The Spiritual Child

Since spirituality is an intangible concept, there are many different ways of defining it’s essence.  It can be seen across a wide spectrum from a connection to tangible religious beliefs, to a philosophy, to a way of being.  At best, an agreeable definition of spirituality remains elusive.  The closest we can come to consensus on the meaning of spirituality is by looking at some consistent qualities that span all categories of definition.  To that end, there is universal agreement that spirituality is a belief in the existence of a singular source that connects everything to everything else.  Whether we call the singular source God, Allah, Brahman, Ultimate Reality, Divine Consciousness, or any number of other names for it, the concept of spirituality provides us with a greater context through which to view our lives.  

Children are connected to the notion of a singular source because they are born into an undifferentiated union with their mother.  The singular union between a mother and child begins in utero and remains constant during the first six weeks of life.  The early life of the child is characterized by a dreamy semi-conscious state that is totally dependent upon the nourishment of others for its sustenance.  During the first six weeks of life mothers also experience the sense of singularity as they are totally immersed with their newborn child.  Spirituality lies in the core of this connection where mother and child are both connected to something much greater than themselves.  It can be an awesome time of purpose and love in a mother’s life that is rarely experienced elsewhere.  For the child as well, it is also a time of comfort and nurturing that is rarely experienced elsewhere.

The spiritual tie we have to our children is evident because we see them as connecting us to something much greater than ourselves.  They are the future, born of the past.  When we look at newborns we can see the spiritual qualities that make the transformation from one generation to another possible.  Newborns only fuss when they are uncomfortable; otherwise, they are peaceful and content.  At three months of age children begin to get curious and work in earnest to gain control over their body.  They become very industrious during this time, showing us that the natural state of being is not only to be peaceful, but also to be curious and hardworking.  No one works harder than children at mastering the world.  When they are not sleeping and eating they are engaged in hours of purposeful play.  Thus, we can extract the following three spiritual qualities from watching our children during infancy; peacefulness, curiosity and industry.

If we use peacefulness, curiosity and industry as guiding spiritual qualities we would be able to create a positive environment within which our children could thrive.  They would come to see life as a positive expression of creativity and purpose, where people treat other people kindly, and where the unification of the world takes precedence over short-sighted impulses.  That’s a lofty goal, but it is possible to nurture those spiritual qualities in our children by respecting their natural capacity for peace, curiosity and industry.  Aggression is a quality developed later in life when peace is threatened, but aggression should never overshadow the natural tendency children have towards peacefulness.

No matter what your definition of spirituality, there are many ways to bring the spiritual essence of childhood to fruition.  As parents, the first way to foster spirituality in your child is to have a good spiritual framework to use when explaining spiritual character.  The framework I present here is nondenominational, because every child is born with spirituality but not every child is born with religion.  If you are of a certain religious/spiritual persuasion, however, then bring that into your child’s life by attending church or temple, or having some other consistent behavior that integrates your spiritual belief into your overall life.  Since everything is connected to everything else, help your child see the connection between your own belief system and its practical application in everyday life.  Try to use plain language when talking about spirituality since its intangible form lends itself to symbolic and vague descriptions.

When you involve yourself in activities that are peaceful, curious, and active you are supporting the spiritual development of your child.  Perhaps the best role modeling we can give our children is to show them how everything is connected to everything else through efforts such as volunteering and community service.  These two activities show children the interconnection between personal development and larger realms of life.  Volunteerism and community service also satisfy all three of the spiritual characteristics discussed so far.  They promote agreement among people and cultures (peacefulness), they add to your child’s overall knowledge base (curiosity), and they involve the application of energy to accomplish the task (industry).

To be spiritual is to see the learning in every challenge, the hope in every failure, and the meaning in every life.  No action is insignificant to spiritual people; they find the greater meaning in everything.  The birth of our children gives us something greater to live for.  The “something greater” is, by all means, spiritual.  By nourishing the greater context that our children bring into our lives—along with the qualities of peacefulness, curiosity and industry—we provide them with a supportive environment that facilitates the growth of their spirituality.  When viewed in the context of a connection to something greater than ourselves, spirituality is a universal principle that connects us to each other in positive and productive ways.  By being spiritual we are also fostering relationships and involvement on local and global levels that will make the world a better place for our children and ourselves.

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