Nurturing the Spirit
Spirituality, no matter how your child experiences it, is important for healthy, positive development. Regardless of religious and philosophical beliefs and worldviews, encourage your child to take part in a faith community or explore different expressions of spirituality to expose her or him to many different facets of spiritual development.
As we mature, all humans spend time thinking about the meaning of life, why we are here, how we treat others and ourselves, and what we value. Our answers to these questions are always evolving, and they help shape our personal beliefs and personalities. It’s important to remember that spirituality can be expressed in a multitude of ways, regardless of the religious tradition that your family recognizes.
Facts about Spiritual Development
- Spiritual development encourages a positive view of a young person’s personal future. According to Search Institute, youth are more likely to grow up healthy when they are optimistic about their future.
- Young people involved in faith communities are more likely to feel supported, valued, and empowered than those not involved in these communities.
- Youth who place importance on spiritual development are much less likely to engage in risky behaviors, such as tobacco use, illicit drug use, driving under the influence of alcohol, school problems, alcohol abuse, and antisocial behavior.
- Studies show that children and teens who are religiously active are more likely to have eight different indicators of thriving, including getting good grades, resisting danger, maintaining physical health, and leadership.1
Tips for Fostering Spiritual Development
Because spiritual development is so important to positive youth development, it’s crucial to help your children explore their spirituality, starting at a young age—regardless of your religious, spiritual, or philosophical beliefs. There are many ways to encourage your child’s spiritual exploration, and children respond differently (especially across different faith traditions). So try some of the suggestions below, and see what helps your child grow.
- Involve young children in your religious practices, and adapt those practices to your child’s age. Many children aren’t able to sit still for very long when they’re young, so provide something that they can do quietly in case they lose interest.
- Expose your children to different expressions of spirituality through books, art, and music. Talk about how the different expressions might indicate different faith traditions and interpretations of those traditions.
- Encourage your kids—especially tweens and teens—to take part in positive groups and organizations that reinforce and nurture spiritual commitments.
- Model the spiritual and religious beliefs that are important to you, and set a good example for your kids. Actions often speak louder than words, and your children learn a great deal by observing your actions.
- Regularly engage your older children in discussion about spiritual topics, but don’t force the issue. Be open to different interpretations of your faith tradition or your child’s interest in a tradition other than your own. Ask questions to clarify, and don’t judge what he or she says.
- By regularly spending time with families and groups that share your spiritual beliefs, practices, and priorities, you can encourage your child to begin building a network of spiritual support.
Whether or not your child is currently involved in a spiritual community or spiritual exploration, continue to encourage him to explore his spirituality through new and different experiences and expressions. Don’t be discourage if your child isn’t immediately attracted to the idea of spirituality—just keep supporting her or him and be patient.