|Photo via Wylio / Ivan David Gomez Arce|
So last weekend at Vicar School we had some excellent teaching on stages of development and on stages of faith development. I was really fascinated by the teaching on children’s spirituality and how open they are to things of a spiritual nature. Open that is until we shut them down.
(and when I talk of spirituality, we had a whole discussion on what that means to different people, but essentially I mean here, in referring to matters of a spiritual nature, things that are outside of this world, seeking something outside of ourselves)
We learn from a very early age what we share with others and if the response is negative we learn very quickly not to share that again. Even as an adult I am careful when I share my own beliefs. I mean, I am a natural evangelist so I talk about Jesus all the time, but when it comes to things of a spiritual nature, for example, believing God can heal through the Holy Spirit or that I can feel God or in referring to ‘spiritual warfare’ then I test the waters first, because let’s face it can all sound a bit bonkers. And none of us want people to think we are bonkers do we, because then people won’t listen to the message we have to share…
So as children, it doesn’t take much for them to be shut down and yet research shows that an openness to spirituality is far more evident in children. In fact one research study showed that 50% of people have had a ‘spiritual experience’ and it mostly happens in childhood.
I like to think that in this house we are pretty open to hearing from our kids on spiritual matters, in fact we try and encourage it, encourage them to be open about it. But even then, this week I was telling my youngest about the stuff I had been learning last weekend and she told me an example of someone at school (she’s just 8 by the way) whose friends thought she was lying because of something she said she had seen. Even at 8, they question things, even at 8, they learn to keep quiet, even at 8 they are wary of who to talk to. And I find that so sad.
As parents we have a key role in listening to our children’s experiences, especially when they are younger, so often they just talk and talk don’t they, and so often we just switch off! Or if it something we are unsure about ourselves, we doubt what they say, or we try and explain it in our own adult terms.
So how can we encourage our children to be open to these things, to encountering God in real and personal ways, to understand that it is ok to have these experiences even though the world doesn’t always recognise them? and how can we be more open, listening, hearing…
That’s something that I really want to do with my own children. As I said we are pretty open and we have a once a week bible or prayer session with them, where we do different things or activities. In the past some of the best times we have had have been just waiting on God, giving them pen and paper and seeing what they feel God is saying. They have had amazing words and pictures that are way beyond their level of understanding. They have had words of knowledge for people who are really struggling and have spoken so directly into the situation without really knowing anything about it.
Sometimes we just have to allow them to be open, to listen, to hear and to see without questioning.
I would love to hear others experiences – have your children had spiritual experiences, seen angels, had words from God…? Or do you a have great ideas of how to encourage your children in this area? do get in touch…