Gentle parenting: How to create a life that provides gentle spiritual guidance to kids
Hello friends! A while ago I posted a little about our faith and how we find churches and maintain our spiritual lives while travelling. We are very conscious of providing spiritual guidance for our kids, and have been very aware of them as whole souls since birth, not shells that need filling with our own ideas. The value of a rich spiritual life is one of the reasons we parent the way we do, and home educate– these things give us the space and time to focus on our children’s inner lives. We don’t pretend to have all (or even many) of the answers about life and faith; Patrick and I have our own personal faiths and we do our best to help our kids explore this area without giving them a ‘religion in a box’ kind of response (neither of us would say we are religious). There are some things that we have found helpful while caring for these little beings, so I thought I would share them here.
Here are the things that we try to do to help our kids develop their inner lives and provide spiritual guidance without force:
- Make space for more than the material in our own lives. Often our busy lives run away with us and we end up existing in the day-to-day survival rather than engaging with things other than what is in front of us. By taking time ourselves to pray and/or meditate, attend church or other spiritual places (nature or soup kitchens for example; there are many options) you are modelling to and showing your child that their spiritual lives are just as important as the physical (actually, more so).
- Get out in nature. Enjoying the sun, wind, rain and the noises of nature is a great stress-reliever and can be a fun way to open up conversations about where we come from, how it was all created, the important of caring for the planet, and the sentience of other animals.
- Show your child creative prayer/gratitude journalling. How you do this depends on the age and interests of your child- if people request a blog on some creative ideas on how to do this I’ll do a blog post on it (let me know if you would like to see this).
- Listen to their questions- and don’t try to answer them all. When we have a certain kind of faith (and we all do, whether that is in God or something else) it can be tempting to either be afraid of questioning our faith, or to want to answer our kids’ questions with what we think we know. Questions and exploring thoughts around the spiritual are an essential part of nurturing an authentic spiritual life, so listen to your child’s questions with interest and don’t try to have all the answers. Recently Esmae asked a lot of very deep questions such as “if God is all-powerful then why does he make things that disappoint him?” and “how can God have been here forever if everything has a beginning?” I could have tried to answer her, but the truth is even the greatest philosophers and theologists don’t have a simple answer to this. I responded honestly, saying “I know, right! I’d love to know the answer to that too!” and it allowed her to process her question and thoughts thoroughly without being cut off with an inevitably inadequate answer.
- Let go of fear. When we have a strong faith in something it may be scary to think of our children not having that faith. Ultimately if we believe in an all powerful and loving God (or whatever your own belief) then we also need to believe that ‘it’ is more than capable of helping our children throughout their lives in spiritual ways. Our children are not different versions of us; they are complete, whole beings with their own souls on their own individual journeys and we can’t mould them into authentic people, that is an organic (supported) process.
- Allow them to not attend church (or whatever religious building you attend). I have met so many adults who have been driven away from faith, or even the idea of exploring faith, because of bad experiences at church. I’m not talking about extreme examples; simply being made to attend a place where they remember being bored week after week as kids is enough to put people off. Childhood is on average around 25% of life; I would far rather give my kids a positive view of church and have them attend less as kids, than ensure that I ticked the invisible boxes of weekly attendance but end up with adults who are disenchanted with church and/or spirituality.
- Parent gently and without force. As parents, we are literally showing our kids how we belleve God treats us. If we are punitive and forceful, why should they want to explore a relationship with what they see as a bigger version of that? Instead we try to treat children with the same respect that we would a foreign guest in our home, and with the same understanding when they behave in a way that is different to what we would like. A spiritual life/ relationship with God is not about control, it is about reasoning and spiritual guidance and compassion. Above all we need to model love, grace and forgiveness to our children. If you’re interested in alternative ways of communicating with kids/ gentle parenting, check out my posts on the subject here.
8. Accept the idea that you might be wrong. If you would like to foster qualities of humility, grace and curiosity in your child, letting them know that you aren’t infallible is crucial.
Do you have ways your provide spiritual guidance for your kids? I’d love to hear your suggestions of things your children have enjoyed.
Thank you for reading!