As we teach our children about the many different religions of the world we may ask how do we, as Unitarian Universalists, teach our children about spirituality and religion.
In the nineteenth century, William Ellery Channing proposed that we “do not see our task as stamping our minds upon the young, but rather aid them in putting their own stamp upon themselves.” The question is how we do that today. Our opportunity is to give our children language and tools designed to encourage the life of the spirit and to prepare them to deal with theological ideas.
Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, defines spirituality as “inner belief”, a system that the universe and all the people in it are connected in ways we can’t see, that life is about more than just “me”. In other words, it’s not only “Is there a God?” but what Rabbi Sasso suggests is that you actively listen to your child’s guesses about things and that you explore spiritual concepts together, however your family is comfortable.
Places to discover spirituality
Churches, synagogues, and mosques are all place where you can worship formally, with other members of a community, children can find their spirituality anywhere, outside in nature, at a museum, at school or in their bedroom.
Reading with your children
Many good children’s books address topics related to kindness, justice, tolerance and fairness, all issues that could be considered “spiritual” in that they address all connectedness of all people and of living life with purpose. Rabbi Sasso suggests that “instead of “see how this story teaches us not to be selfish?” ask your child open ended questions like “what did you think was the most important part of this story? Or “what would you have done?”
Sharing with your children
Kids benefit greatly from hearing out loud how we handle life’s ups and downs, it could be as simple as saying to your child “I’m really worried about Poppy today and my stomach hurts. I’m going to take a moment to do some breathing”. Then “Oh, I’m starting to feel better. I’m going to send Poppy some good thougths.” Children having at least one parent who is openly spiritually inclined tend to continue exploring spiritual issues on their own into adolescence and adulthood.
Talking with your children
You can designate an hour a week as unplugged (no electronics) family time. When a grandparent or a pet dies, when a natural disaster hits, when your child encounters something unfair, all of these are opportunities for your child to feel a connection to a larger universe for comfort.
And as with all aspects of parenting, fumbling is perfectly okay and expected says Rabbi Sasso. Teaching kids about spirituality isn’t about doing it perfectly. It’s more about asking deeper questions with your children and letting them see people living out their lives with meaning.