In order to light the spiritual spark in our kids and keep it lit, the goal is to get them to turn inward for answers. This means that we, as parents, must turn inward before we act and react so that we can give more thoughtful guidance with better outcomes.
Here are a few ideas to keep daily life with your kids on a spiritual track.
Start Talking Early
Many parents wait until their kids are 9 or 10 years old before they start talking about big, difficult topics. Talking with your child about things like war, forgiveness, sex or death is much less intimidating for you and your child when they are 6 or 7. At this age, they have few preconceived ideas about our world. Their hearts and minds are wide open and subjects like this are just a lot more matter of fact.
Talking with your child at an earlier age about heavy, and even profound, matters gets you and your child thinking more deeply, which will raise questions that can keep the conversation going. If a question comes up that you can’t answer, don’t be afraid to say that you don’t really know.
Misbehavior in children is often the tip of the iceberg, with underlying causes and triggers lying far beneath the surface of your child’s actions. It is almost always true that your child does not know how to express deep feelings and is not aware that those feelings might be moving her to act in ways that she cannot yet control. Remaining calm and neutral in the face of these behaviors allows space for you and your child to look for that underlying cause.
If a child is doing something unsafe, you need to stop it immediately. But for less-disturbing situations a no-fail response can be as simple as taking a breath and asking your child with genuine concern, “Are you OK?” Often, you will find that the answer is “no” and that they might not have realized that until you asked. This question turns their thinking inward and allows them to examine their feelings and reflect on what’s happening.
Inquire, Don’t Preach
Many parents have trouble getting their kids to talk about their struggles. Some kids are afraid their parents will get involved or won’t understand, while others just don’t have the words to express it all. By asking questions instead of trying to provide answers, you are engaging your child’s brain. If your child feels hurt by her friend or reprimanded by her teacher, ask for more details. A question such as, “Why do you think she yelled at you?” turns the child inward. Self-awareness that can lead to connection and empathy for others is another really important spiritual gift.
Despite our intentions, parenting challenges do arise and often escalate. Try not to over-analyze why or how this could be happening. Instead, try to just observe what is happening and not judge or evaluate. Give yourself a fair chance to decompress and become calm, clear and neutral.
If things have gone too badly, the only way to repair the rupture is to talk about it. Learn to express your feelings and needs to your child. If words are hard to come by and you are still raw with emotion, try drawing pictures together or playing out scenes with stuffed animals or puppets. This can make it easier for you and your child to share your feelings and process your thoughts.
It takes up to 25 years for a child’s brain to fully form and develop. The child often learns to become like the human beings who make up their world. This is an enormous factor to consider over the many years that they are in your care. As a sculptor would painstakingly and lovingly work on the sculpture that he is creating, you have the joyful and exquisite opportunity to work on the beautiful minds of your children. Do so with utmost care, love and compassion.
Soraya Deen is a mother, Certified Parent Educator and the author of “PEACE MATTERS – 33 Ways to Raising Peace Conscious Children.” She is the co-founder of Peacemoms (EMAIL:firstname.lastname@example.org).
Edwina Cowell is the CEO of Spiritual Playdate and the Owner of Cowell Designs, where she leads with philosophy that each person is here to fulfill a larger purpose by sharing their own individual gifts. (EMAIL: email@example.com)