Well, I thought it was probably wise to deal with this one right off the bat – what does it mean to “raise spiritual kids”? In fact, what do we even mean when we talk about “spiritual kids”?
I can't talk for anybody else, but for Tim and myself, raising a spiritual child means ensuring our own spirituality is a part of our everyday lives so that WB can experience it for himself and, hopefully, go on to make his own decisions about whether he believes the same or wants to explore something else entirely.
I know that this can be quite a sensitive subject, particularly in light of the writings of modern atheists such as Richard Dawkins. For some people, raising your children within a religion or faith tradition is akin to deciding their beliefs for them, rather than opening their minds to the possibilities of belief presented by it. The problem I have with this is that raising your children to not believe in a God of any kind is exactly the same as raising them to believe in one – you can no sooner prove the non-existence of God as you can in the existence of God (a lack of proof for God is not the same as proof of there being no God) – you are raising them in a way that is based upon your own convictions.
Surely that is just what naturally happens in any aspect of our lives as parents, right? Every decision we make, big and small, is based on what we believe to be right for us and our child(ren). And even when we aren't aware of it, it is still happening. The way I see it, our children will learn from (and copy) our beliefs just as much as they do our actions, no matter what we do. Until they reach an age where they begin to question the bigger things in life, they will simply take what we tell them at face value.
For me, the most important gift we can give our children in this respect is the knowledge and understanding that what we do is a choice, something that we have decided to do because we believe in it, and that if they want to do things differently as they grow older then they can do. If our children have seen us confidently expressing our own beliefs whilst respecting those of others, we can hope that they will grow up with the confidence to do the same.
With this in mind, it no longer becomes an issue over what we teach our children but how we do it. We can include any number of spiritual practises into our everyday lives – prayer, meditation, yoga, church services, pagan moots, spiritual healing – the form doesn't matter, so long as it means something to you. What does matter, however, is that you know why you do this, what benefit it brings to your life, and how you can share this with your child(ren).
You remember what it's like growing up, for quite some time you honestly believe that what happens in your family is exactly what happens in every other family too. It doesn't even cross your mind that other families might have baths instead of showers, or eat their cooked meal at midday rather than in the evenings, or even that grandma may be called nanny or nana. When you're little, the only basis you have for understanding the world is what you see at home.
Then, as you grow older and begin to experience more and more things outside of the home, you start to realise that life isn't so simple and that things can be different. Over time you develop your own likes and dislikes, and begin asserting your preferences and building a life that reflects who you are as an individual. Some things you will continue to do, even into adulthood, because they feel “right” to you, others you will discontinue and even avoid at all costs, because they just don't sit well with you any more.
This is all part of growing up and regardless of what we do when our children are young, there will always be things they love about their childhood and the way you raised them and some things they hate. But this doesn't mean that what you do when your child(ren) are young doesn't matter, because it does, it's just that you don't get to decide which bits of your life they will want to keep in their own as they grow up.
So what do we mean when we talk about “raising spiritual children”? Well, for me it means this – sharing your own beliefs with your children when they are young, so that they are confident in exploring their own beliefs as they grow older. It means giving them the tools to decide for themselves what life is all about, through first experiencing what it's like to be spiritual by following your lead (whatever form that may take) and then by providing them with resources to develop that further. And most importantly, it means inviting them into a world of endless possibilities, where not having all the answers is more exciting than if we knew it all!
Tell us, what does “raising spiritual children” mean to you?
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