source: Teaching Children Spirituality With or Without a Church - by Carrie Brown-Wolf Teaching Children Spirituality With or Without a Church By Carrie Brown-Wolf Last week a young boy told his mom that God wanted him to chew gum. He continued his argument by saying that God created gum to help clean his teeth. He even offered to chomp sugarless mint rather than bubblegum flavor. It may sound like a reasonable argument, but his mom did not buy it. Instead, she paid for the groceries, rolled her eyes, and pulled the boy along. How do adults teach children about God, values, spirituality, and answer questions about prayers on chewing gum? How do parents help kids understand religion if they don't attend church? How do parents help kids understand religion if they do attend church, temple, or any other important religious institution? Understanding values, morals, religious texts, prayer, and teaching good judgment takes parental involvement. Even families who attend religious services weekly, need to help their children process what they discover. Kids keep questions about lessons they learn and difficulties they see. Living in a world rich with many traditions, children learn about various cultures from other kids, media, their community, and school. Still, like many adults, they may not understand everything they see and hear. It is a parent’s role to help kids understand and respect each other. In today’s diverse society, children recognize other religions. They see red dots on foreheads, they make out mosques on the news, and they acknowledge crosses hung from necks. How do parents help children make sense of religious differences without alienating them from family beliefs? How does a culture help kids learn about a variety of preferences? Creating an environment to help children process, understand, and recognize diversity can be the single most important teaching society offers. Organizing the time to talk to kids takes some effort. However, engaging in a spiritual learning process creates an environment of excitement, fun, and diverse learning for the entire family. The following ABC suggestions offer ways parents can develop a family forum for faith, and they can shorten the time it takes to initiate the process. Action. Develop a specific time of the week or the month to talk to kids about spirituality and important matters. The consistency will help organize and place structure to the time together. Kids can look forward to it, and they will know that you carved out a space in your busy schedule just for them. Create an environment to garnish children’s attention. Light aromatherapy candles, sit on the floor with lots of pillows, and play music. Come up with a family name for the designated time. In our home, we created such an atmosphere and named it Soul Sunday. Options might include Family Fun Club, World Adventure, Around the World Religions, but include the kids in naming the time. They will feel empowered and engaged. By designing such a structure, it encourages participation and sets a tone for safety, importance, respect, and tolerance. Be Curious. Allow the space to question beliefs. Research proves that exploring options develops self-esteem and helps kids become more convicted to family values. Show your own humanity by suggesting that you don’t know all the answers. Ask questions that you wonder about. Let your children know that learning and growing is a life-long process. Use multiple tools to find answers, and go to the globe, the internet, and to a variety of books to discover answers together. Besides learning about different religions, you may want to include learning about history, geography, climate, or anything about another culture that kids are interested in. Create. Engage kids in projects, play, and hands-on activities while learning about life’s lessons. Color, use clay, bake, and walk outside while being together. Make it exciting. Have fun together. Kids learn and retain information better if they are directly engaged in activity. Author and child psychologist Michael Gurian explains the critical importance of raising spiritual children. In his book, Soul of the Child, he says, “ Studies continually reveal that children who are raised in a spiritual or religious path show greater levels of happiness than children who have little or no religion in their lives; studies show them to demonstrate fewer behavioral problems and to engage in greater moral behavior. Religion (spiritual life) is a cornerstone of raising healthy children.” A religious institution provides a valuable asset to society. However, teaching children about religious tolerance and exploring personal faith best comes from parents. Without a foundation or a family forum to discuss beliefs, kids will look to television, movies, news, to kids on the playground, or to other adults for information. Wouldn’t you rather have such important information come from you as a parent? Establishing a time to talk to kids develops communication, positive self-esteem, love, and healthy relationships for the entire family. A family grows purposefully through healthy, respectful interactions. Create an environment to talk with kids about spiritual matters, and it will open doors for all involved. Discovering and understanding spirituality can foster growth for the entire family. Why not enjoy the journey together?