Family & Community Life
Spirituality & Children
Four Simple Ways to Encourage Spirituality in the HomeView Photo Gallery
In this material existence, raising children who embrace their spiritual nature can feel like an overwhelming task. In a “rush, rush” world with consumerism around every corner, daily distractions of little importance can overtake the truly valuable reflections that nurture the soul.
How can we help the smallest members of our families to stay in tune with their spiritual nature when they’re living in this physical sphere? Here are four simple ways that you can make your home a haven of spirituality in the midst of a buzzing modern world.
1) Encourage stillness
Maybe you’ve got a little monkey at home, and the very idea of having him or her be still sounds nearly impossible. But it’s a thing worth working at. Stillness is something rarely experienced in the modern child’s daily life, with all of the buses to catch and extracurriculars to get to. But it is in moments of stillness that our bodies and our hearts listen.
I’ve heard it said that prayer is when we talk to God, and meditation is when God talks back. I don’t know many kids who are masters at meditation, but being still is a way to start down the path of listening to our bodies and our spirits and readying our children for true meditative moments. Feeling comfortable with stillness and being aware that we have a spirit that guides us when we listen is a valuable lesson. The tumultuous years of self-discovery can be assuaged by getting in touch with ourselves and our spirits from our earliest of days.
Start with just a minute of still silence with your kids, and when the minute is up, ask them what they thought about. Maybe they noticed the chirping of birds for the first time that day, or they thought about a problem they are facing. After a week or so, try two minutes. Just two minutes of stillness can be calming and centering even for an adult, and it’s a healthy step for little hearts and minds.
2) Accentuate memorization with the arts
Everyone remembers the verses and prayers that we memorized as children, but as adults, we may find it much more difficult to keep even the most inspirational passages in our memories. This is why so many parents and teachers encourage children to memorize lots of scripture and prayers while they are young. But rote memorization can quickly feel less like the spiritual nourishment we mean it to be, and more like schoolwork. Accentuating memorization with artistic expression revives the spirit and helps children continue building familiarity with the wisdom that they will need to draw from in times of spiritual hunger.
There are lots of fun ways to use the arts to assist in memorization. For example, you may want to paint what comes to mind when you read a certain verse. Try making clay figures or puppets that will act out scenarios in which the prayer could reassure someone or help with a tough decision. Put on a piece of instrumental music and get out the play silks, and have your children make up an interpretive dance inspired by the prayer or verse. Then see if the other members of your family can figure out which part each movement represents.
3) Don’t study in hiding
Sure, it’s nice to get up before the rest of the family and read the sacred writings in the quiet hours before the shorties begin to stir. But what happens if, as parents, we only read the writings before the family wakes up and after they go to bed? Yes, we can focus clearly on what we’re reading, but our children have no concrete role model for adulthood that incorporates sacred study. If they never see us doing it, it doesn’t make up any part of their mental picture of what healthy adulthood looks like. They see us cook, clean, go to work, and pay bills, and from the earliest years of their lives, they know that those are things that they will do someday as well. Sometimes they will even come alongside us as we clean or cook and ask to do it with us, no doubt trying on adulthood for a little while within the safety of the home.
Try making an effort to regularly say, “Okay, mom is going to study the writings now. You may come listen, or you can go play, but please don’t interrupt for a few minutes, because this is very important time, and I want to be able to give it my full attention.” You will be demonstrating for your child that true maturity includes studying God’s wisdom. It shows them that the sacred writings are a gift that we are never too busy to receive. And it demonstrates that even though grown-ups don’t necessarily have to go to school anymore, there are some kinds of study that are so enjoyable and satisfying that we continue to do them, of our own free will, even when no one of authority stands over us and makes us do it.
4) Walk the walk
We’ve all heard it said that our kids will do as we do and not as we say, but we’ve heard it so many times that it’s almost like white noise now. Still, it’s so true. We can teach our kids that it’s important to pray, meditate, and read the inspired word, but if we’re not doing it, they won’t truly learn the lesson. As parents, we often neglect our own needs while busying ourselves completely with meeting the needs of our children, ignoring the fact that our children will care for themselves as we care for ourselves. We may grab an unhealthy snack on the run, but go to a lot of trouble to make sure that celery and apple slices are waiting for our kids when they come home from school. And much in that same way, it’s easy to talk to them about how important prayer is, but not pray ourselves. We can sit with them and ask them to be still for those two minutes, but we don’t take ten minutes to be still ourselves and listen to the spirit, listen for God’s answers to our prayers.
This is important not just because our children will do as we do, but also because when we ask God for assistance, we receive it. When we meditate, our minds become calm and clear, and we are more mindful of how every act done in the spirit of service is worship. How parenting, living in service to the spiritual development of our families, is worship. So we not only model the act of spirituality, but we open ourselves up to creating more inspired homes in which our families can operate. When we become what we hope they will become, which is a spiritual being who takes time to nurture the soul, to express the beauty of the creative word artistically, who reads the words, who prays in times of want and in times of abundance, and who makes every effort to align the self with the will of God, they will see and strive to do the same.
Skyla King-Christison currently lives in Utah with her husband and three children. She is author of the book Home Field Advantage and of the blog at Home with Momma Skyla.
Updated on 5.16.13