Spirituality and Parenting Self-Help Advice

Written by Pat Sullivan

Successfully teaching children to tap into their spirituality. The trick is to focus more on setting an example than on setting rules.

My parents never said exactly, "If you want to discover God, get out in this wondrous world and let it teach you. Honor everything you see, for it and you have an equal right to be here."

But this is what they taught, particularly when they held hands and hiked to our favorite mountaintop overlook at Black Rock. Sometimes they taught through silent appreciation; other times they led a gleeful celebration of the first trillium blossoms in spring and other treasures.

Being a spiritual parent doesn't mean having to be perfect. What your children need from you isn't final answers, but a framework through which they can live their questions and develop their own spiritual practices.
Children are naturally spiritual. Thus, we often need to get out of their way to make room for their spirit to grow. But we also need to provide structure through consistent and reasonable limits and boundaries.
The best way to instill faith and values in our children is not to preach those faith and values, but to live them. Children learn far more about being compassionate and ethical by modeling our behavior than by anything we say.
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The view from Black Rock reveals distant mountain ranges that hint at vastness beyond the horizon. Here it seemed utterly natural to sit silently and ponder the mystery of creation. It also seemed utterly natural when our parents led us in worship with a reading from Psalms and a hymn or two. Dad quoted poetry. Both parents told stories and welcomed our stories and insights.

Over the years, I've heard hundreds of stories showing how parents pass on ancient spiritual truths while encouraging the revelation of spirit today.

Though these stories come from different religious and cultural traditions, they share basic truths. It's not the form of the spiritual practice that matters most, but the essence of the practice and the intent with which we do it.

"I've been praying since childhood," says a friend, "not because my parents told me to pray, but because they showed me how. Prayer made them more approachable. They looked as if they had just feasted on something really satisfying. How could I not pray with them?" Another friend I'll call Mary had rigid parents who crushed her spirit.

Fortunately, a neighbor offered love and encouragement. One night, Mary helped her neighbor do the dishes. When she accidentally broke one, she froze with the expectation of punishment. Instead, the neighbor hugged her and handed her another dish to dry.

Often, the essence of spiritual parenting is as simple as being real, being kind and helping your children develop their own source of wisdom.

Mary didn't get that kind of parenting at home, but she got it from a neighbor. Now, her own children get it from her.


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