Children & Spirituality
Information in this section is a combination of inherited resources from a number of sources, as yet unknown. Do let me know if you recognise them, I’d be pleased to give credit where it’s due.
Spirituality is difficult to define. Some dictionary definitions of spirituality are ….
the characteristics of a person that are considered as being separate from the body, and which many religions believe continue to exist after the body
the quality of being concerned with deep, often religious, feelings and beliefs, rather than with the physical parts of life
The quality of being holy or sacred.
The vital principle or animating force within living beings.
The quality or state of being heavenly-minded.
Perhaps one of the most helpful definitions of spirituality is;
An innate sensitivity to things beyond and yet part of everyday life.
This differs from faith in that ...
Faith is the commitment or belief and resulting actions that we put around our spirituality, like a framework.
Spirituality is not a floaty, touchy, feely add-on that compliments our understanding of children and faith. The term has significance in our Christian experience. Our Spirituality is the essential core of what it is to be human, to have an identity in Christ and to experience and relate to God. Its who we are and how we tick. It’s the way God made us to be. Spirituality is a big piece in the jigsaw of life and if we don’t see it, the picture won’t make sense. Spirituality is our "spiritual-ness".
So what is the spiritual nature of the child? Should we set it apart from that of adults? Perhaps there is no differentiation needed between children’s spirituality, the spirituality of the child and spirituality generally? How do we perceive spirituality of children? Is it a preliminary forming stage that leads to grow to full adult maturity, a sort of waiting room until we find our feet and can articulate in words what makes us tick? Or is it the reality of being human that means that even as we are known in the womb when God knit us together, (Psalm 139) we have that innate spiritual relationship with God from our very beginning.
Spirituality is not limited to talking about God, using particular vocabulary or attending church. It’s expressed imaginings and experiences, blending the mystery with the ordinary. Its not just the prerogative of those who can form speech and express themselves in language. It is the experience of being human. We need to recognize the spiritual needs and expression of the baby, the toddler and the young child before or beyond language and cognitive understanding.
In the under-fives spirituality is about the simple things of the everyday like the sight of snow, the feel of a rabbit’s fur, the smell of a warm cake, the sense of being cuddled or gazing up into the night sky, or the canopy of leaves over the roof of a home-built garden den.
Everyday experiences and concerns about ourselves, other people and the universe can lead naturally to the awe and wonder and questioning which are doors to spiritual expression and growth. So when we’re raising children or working or welcoming others, how do we perceive and nurture children and help their spiritual journey of discovery?
Do we value their spiritual identity and help it blossom? Do we try to be children and family friendly but still have residual obstacles in our understanding? Do we through the best of intentions, try to entertain but end up patronizing children as we invite them to ‘perform’ for us and forget that whilst they are sponges ready to absorb so many new experiences, they are not empty vessels that adults need to fill. Do we try to educate children, or half listen or interpret with adult thinking or do we support and nurture children in their spiritual journey?
Is there a risk of squashing or smothering it with the best of intentions? Do we see it as something that can have deeper insights than our own? How do we teach and nurture together?
Perhaps our first lesson as adults is to listen to children and to value what they show us, to play and walk with the child and share in what they feel, see, notice, encounter; in awe and wonder, thrill and delight, sorrow and sadness the simple wondering through play, questions and emotions often beyond words. Kathryn Copsey Director of the CURBS project, sums it up when she says
‘the recognition that children are spiritually aware means we approach children with reverence’
It will impact the way we view and work with our children and the way we relate to our heavenly Father.