Religion is a very sensitive area of one’s life. It can serve as a double-edged sword. For some people, religion keeps them more grounded. It gives them peace and a sense of purpose. But, the rigidity of practicing one’s religion can also make others feel restricted. Some feel depressed and anxious because of it. This happens when they feel that they do not measure up to what they feel their religion needs from them. Some have to seek individual counseling to help them believe in themselves again.
Parents want to inculcate religion as early as they can in their children. But, they must do so with caution. They must learn how to introduce concepts of spirituality that do not smother a child. Here are some encompassing and age-appropriate strategies.
An effective way for a child to grow in faith is to teach them spirituality rather than religion. Emphasize values that one can get from knowing a Supreme Being. Teach them about kindness, fairness, and empathy.
Do not contain God in a place or a single practice. Help them realize that God is as present at home or in a park as He is in a church, mosque, or synagogue. Also, let them know that there are different practices of faith. They must learn to respect these differences.
Create Habits of Reverence
Worship is not only about giving reverence to God. It can also be in simple practices that show concern to others or appreciation over small things. By being mindful of others and seeing the blessings around, you are also giving honor to God.
One powerful habit of reverence is to speak healing, blessing, or life. They can do this whenever a fire truck or ambulance passes by. This helps children learn to be conscious about the needs of others. You can teach your children a simple “Dear God, please protect them” or “Dear Lord, I speak your blessings upon them.” In doing so, they learn empathy.
Another way to honor God is to learn gratitude. For children, it does not have to be something big for them how to express their thanks. They can learn how to be grateful for their favorite food or a good thing that happened for the day. Teaching them to be appreciative of little things will help them develop gratitude. They will know how to be thankful for the bigger things as they grow older.
Do Not Hinder Their Questions
Children are inquisitive by nature. Encourage them to ask questions about your faith. By learning more about it, they would have a great foundation. They would follow not out of blind obedience but because they understand their faith.
You may straightforwardly answer their questions. You may also share stories that show the basic truths about your faith. Do not be afraid to sometimes admit if you do not know the answer. Make it fun by discovering the answer together.
Show by Example
A simple but successful way to pass on your faith to your children is by example. Let them see you practicing what you preach. Do not only teach them how to pray. Instead, pray together. Do not expect them to learn how to be compassionate if you are not compassionate yourself.
Your faith would become more real to them if they see it applied inside your home. Thus, be vigilant on how you are as a figure of authority in faith. Remember that little eyes are always on you. They consider what you say and what you do as absolutes.
Let Them Try Traditions and Rituals
Every religion has a set of traditions and rituals. Let them take part in some that are appropriate for their age. But, observe if they have a grasp of what these things are about. Do not coerce them into doing it. Instead, respect their decision if they are not ready yet or not comfortable with it.
A religion sometimes becomes a bother to a person if they are only doing rituals out of compliance. When they do not see the relevance of such practices in their lives, it becomes a mechanical and empty habit.
Help Them Apply Spiritual Concepts to Life
The highest measure of one’s faith is it becomes natural for them. This level of spirituality is what most people aspire to achieve. One of the greatest legacies of parents to their children is to pass an unwavering faith.
Help children understand that faith and spirituality are not only about the highs of life. Teach them to hang on to their beliefs in difficult times. It could be as simple as asking for healing when they are sick. You may also teach them to ask for wisdom during a difficult exam in school. This way, they can develop a faith that they can grow into.
Teaching faith and spirituality to your children should have a sensitive approach. It might backfire on them if they only see it as a passport to being a good person. Instead, they should see the value of having religion in their lives. This is regardless if they are on their highs or lows.