10 Ways to Cultivate Spirtuality in our Children
"We must be the adults we want our kids to become."
There are more times than I care to admit when I have been anything but mindful as a parent. In fact, my children eat a lot of macaroni and cheese, Ramen noodles, and not enough vegetables. They also watch T.V. And sometimes I hide in the bathroom when I want to talk on the phone or check Facebook, and sometimes I just hide.
Last year I wrote a paper for graduate school about the importance of a spiritually centered psychology for children. This essentially means a more holistic, emotionally intelligent, and spiritual component to the way we raise our kids.
A few weeks back, I wrote a blog about how many adults feel the need for more spirituality in our lives. As a child, although I couldn't name it at the time, I felt the same way. I struggled and searched, yearning for more meaning and connection.
It is my belief that when kids are exposed to practices such as mindfulness and meditation - either by seeing their parents engage in contemplative practices or through their own encounters with conscious ways of being in the world - it helps guide them into kind, responsible, and respectful individuals. And at the heart of a spiritual upbringing, children learn they are never alone and that they all deserve to be loved and accepted unconditionally.
In the book, The Seeker's Guide by Elizabeth Lesser, she writes about her craving as a child to find meaning and purpose in something outside of the emptiness she felt in her suburban upbringing. She discussed the absence of spirituality she felt as a child and how it left her disconnected from herself and humanity at large.
Another book I read recently is The Blessing of a Skinned Knee by Wendy Mogel, in which the author addresses these issues of desolation and disconnection in our children. Mogel, a child psychologist and mother of two, came to a realization after much time agonizing over what was missing in childrens' lives; she realized that there was a lack of spiritual connection for the families with whom she was worked. She expounds that kids raised without a spiritual component were generally left feeling scared, confused, and that their lives were meaningless.
This sentiment echoes what I have heard and witnessed as a kids yoga instructor and mother. And so I created a list not just for parents, but for all of us who want to bring about more healing, connection, kindness, peace, and understanding in our homes and in the world.
1) Pick an angel card…I love angel cards for a host of reasons but mostly because a) they introduce kids to a spiritual and emotionally intelligent vocabulary. Is is helpful for our kids to have words to identify and describe what they are feeling. And b) the idea that there are angels protecting us when we feel frightened and alone may be a comforting and soothing message to help our little loved ones. Angel cards are a sweet way to set a positive intention for the day, and they take very little time!
2) Teach them how to center themselves by taking a deep breath and feeling their feet grounded on the earth. In yoga we stand tall and solid like mountains or root down like trees by feeling our feet grounding down into the healing, supportive earth underneath us. This encourages an empowered and strong sense of well being.
3) Read spiritual minded books together. Some of my favorites are: Incredible You by Wayne Dyer, Take the Time; Mindfulness for kids by Maude Rogiers, I Believe in Me; A Book of Affirmations by Connie Bowen, and, All I See is Part of Me by Chara M. Curtis.
4) Practice positive affirmations… "I am perfect and whole just the way I am." "I am beautiful." "I will get a good night of sleep." Sometimes our kids (just like we do) agonize over something completely out of their control. Positive affirmations are a great way to address worrisome thoughts.
5) Read, watch movies, and listen to music from different cultures. Because there are so many beautiful and sacred traditions out there, you never know what your child will feel drawn to. My son fell in love with Hebrew Kirtan which is a call and response form of chanting. Listening to the repetitive and soft melodies helps us to relax.
6) "Why worry when you can pray?" I first heard this phrase in a reggae song my husband played for me. It's hard to stop worrying altogether, but shifting the focus from expending our energy on what we don't want to happen and instead praying for what we want, encourages our kids to stay present and hopeful.
7) FREE TIME! For imagining, creating, reading, making messes, playing outside, getting your hair brushed or nails painted, playing dress up, CREATING...the list is infinite!
8) Gratitude. I have a friend whose family shares something they feel thankful for at bed every night. I also like the "gratitude jar" where you write on a little piece of paper (or draw) something you feel thankful for. When the jar is filled up, read them together and smile.
9) "Ingredients for joy and meaning list." This idea from the book, The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown, is about making a list, either by yourself or with your family, that illustrates the “specific conditions that are in place when everything feels good in your life.”
10) Be the adult you want your child to become. When we model positive behavior our kids pick up on this much more than when we tell (or yell at) them. This is true not only with how we talk to our kids but how we act with other adults.
And when all else fails, humor, love and mac and cheese go a long way too.