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5 Web Sites to Help Develop Your Child’s Spirituality

January 22, 2009
by Rachel Balik
Whatever your current religion or background may be, your personal spirituality is a source of support, stability and inspiration for you. It helps define your values, guide your ethical choices and create strong bonds with others. You want to share the tenets of your religion with your children, but you also want to encourage them to develop their own spirituality. These Web resources can help you give them that foundation.

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If you’re wondering about the best approach for speaking to your child on the subject, visit Young People Speak Out, available from The Center for Spiritual Development in Childhood and Adolescence. Young People Speak Out is a collection of interviews with children from 13 countries around the world, ages 12 to 19, who discussed their feelings about being spiritual. The site also has a similar page that shares the voices and opinions of parents. The organization conducts nondenominational research into the topic of how spirituality affects the young and how it factors in parent/child relationships.

In addition to reading about children’s feelings on spirituality, don’t miss the Center’s page on Practical Strategies. You’ll find four articles that include tips for parents, special advice for adolescents and activities that can help you begin a spiritual journey with your child or teen.

Knowing how other parents are dealing with the issue can help you formulate a plan for yourself. Beliefnet.com’s Spiritual Parenting Tips shares the voices of 12 parents from all denominations who are fostering spirituality in their children. Jewish, Christian, Hindu and Muslim parents all agree that a key to instilling spirituality in children is in nurturing them; affirming unconditional love and assuring them of family support. Spirituality is ultimately about stability and foundation. Each of the parents quoted here gives a unique perspective on how to give order to a child’s world.
Mimi Doe runs the Web site Spiritual Parenting. The site offers resources to guide you in many aspects of parenting, spirituality and combining the two. Sign up for the newsletter or visit the toolbox of parenting resources. Start with a quiz to test your family’s level of connection and communication; choose books from the reading list; or find instructions for guided, spirituality-based activities do with your child. You can even e-mail Mimi Doe and ask questions or seek advice. She’ll share the answers on the site.

Remember that however you choose to approach the topic, discussion is a key factor. Social work professor Elisabeth M. Kimball of the University of Minnesota describes a tentative framework for incorporating spirituality into the lives of youth in her paper, “Developing Spirituality in Adolescents: Research-informed Practice and Practice-Inspired Research.”(pdf) She notes that it may be helpful to introduce spirituality as a subject to children separate from the tenets of organized religion. She also concludes from her research that adolescents’ spiritual development depends on the “interplay” of three processes: Awareness/awakening, interconnecting/belonging, and “a way of living.” You can guide your child through all three of these stages, but it is particularly important for you to help her establish a way of living which includes a sense of community, strong bonds with family and friends, and self-expression.

Although a sense of spirituality may seem more emotion- and action-based, sometimes facts can be useful to a spiritual education. If you want to discuss organized religion with your child, find reliable information, news and education tools at The Pluralism Project at Harvard University, a site devoted to research and education about all the world’s religions. There are tools for getting religious news and plentiful information about the religions of the world; statistics about religion for United States; and resources to help teachers of religion. When your child asks questions, you’ll know the answers.
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