How to Talk to Kids About Spiritual Values and Religious Tolerance
Table of Contents
Small things that can be done every day to teach important values to children and help them become spiritually stronger.
Children learn by imitating their parents and the following examples but the stressful routine of modern life sometimes prevents parents from spending quality time with kids and teaches them spiritual values. However, there are things that can help parents nurture spirituality in children that will make a big difference in the long run.
Teaching Religious Tolerance to Children
No matter what the religion of the family is, or if the family has no religion at all, it’s important to teach kids to respect all points of view and all beliefs. With so much intolerance showing on the media, kids may get the impression that people from other cultures are “the bad guys” and this assumption can evolve to an intolerant attitude towards colleagues or promote bullying. The best way to teach children about different cultures is by telling them stories from other countries.
There are many children’s books available to all ages that tell Hindu, Islamic, Christian, and Buddhist stories. These books help children understand that even though the habits, the food, and the clothes of foreign kids might be a bit different, there’s love, respect, and joy in every culture. The mythologies from all countries pass the same virtues only with different characters and getting the kids to understand this is an important step towards respecting the differences.
There are also many options on the internet for parents who don’t have the time to go looking for children’s books in regular stores. The website Jatakkhata.com offers many free animated Buddhist tales in English for young children to watch online.
Nurturing Spirituality in Children
In the book 10 Principles of Spiritual Parenting: Nurturing Your Child’s Soul (Harper Paperbacks, 1998), the authors Mimi Doe and Marcha Walsh give simple tips for parents to encourage kids to feel connected to nature.
- Involving children in gardening activities can be a rewarding experience and will help children develop a sense of responsibility towards nature.
- Promoting quiet moments with the kids in order to listen to the birds singing and to the wind blowing through the trees may motivate them to find joy in nature rather than in video games and TV.
- Taking care of a pet is important to get kids to respect animal life and teach them responsibilities towards another living being.
- Keeping children aware of the season changes will help them understand the cycles of nature. It’s a fun idea to have parties to celebrate the snow or the solstice and this is something that children will remember when they grow older.
Talking to Children About Death
When a beloved person dies, some parents tend to spare kids from suffering by not talking to them about it but some studies point out that kids know more about death than parents suppose. Kids by the age of four do understand that when a person dies they will not have that person around anymore; they only might be confused about where the person goes and what will happen to him or her afterward.
According to psychoanalyst Erik Erickson, known widely for his theory on the eight stages of psychosocial development, between three and five years old children may feel guilty for everything that happens and if they experience a loss at this age, they might be very upset thinking that someone’s death is a punishment for something wrong that they might have done. If parents notice that the child is apologizing for someone’s death, it’s very important to tell them it wasn’t their fault.
This is a good opportunity to explain to children that everything in nature dies at some stage such as the plants in the garden and even the stars but that it doesn’t necessarily mean that the person will no longer exist. Depending on the religion of the family, parents can read them the stories of their choice that depict the existence of the soul that survives even though nobody can see or touch them. There are many examples in the sacred texts of humanity adapted for children.
By creating an environment at home that allows children to express themselves and connect with nature, parents will be giving them the tools to become spiritually stronger and respect every form of life. A happy childhood is the first step towards a happy life in the future, not only to themselves but to the whole world.