Do you remember when I first started Spirit Kid Network and wrote a post about what I thought it meant to raise spiritual children? If you didn't see it you can head back and read it here, but let me summarise two things which I feel really sum up the feeling of that first post:
It all sounds so wonderfully simple, doesn't it? And I have to tell you, the more I think about it the more I feel that half of my problems in life come from the fact that I "overthink" and thereby "overcomplicate" things far too often. Which is why I have spent most of WB's life stumbling along, mentioning God here and there but never quite approaching the subject of who or what God is. I wanted to keep it simple.
But this past week or so I have begun to realise that we have reached a stage where for WB to even begin exploring what faith may mean to him as he grows older I need to start exploring these ideas with him. You see, we attend a Methodist Church most Sundays and so that is where he hears the most about God. But as I've mentioned before, I am very liberal in my beliefs and am only just starting to consider myself a "Christian of sorts", so I want to help WB find his own understanding of and relationship with God, and that's where I'm struggling.
How do you introduce the idea of God to a child who, at 4 years old, is far more comfortable with set answers to his queries than a "well, there are lots of different ways to look at this" type of response? I personally have absolutely no idea! But then I wonder whether I am, once again, overthinking things. When I look back to my own childhood I realise that I had absolutely no qualms about mixing and matching ideas that came from various sources, for me it all just fit in together somehow. I didn't label any of it as "right" or "wrong" or "Christian" or "not"... it all just was what it was.
In many ways I miss the simplicity of those days, when none of it needed definition or explanation. But then I remember the utter confusion and sense of both panic and loss when, at 18, I discovered that the total mix of beliefs I had didn't really fit in anywhere. It made me question everything I believed and I went into some form of "spiritual crisis" in which I couldn't even use the word "God" let alone think about who or what that might be for quite some time, as I felt like such a fraud.
So, of course, I want to try and avoid such a shock for WB by making him aware that there are many, many different thoughts about who and what God is, both between religions and even within a single religion itself, right from the start. But at the same time I am becoming more and more aware of the fact that my own reticience to even begin to define my own understanding of and relationship with God makes this almost impossible. Looking back at the two quotes at the start of this post I realise that I am doing a pretty good job of introducing WB to a realm of infinite possibilities but failing pretty hard at confidently sharing my own faith with him.
Which is why I find myself sitting here today contemplating the best way to introduce the idea of God to him, and here's what I've decided to do:
1. Explore My Own Relationship With God
This may sound obvious, but it is certainly something I have most definitely overlooked in the past. I've often thought that I needed to be firm in my own faith and confident in my own experiences of God before I could even begin to share it with others, but the more I read and connect with people the more I realise that this just isn't true. Everybody has doubts, everybody feels lost from time to time, I'm far from alone in this. But what I can do is make the time to sit, be, and get to know both myself and God in a way that enables me to more confidently share what that feels like with WB.
I've been doing that lately by reading lots of books, joining in with things like the Thrive Moms Retreat, and journalling my thoughts as and when they come up. And I have to tell you, it is really helping.
2. Find Resources Especially For Kids
There are so many resources out there for parents who wish to explore the idea of faith with their kids, you just have to know where to look for them. I've got so many books that help me to explore my faith and even some that talk about raising spiritual kids, but it is only very recently that I have started looking for books specifically aimed at kids. Just recently WB and I have been reading stories from the Jesus Storybook Bible and A First Look - The Christian Faith.
Both of these books explore the idea of God, the Bible and the Christian Faith in a way that is accessible to young children. It feels like such a relief to have resources like this to share with him, rather than having to find my way through it alone. We complement these books with Angels at Bedtime and will be looking for others that introduce the idea of other faiths in a way WB will be able to understand.
3. Connect With Others
Again, this sounds so simple but actually it's something I haven't really taken to anywhere near as well as I'd have liked. I find the online world a wonderful place and I have connected with so many wonderful people online, but I do tend to keep myself in a very non-committed place. I also rarely talk about what I believe and how we're trying to raise WB with people in real life, which is a real shame.
This is slowly changing and in the past few weeks I have connected with a mum on the school run and talked in more detail with the other mums at church (which is wonderful, because for quite some time WB and I were often the only young family there). It is my hope that by connecting with others I will feel less alone in trying to navigate such a massive journey as introducing and exploring the idea of God with WB.
I'd love to know how you are introducing the idea of God to your children - do you have a very definitive idea of who or what God is, or are you struggling to pull it all together like I am? Do get in touch, I'd love to hear from you.
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