ther­apy and the spir­i­tu­al­ity of chil­dren. Over the past thirty years Dr. Pain­ton has worked with spir­i­tual boys and girls from di­verse pop­u­la­tions. In the role of friend, con­fi­dante, and helper it has be­come clear to her that all chil­dren are at least po­ten­tially spir­i­tual, while many are as­ton­ish­ingly gifted. Her com­pelling and unique book En­cour­ag­ing Your Chil­dren’s Spir­i­tual In­tel­li­gence high­lights that spir­i­tual kids are: • Mes­sen­gers of love to the world • In­ti­mate with ‘ truth’ • Wise be­yond their ages and

ex­pe­ri­ences • Heal­ers mend­ing the wounds of loss, judg­ment, abuse, hate, in­dif­fer­ence, dis­ease, and vi­o­lence • Deter­mined to unite all in love and peace • Sen­si­tive in­di­vid­u­als with open hearts

& minds • Seek­ing to find one another • Com­pas­sion­ate be­ings who feel the

pain of oth­ers

If a child does not re­spond to the si­tand-talk time then try com­mu­ni­cat­ing through ‘art time’ – draw pic­tures while sit­ting to­gether and talk­ing to­gether.

• Hun­ger­ing for a sense of be­long­ing

with all peo­ple • Graced by the lov­ing pres­ence of spir­i­tual com­pan­ions, such as an­gels and oth­ers • Re­fresh­ingly hon­est in their

per­spec­tive on death • Blessed with God-given gifts of in­tu­ition and abil­ity to see be­yond the or­di­nary • As­tound­ing teach­ers with heal­ing

mes­sages • In need of the sup­port of spir­i­tual

part­ners SHAR­ING SPIR­I­TUAL STO­RIES WITH OUR CHIL­DREN “… be­ing spir­i­tu­ally il­lit­er­ate can lead to in­creased feel­ings of pur­pose­less­ness, dis­con­nec­tion, iso­la­tion and lone­li­ness in the world.” [In Care of the Soul by Thomas Moore]

Sto­ries that en­cour­age spir­i­tual par­tic­i­pa­tion, sto­ries and med­i­ta­tions to calm the trou­bled or stressed young­ster, and per­haps most im­por­tantly, sto­ries to lighten the heart and re­new the sense of be­long­ing to the world are wel­comed by many par­ents.

There is now a plethora of lit­er­a­ture and even movies for adults seek­ing en­light­en­ment or spir­i­tual awak­en­ing, how­ever chil­dren’s lit­er­a­ture has tra­di­tion­ally cen­tred on two types of tales – folk­lore and the Bib­li­cal tra­di­tion. The real in­tent behind ex­pos­ing chil­dren to th­ese tales was never truly for en­ter­tain­ment, but as part of their moral ed­u­ca­tion. Their sub­ject mat­ter was care­fully re­stricted to match the ethos of the day and many are now con­sid­ered overly di­dac­tic and preachy.

Times have changed how­ever, with the shift away from the tra­di­tional view to a more open-minded spir­i­tual ex­plo­ration of the var­i­ous ways of liv­ing one’s life in har­mony. Fi­nally par­ents are seek­ing and find­ing en­ter­tain­ing and en­light­en­ing sto­ries that are ex­pos­ing spir­i­tual ground­ing or aware­ness. Th­ese are help­ing chil­dren de­velop a much health­ier bal­ance of mind, body, and spirit, en­abling them to re­spond bet­ter to life’s chal­lenges.

In Amer­ica and the United King­dom, ‘spir­i­tual’ or ‘New Age’ chil­dren’s books are in as much de­mand, as ‘New Age’ adult read­ing ma­te­rial and the trend con­tin­ues in Aus­tralia. The clas­si­fi­ca­tion ‘New Age’ brings in­ter­est­ing con­no­ta­tions to some, how­ever, to me, it pri­mar­ily means ‘a be­lief in one­self’ and it can sig­nify a book with a greater fo­cus

on the spir­i­tual and with less em­pha­sis on a de­ity.

Chil­dren’s spir­i­tual books can read­ily be de­scribed as ‘read­ing about the sa­cred in ev­ery­day life - in na­ture, at home, in the class­room, at work, at leisure, in re­la­tion­ships’. Such books aren’t about a re­li­gious prac­tice. They are ba­sic sto­ries that ex­plore the deeper mean­ing and con­nec­tion in all as­pects of life

They are now no longer con­sid­ered ‘niche’ but main­stream. Help­ing chil­dren de­velop a much health­ier bal­ance of mind, body, and spirit and en­abling them to re­spond bet­ter to life’s chal­lenges is no longer con­sid­ered a topic just for adults. Fos­ter­ing chil­dren's spir­i­tual aware­ness en­riches their daily lives, nur­tures their hopes and dreams, and in­creases ca­pac­ity to cre­ate pre­ferred fu­tures. OTHER WAYS TO STRENGTHEN YOUR CHILD’S SPIR­I­TU­AL­ITY Read­ing is only one way of as­sist­ing your child’s spir­i­tu­al­ity. Here are oth­ers that you might like to con­sider:

1 Share na­ture with chil­dren.

En­thu­si­as­ti­cally en­gag­ing chil­dren with na­ture in their ear­lier years can have a pos­i­tive and deep ef­fect on their spir­i­tual de­vel­op­ment. From ‘ Mother Na­ture’, chil­dren will learn that all life is con­nected. As they see the con­nec­tion, chil­dren will be­gin to ap­pre­ci­ate and re­spect them­selves and the peo­ple around them.

Many par­ents have in­tro­duced na­ture­cel­e­brat­ing rit­u­als into a child’s life. For in­stance, when the mag­pies start to war­ble they take time to hon­our the birds. Or, they have spring fam­ily par­ties cel­e­brat­ing the new growth un­der­foot. When light­ning strikes, dis­cus­sions around en­ergy and light might be had. The pos­si­bil­i­ties are end­less.

2

En­cour­age your child to share his or her dreams with you. By show­ing a gen­uine in­ter­est in your child’s dreams, the child will learn to value them. En­cour­age­ment to share will build their self-con­fi­dence and in turn cre­ate an op­ti­mistic and cheerful ap­proach to life. By en­cour­ag­ing a child to share as­pi­ra­tions we are ul­ti­mately sup­port­ing them in be­liev­ing and achiev­ing them.

3

En­cour­age your child’s imag­i­na­tion and sense of won­der. Imag­i­na­tion is the most crit­i­cal tool for in­ner de­vel­op­ment. It is im­por­tant to ac­knowl­edge and give sig­nif­i­cance to your chil­dren’s fan­tasy and in­ven­tive play.

Chil­dren es­pe­cially like se­cret places such as tents, tree houses, hid­den gar­dens, and card­board boxes ( go back in your mem­ory and I’m sure you’ll re­mem­ber lov­ing them too). And don’t for­get imag­i­nary friends! By us­ing their imag­i­na­tion chil­dren are try­ing out dif­fer­ent per­sonas, which al­lows them to ex­press their in­ner most feel­ings.

4

Lis­ten­ing to your child with full at­ten­tion and con­cen­tra­tion. Young chil­dren may try to com­mu­ni­cate, but quite of­ten they are not heard and hon­oured. As is of­ten the case, chil­dren will soon be­gin to guard their feel­ings and com­mu­ni­ca­tion can be­come lim­ited.

Take time out of each day to hear about a child’s joys, achieve­ments, and frus­tra­tions. As adults we should re­mem­ber that lis­ten­ing can be more im­por­tant than speak­ing. If a child does not re­spond to the sit-and-talk time then try com­mu­ni­cat­ing through ‘art time’ – draw pic­tures while sit­ting to­gether and talk­ing to­gether.

This ac­tiv­ity only re­quires you to take a small amount of time each day to pon­der with a child on the same three things: • Some­thing from the day that you each

are thank­ful for • Some­thing from the day that you each are sorry for

• Some­thing you each in­tend for to­mor­row

5

Main­tain reg­u­lar rit­u­als in your home even if you do not em­brace a for­mal re­li­gion. Th­ese events will be mean­ing­ful ex­pres­sions of your own spir­i­tu­al­ity and will en­cour­age your child’s ex­pres­sions as well. Rit­u­als can be as sim­ple as light­ing can­dles on one day of the week and show­ing grat­i­tude for all that is, bless­ing the food at din­ner, or walk­ing bare­foot in the grass each morn­ing and ask­ing our an­gels to keep us grounded and pro­tected. Th­ese fam­ily rit­u­als and cel­e­bra­tions turn the or­di­nary into the ex­tra­or­di­nary.

Nur­tur­ing your child’s spir­i­tu­al­ity by shar­ing spir­i­tual sto­ries, ex­pos­ing them to na­ture, lis­ten­ing to them, help­ing them ex­pand their imag­i­na­tion, en­cour­ag­ing their dreams and cel­e­brat­ing or cre­at­ing rit­u­als with them are gifts you can give them that will last their en­tire lives. In fact, this could be the most valu­able legacy you leave your chil­dren.

In The Soul of Ed­u­ca­tion, Rachael Kessler elo­quently and suc­cinctly put why nur­tur­ing our child’s spir­i­tu­al­ity is so im­por­tant:

“The body of a child will not grow if it is not fed: the mind will not flour­ish un­less it is stim­u­lated and guided. And the spirit will suf­fer if it is not nur­tured”.

Chil­dren take us back and forth on the con­tin­uum of dis­cov­ery. When we nur­ture the spir­i­tual world of chil­dren we may also un­der­stand our own great­est chal­lenge, the un­fold­ing of our spir­i­tual selves. n Con­nect with other read­ers & com­ment on this ar­ti­cle at www.liv­ing­now.com.au Julie-ann Harper is the founder of the Pick­a­woowoo Pub­lisher Group, one of Aus­tralia’s lead­ing au­thor ser­vice providers for self­pub­lish­ing. She is a strong voice for chil­dren’s spir­i­tu­al­ity and com­menced the Pick­a­woowoo Chil­dren Books in 2005, hav­ing since grown the se­ries to over twenty-nine mind/body/spirit ti­tles. Now with over twenty-five years in pub­lish­ing and forty-eight ti­tles of her own across var­i­ous gen­res, Julie-ann has ac­cu­mu­lated numer­ous pub­lish­ing and business awards and is sin­gled out for her coach­ing and speak­ing en­gage­ments sur­round­ing self-pub­lish­ing.

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