If you have a spiritual practice, one of the best parts of it is the gift of sharing it with your child. As he discovers the world, and is introduced to the various dimensions of it, he also discovers and learns about the spiritual side of things. We practice Roman Catholicism and it is so endearing to watch J blow kisses to crucifixes, make a kissing sound every time he hears “Jesus,” and to get excited about the beautiful icon he has in his room of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus. (The icon is a gift from our dear friend who passed away last year, the woman who shaped my sense of parenting and music as written about here.) He pages (and rips) through his picture Bible and sometimes behaves at mass. He also loves chewing on his wooden rosary.
Whatever your spiritual practice, sharing it with your child can never come too early. As children grow older and wiser, they quickly ask the “why” behind the “how.” Starting to discuss spirituality young lays a good foundation for what’s to come.
1) Talk about it.
Talk about God, nature, centeredness, whatever spirituality means to you. Solicit a response from your chosen terminology. Pair up the associations–Jesus and kissing, in J’s case, or nature and kissing the ground–associative links are crucial for vocabulary and comprehension growth.
2) Read about it.
We read the Bible aloud to J everyday. Does he understand any of it? Aside from the name “Jesus,” probably not much. But he’s becoming familiar with the vernacular of the religion. We read newspaper articles about religion aloud. We look at the picture Bible and point out Jesus, Mary, an angel, Noah, whomever. Books are a huge part of J’s life so it makes sense that religious books would be too.
3) Do it.
Take your child to yoga, church, temple, the conservatory, wherever. No, an infant or toddler will not “behave” as an adult in a place of quiet or worship. Not initially. But if you forgo taking her until she’s old enough to “behave” you’ve lost the window of opportunity of making spiritual practice a part of your routine, complete with expectations like every other part of your routine.
J rarely can sit through the whole of the mass (even the short mass–just an hour) in the pew. We walk around in the back, look at the holy water font where he was baptized (and where I was too), go in the side chapel and look at the votive candles. Sometimes my family watches him if AA and I need a spiritual break and time to really pray. Other times he comes with and is becoming accustomed to what is expected of him at church. And yes, if your child routinely points to the crucifixes in your home and shouts an unintelligible sound while making kissing noises, he will probably attempt the like at church, where the crucifix is oh-so-big!
Enjoy sharing something precious to you like your spirituality, and watch your own spirituality grow as you share it!