Scientific studies have linked spirituality as a proven indicator of happiness among children. A 2009 study was much in the news when researchers at the University of British Columbia in Canada, showed that children with higher spirituality quotients were more happier than others.
Spirituality indicators in children give rise to self-belief that they had well meaningful life and that they value themselves higher. These kids also developed deep-rooted relationships The same study attempted to de-link spiritual manifestations from religious practices. Spirituality was explained as one’s internal belief that is dependent on an individual’s personal strength and comfort; while religion was linked to rituals, religious practices and religious beliefs alone. The kids in the research group who showed significant religious traits such as those participating in church services or praying or meditating, did not necessarily have a higher level of personal happiness.
How to inculcate spirituality?
The aim is not to produce messengers of God, but create in children a desire to heal themselves and others, if possible, in a world full of sufferings. The main aim of healing should be to develop a judgement, that could sift out abuse, indifference, disease and violence from society. Compassion, intuition to good beliefs, is all paramount in structuring a spiritual thought process among kids. The emphasis these days is on ‘New Age ‘spiritual thoughts, which means believing in oneself rather than religiousness that is beyond norms that believes in deities or sacredness of rituals.
Listed below are some formative techniques that could help foster spiritual happiness in children:
1. God or the meaning of God
An introduction to the term ‘God’ could perhaps be the key in helping children to differentiate between the ‘good’ from the ‘bad’ elements in a bid to build a sound moral self or value-based inner being. In most cultures, God is viewed as the supernatural creator and preserver of the universe. The name itself is sacred in most cultures; while forms vary, children get to understand the impact of Godliness or Un-Godliness through one’s most immediate family beliefs.
How parents handle life and death situation could also hold the key to a child’s response to spirituality itself! Here spirituality is manifested as strength while facing grief.
2. Discuss Fears or God-related doubts
Do not brush aside questions on after-life or death. Most importantly when parents face these natural events bravely, there is a likelihood of a positive response from kids on the impact of sufferings.
3. Talk on Spirituality
Talking to kids on one’s religious beliefs, inner values and those of other people’s beliefs might help to instill a feeling of completeness. This also enables a child to respect and learn from beliefs that might not always be part of his family or childhood experiences. Nevertheless, these help to foster a spirituality that adds to one’s self-taught or trained thoughts on spirituality.
4. Read on Spirituality
Pick up stories on spirituality that aim to instill thoughts on kindness, benevolence, faith and goodness. Believe it or not, most cultures do have stories for children related to nature, animals and humans on good faith and behavior. These stories when read together; in fact when read aloud, could provide strong bonding to parental faith which in turn could be the stepping stone to inner faith and belief in the good sense of humanity.
5. Foster Freedom to Think and Act On Spiritual Belief
Instill faith in children to act upon their beliefs, even when it might not prove effective. This, most likely, trains the child’s thought to a more higher learning curve to enable processed learning from past mistakes.
In doing so, the child could also imbibe values from beliefs of their own wider community or those of other faiths. Do not restrict; A child is likely to choose the belief that suits his needs the most, at a particular juncture of his life. This ‘learning from experience’ is a step to developing deep-rooted sense of belief in a particular value system or other.
6. Vent your Child’s Imaginative Powers
Do not shun a child’s belief in his ‘imaginary friends’. This is the formative power a child holds to express his beliefs, his values that give root to his fantasies. Such fantasies enable a child to express his deepest feelings which in turn could get converted to deep-rooted thought processes. These thoughts lay the foundation to a value system that could manifest into one’s spiritual self.
7. Nurturing Spirituality in Children through Group Activities
Children within a community can come together and exchange views on their spiritual beliefs. Such group activities are an excellent trigger for children to form their own perspectives on the benefits of spirituality or the pitfalls that come through following certain values that might be detrimental in their lives. Access to group activities such as meditation, yoga or those which have a positive physical bearing on the mental self, is another way to instill calmness in the face of defeat, depression or other emotional problems. These are part of formative training which gives children a visual parameter to develop on spiritual gains.
These activities need to extend to the immediate family; a word of caution here is to stay away from too many ritualistic patterns which might distract the child from the real spirit of spiritual happiness!
To sum up, a child’s spiritual connection to his self, Rachael Kessler of ‘The Soul of Education’ said that – a child’s body will not grow if it is not fed, the child’s mind will not flourish if it is not stimulated or guided. Likewise, the spirit will most likely suffer if left un-nurtured. Therefore, the only natural way out to a child’s spiritual goal, is to nurture the child’s inborn ‘free’ spirit!