Why Is The Sky Blue? When Kids Ask Spiritual Questions...

“We are not human beings on a spiritual journey. We are spiritual beings on a human journey.”—Stephen Cover, American author

It seems to come out of nowhere. Your child asks you a spiritual question. The way you answer (or attempt to answer) your child’s question will depend on how you feel about your own spirituality—or spirituality in general. Regardless of your family’s religious tradition or spirituality, consider these ideas for when your child asks life’s tough questions.

Tips for all parents...

• Reflect on your current and past views of spirituality. For some people, spirituality and religion are linked, but not all people see that. Know where you stand—and why.

• Be open to the topic of spirituality. Kids will more likely ask you about spirituality if they sense that you’re willing to talk about it.

• You don’t have to know exactly what you believe—or what you don’t believe—in order to have a conversation with your child.

• Talk with other parents and adults about the spiritual questions and yearnings that you have.

• Seek out helpful, research-based resources to guide your parenting. The Center for Spiritual Development in Childhood and Adolescence is a good one.

For parents with children ages birth to 5

• Young children ask a lot of big questions: Why is the sky blue? Where does God live? If God created everything, who created God? You don’t have to know the answers to any of these questions to start a spiritual conversation with your child.
Many times when a young child asks a question, he or she wants to talk about the subject—not get an answer. Ask the question back to your child, and see what he or she thinks.

• Point out that sometimes there are questions that only have answers that reflect a person’s beliefs. Tell what you believe to your child (briefly and simply) and why (again, briefly and simply).

• If you’re interested in your child’s spiritual development, don’t wait for your child to ask. Ask your questions. For example ask, “What does God look like?” See if your child will draw you a picture and tell you about it.

For parents with children ages 6–9

• Children will often ask questions about topics that are new to them, such as seeing a person wearing a yarmulke or kippah. They may ask why someone may wear a cross necklace or a woman wears a burqa. If you don’t know, find out and get back to your child.

• Children at this age are concrete thinkers. They will literally believe that God lives in a church, temple, or mosque (because that may be the only place where the subject is talked about). Work with their literal thinking. If spirituality is important to you, try to find symbols from your tradition that would be appropriate for your child to have.

• Include children in religious rituals that are important to your family, such as eating certain foods during certain religious holidays, reading sacred text, and attending religious services. Talk about why these are important to your family.

For parents with children ages 10–15

• A lot of your child’s questions will grow out of what they’re talking about what they see in the media. A number of music videos have spiritual themes (or question spiritual themes). Find out what your child is watching (and listening to) and what he or she thinks about those messages.

• Your child may get invited to a religious ceremony for a child who is moving from childhood to adulthood. If your child wants to go, see if you can attend with your child to help him or her feel more comfortable and also to help answer your child’s questions.

• Kids at this age can have doubts about spirituality and religion, particularly when bad things happen in the world. A helpful book to keep the conversation going is When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold S. Kushner.

For parents with children ages 16–18

• Teenagers sometimes can ask difficult, spiritual questions. Be open to their questions and help them understand things that may not make sense.

• Depending on their experience, older teenagers either become more spiritual or less spiritual. Continue having conversations with them on their journey, but don’t push a specific spiritual path.

• Continue to model your spiritual quest to your teenager. If you read spiritual books, talk about what you’re reading and why you find it interesting. If you’re involved in a religious congregation, continue to attend (even if you can’t convince your teenager to go). Your teenager will learn a lot from you by what you say and do.