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Nurturing Spiritual Growth In Children

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So, I've spent last night and this morning reading threads here about Taoism and Sufi wisdom. Both were very interesting and I think I will be exploring both more in the future for my own growth as quite a bit seems to resonate with me. But the other reason I've recently returned to exploring religious teachings more closely is that I have a daughter, who is currently 9, and I want to be more knowledgeable about the various spiritual paths in order to, hopefully, be more helpful in guiding her on her path. One of the things that frustrated me as a teenager was how I had only been offered one spiritual path (I grew up in a Methodist church) and then was essentially asked to either accept that or reject that without being offered a fuller range of options. So I was guided through most of my teenage and early adult years by the music of U2 and John Denver and authors like Thoreau, William James, Carlos Castenada, Krushnamurti, MLK, and Paul Tillich (to name just a few) - all of whom made more sense to me than anything I ever heard in a church. I found my way just fine but I wonder if those who are less introverted and bookish fair as well.


One of the things that has struck me as we have raised our daughter is how little need there has been for teaching religious concepts to her thus far. The way I see it, she came into the world with a light to share (and her gifts include joy and energy) and it's my job to nurture that. The concepts of god as I understand them are way too advanced for a small child and one of my observations is that we tend to simplify god for children and then people grow up attached to and even worshipping those simplified definitions of god. When my daughter was 5, she asked me who god was. My response was basically that that was something she was going to have to discover for herself (as there are alot of different ideas about god) and I that her Dad and I are here to help her in that. I told her my understanding of god was different from many people's understanding and that I'd be happy to share my ideas when she got older but for now, I just explained that I see god as a "what" rather than a "who". She seemed to be cool with that. In the meantime, one of our favorite bedtime books has been one with Buddhist stories and I have shared with her some of the lessons and values I learned from Jesus. We also have a book about the various religious traditions that we've referred to a couple of times when she's had questions. To date though, her biggest fascination has been with the Greek gods and goddesses, which is fine as they are fun and it is an introduction to how people through the ages have sought to make sense of the world.


So all this is to say, we've basically taken a "feed the hunger when it arises" approach to spirituality with our daughter - not by design but because this is what has felt right. I have no clue how this will turn out but..... Thus far, my daughter seems to be a much more concrete thinker than me (I'm off the charts on the Intuitive side of Meyer's Briggs/Jung). She has little patience with fiction, but we are working on that as she'll need to gain some patience here, and, again, thus far, struggles with abstract ideas (all of which were always my strong suit). I bring this up as I realize that her spiritual path may very well be quite different from mine given our different ways of thinking. I'm struck by the lack of respect for our children's soul that occurs when we, as parents and as a society, hand down one tradition and say "take it or leave it, but you better take it because this is the path we are on..." I know parents mean well but it strikes me there is a lack of sensitivity to the unique individual that their children are and maybe that's because they are not sensitive to their own uniqueness or something.


I'd be interested to hear about other people's experiences with children and spirituality. Thanks for letting me ramble....

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Why spirituality and not say agnosticism?


But if you really want to, take a good close at spirituality I can recommend the works of Joseph Campbell, particularly:

Power of Myth (DVD and book (get the coffee table version)).

Pathways to Bliss

Myths of Light


Take from these books what resonates with you, and be the change you want to see the world.


To shape your kids' spirituality, shape and live yours.

Edited by romansh
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I enjoy reading philosophy, science and spiritual insight. I let my children find their own way, but in the beginning my wife wanted them to go to church thinking it would attract me, but the problem they had and I had with their experience was they couldn't ask questions. Their question was can God create a mountain that he can't move. A circular question that they never got to ask. When they first started at the university I told them I really enjoyed a class on world religions, but my first son said the one he took was only a sanskrit class so the professor concentrated on terms and not the concepts. My major, and their majors were science so we always talked about that. One summer one son read the whole Bible and then decided he was not a Christian. The next year thinking he was a part of God. I enjoy watching the spirit moving within them. I looked for the moments that we could engage in deep conversations. I remember I took each one to San Francisco separately so we would be in the car just us for 5 hours each way and the moments of quietude were just as rewarding as the subjects that were brought up. Science has changed a lot so I have learned a lot from them. One is a professor of Pharmacy and the other is a medical doctor. They are now involved in their careers so they don't have much time to ponder, but when we visit or they visit we have the time. They have strong morals, sense of justice and a desire to do the right thing. It is sad, but I think pain is the great teacher that leads one to the deep waters.

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Having two sons aged 9 & 7, I question if I should be opening them up to all sorts of spiritual & humanistic pathways. I am not sure what to do. They go to a Anglican (Episcopal) private school, I wanted that because of the quality of education and facilities there compared with what's available to them publicly, so they get generous doses of bible stories and Christianity in their lives, albeit not as fundamental as I could imagine. That said, both of my sons view the stories as just that, stories and don't think God or Jesus are 'real'. To be honest, I have some fear that exposure to Christianity = fundamentalist children, but of course that's not the case.


I have chosen to discuss other religions freely (as much as they are interested, which is very little), but more so to simply show them at every opportunity that life is different for everyone and that what works for one person, doesn't necessarily work for another.


I truly believe this - I think two white Anglo-Saxon people (substitute any other race/nationality/culture) can be identical but then both find happiness in two totally different points of view. I don't think it's a case of one's right and one's wrong - rather that as humans we are all different, even if only minutely, but this can make all the difference in how we see/feel things around us.


So currently I try to show my boys that what's important is not 'finding' a spiritual path but simply treating other people with compassion, understanding and kindness. The rest will follow in due course, or not. I'm at peace with that.




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Kahil Gibran says the children are the teachers because they are fresh from the other side so they can teach us as we teach or condition them to the physical world.



I love the following story told by Marcus Borg in his book The heart of Christianity:


It’s the story of a 3-year old girl. She was the

firstborn and only child in her family, but now her mother was pregnant again

and the little girl was very excited about having a new brother. Within a few

hours of the parents bringing the new baby boy home from the hospital the girl

made a request: she wanted to be alone with her new brother in his room with

the door shut. Her insistence about being alone with the baby made her parents

a bit uneasy, but then they remembered that they had installed a baby monitor

system in anticipation of the baby’s arrival, so they realized they could let

their daughter do this and if they heard the slightest indication that anything

strange was happening they could be in the baby’s room in an instant.


So they let the little girl go into the baby’s room and shut the

door and then they raced to the listening monitor. They heard their daughter’s

footsteps moving across the baby’s room, imagined her standing over the baby’s

crib and then they heard her say to her three-day-old brother, “Tell me about

God – I’ve almost forgotten.”

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One of my motivations for giving a new church a go is that I wanted to participate in a supportive community, as a family. Happily I've found a church which celebrates diversity. It also helps as an inroads into discussions with my kids (aged 10 and 7) about god/ different beliefs etc.


A few weeks ago the minister asked the kids what the best church in the nation would be like. My youngest said "it gives out chocolate". A kind member of the congregation had in fact brought chocolates for morning tea. His other suggestion brought laughter: 'No piano!". The pianist took it gracefully.

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love this thread, and i've really enjoyed reading your posts. (Soma - also love the deep conversations i can get into on long drives with my son - though he's only 5!)


I guess i feel the same way as many of you do, that is best to let them find their own way, and be there to offer any guidance that they might ask for.


I feel the same as you, Kathy, in that i don't want my kids to feel as i did growing up - that there is only one true way, and if you don't believe what we believe then you are lost.


A very important thing for me in raising my kids, is that i must resist the temptation to make them be like me. That covers everything, from religion, to careers, hobbies, worldview etc. I really want them to feel they are free to live the way they want to.


Our wider family are all 'proper' christian, and i wonder if someday will questions be raised about my lack of 'spiritual leadership', but i tackle that if/when it comes!



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I like to endulge the child in me and babble in abstracts using Christian terminology it nurtures my infant Christ.


The Word is the seed in which all vibrations are contained because it is the source of everything in creation and is spoken in the silence of pure consciousness. It is God the Father revealing himself as the ‘pure I' feeling. From this Word or vibration all things are born and without ‘pure I' feeling nothing can exist without this feeling of existence. Each one of us is also a Word within the One Word. We are children of God and are the sons (old christian terminology meaning male and female) of God. There is one collective ‘pure I' feeling and there are individual ‘pure I' feelings in each one of us. The collective ‘pure I' feeling is the personal concept of God that we usually call the Father. The ‘individual I' feelings are our own intimate relationship with that Father.

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