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Janice Wood

Janice Wood
Location
Lafayette, California, United States
Birthday
November 11
Bio
Mother of 2, Grandmother of 4 Writer, Meditator, Watercolorist B.A. Social Science, Master's in Theology- Avid reader Optimist except when I'm not. A believer in human rights, love, and mystery.

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DECEMBER 3, 2010 11:59AM

10 Ways to Nurture A Child's Spirituality

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     As the holidays approach, I worry about the influence our material culture has on kids. At a young age, children are being taught to believe that if you just have the perfect toy or electronic gadget, their lives will be perfect. Being adults we know the truth. It makes us feel better for a little while, then we want something else.

     A meditation teacher once told me that joy was the natural state of humans. He said in the beginning it's like our hearts are bright, shiny-clean mirrors. Then, once negative things in life happen, the mirror becomes covered by feelings of  worry, fear, anger, jealousy, etc.  There are some conditions in our environment that we can control that have the potential to continuously wipe the mirror clean for our children and ourselves.   

    Maybe you've watched as magical, happy small children you know turn into not-so-charming materialistic kids who have lost their spark of individuality and joyfulness. Wanting more and more stuff  stifles all the good qualities the child originally possessed.  Make no mistake, the cultural norms promote and take over a large part of your child's life. If you go to a really good church or temple, that can counteract some the cult of ownership, but I think mostly it’s  building a breathing space for your kids just to be.

     Materialism isn't the only cultural problem. Chronic rushing and busyness, loud music and TV, insane competitiveness, overfilled schedules, force kids to grow up too early, robbing them of their innate spirituality.     My grandson, who is 5, has only been to two movies and has limited PBS Sprout exposure. On Saturday, Aiden went to see Toy Story 3. So yesterday I took him to Safeway where we walked the aisles. Little pictures of Woody, the cowboy, jumped out at him from every turn. Cereal boxes, cookies, videos, called out to him, making him want all of it. We bought a box of Rice Crispies with Woody's picture only because we were making marshmallow treats. Apparently there was supposed to be something Toy Story related in the box, but we never found it, leaving Aiden disappointed. As much as you try to keep children from being influenced by our cultural materialism, it's designed to strike home.   

  Here are some ideas to help you create a space that allows your child  to grow spiritually and develop a rich interior life.  

1. Let them know there is something bigger than themselves, it can be called God, or it can be certain ideals your hold like Truth, Social Justice, Kindness, or Honesty. Something has to be bigger than them. You can use any word you like; Spirit, Creator, just don't let your child be the center of the universe.  2. Let them see you helping others in your community. Assisting family and neighbors when they are sick or in trouble, and showing kindness is great modeling. Especially let them see you giving without expecting anything back. 

3. Give your children the time to dream. It's a gift to allow them periods of silence. Some quiet and solitude-don’t keep them constantly involved in competition, sports, TV, video games, etc. It robs them of their ability to think freely, to breathe, and to relax.  Contrary to the popular belief that being alone occasionally is problematic, it's important for them to learn how to think and dream. When I taught high school, the principal told the whole faculty, "Watch out for loners and report them to us."  I laughed out loud, thinking it was a joke. There has to be a middle way: alone all the time bad, never alone, equally detrimental.

 4. Show and teach gratitude- for everything from food on the table to a warm bed, beautiful flowers growing in the yard, to being grateful for a kindness from a stranger. You can say grace before dinner, use any words you like, but start saying it or ask the kids to say it. 

5. Encourage their imagination in as many ways as possible. A chance to use their imagination-give them lots of art supplies, wood blocks to build, don’t tell them what to do, don’t praise the art or project, say instead, “Tell me about your picture.” They will.  

6.Take them to Yosemite instead of Disneyland. Okay, you can take them to Disney a few times, but mostly take them out into nature and to appreciate beauty.  Have your kids seen the way stars look when you are in the mountains or the desert?  A full moon rise?  Appreciation for the miracles around them encourages wonder and awe in yourself and your kids. Get them outside, growing vegetables, go camping, look at plants, and point out the intricate beauty of frogs, bugs, and the flight of a hawk. 

7. Exhibit peace and respect for others. Watch what you say and do in front of your kids-screaming at other drivers, calling people names are noticed. When you show respect, politeness to others, when you let people go ahead of you on the freeway and in the supermarket, your kids see it. Everything you say and do is noticed. If you don't want to hear it coming out of your 5 year old's mouth, don't say it. 

 8. Storytelling, books, and family ritual-Children learn from storytelling, both family and otherwise, borrow great books from the library, develop family rituals. This helps kids feel connected to you, their world, and the child's ancestors.  There isn't any culture in the world, except maybe ours, where the ancestors are not called upon to help them or remember them to bring them into community with their lives.  Family rituals can be as simple as praying together over meals or just setting healing intentions for others.

 9. Be careful with TV, movies, video games, etc. Children have their own inborn temperaments to be sure, but if they are exposed to scary or adult movies or games it harms them. Especially watch out for oversexualized or violent images have a terrible impact. 

 10. Be convinced of your child's innate sense of the sacred and their own spiritual centers. Children have moments of shocking awareness that are periods of grace.  Don't underestimate their intuitive, soulful knowledge.     

  A few minutes ago, I went outside to clear my head and finish my coffee. Two small deer walked into the yard not 20 feet away from me. I could feel my heart jump a bit, lifting me up, cleaning the mirror again. I went to theology school, but I don't know everything about what we are doing here on this planet at this moment. I just know children's and our own spiritual lives need nourishing and a sacred space to grow freely. It's the best gift you can give them. 

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What you are saying to me Janice is "Love them" and in return they will love you and everything else.
Crossing our fingers..:)
Rated with hugs
Oversexualized or violent images. Two such incredibly different images.

Most of this could have been written 70 years ago or could be written 70 years in the future. After we live our lives, we become so good at knowing what is right for the next generation. But we don't live in that generation. We have no idea what it's like to live their life.

The influence of our material world has always influenced our kids and will always influence them. You can only live your life to the best of your ability and trust that you will also influence them.

I believe in exposing them to as much as possible, I believe that is how you get their little imaginations and creativity going.
Nice post...especially in getting kids to know the natural world first, then they'll always know and come back after they have some immersion in the material and notice the lack of peace there.
Thanks you so much for posting this wonderful essay. My daughter is just now eight months old, and already I fear that the battle against American consumerism is already starting. In Scotland, my other country, it is illegal to market directly to children. My favorite paragraph from your post is just below. I have come to believe that my daughter is a metaphysical being who transcends linear time constraint. Thanks again,
AE


" Be convinced of your child's innate sense of the sacred and their own spiritual centers. Children have moments of shocking awareness that are periods of grace. Don't underestimate their intuitive, soulful knowledge."
Janice, these are wonderful, valuable tips for any parent. We need to return to simpler ways of being to recapture ourselves. R.
Linda-You are right. It's about loving them, but also loving them enough to be a little counter cultural about the environment they live in.
D'Art- I believe in exposing them to lots of different things, in the sense of making their world really big so their imaginations can flourish. My sister sat behind parents at a movie theater last week at an R rated movie. They had a 6 and 8 year sitting in front of them in an extremely sexual movie. That seems reprehensible to me. They aren't just little adults, they aren't ready for that kind of exposure.
Just Thinking-Yes, that lack of peace that comes with extreme materialism and consumerism because there is never enough.
Green Celt-Thank you for reading and making me a favorite. I love that marketing to children is illegal in Scotland. Your baby is the same age as my youngest grandchild. She's really happy with a plastic cup and a bunch of spoons!
Janice..I love this, great guide that many parents should read. Life is so busy, we are seldom'present'..you can miss alot buying into that insanity. I am learning at 62 to be 'present' ..relate to that moment and savour it. I try to express the importance of prayer and belief in God in my grandchildren, it brought me back from my many childhood confusions. Missionary kids usually have issues, I was very loved, but had molestation thrown in the mix,you can try to 'divorce' bad experiences but unfortunately they formulate who you are and affect your self-evaluation..lucky to be loved and have my path made clear because of it. Great write. Funny, I entertained the idea of being a preacher a few yrs back, dont have the education for that but felt a calling. Then after awhile I realized the calling was to hone in on me, before i try to reach out. Always room for improvement.:) Loved this post!
Cindy-I'm glad you like it. I actually went to theology school so I could have the credibility to write about spirituality. I ended up teaching it and working with kids of all ages. The church sure has lots of problems, the biggest is that it doesn't value children or women very much. I see it in all churches.
Rita- We do need to return to a time when there was something, anything good that is bigger than just ourselves. Thank you so much for commenting.
Oh my goodness, I like you. :)
All I know is that children now don´t feel the natural obligation to respect their pairs and adults... they are just out of control even if you love them dearly
out of control
Great post
Rated with love
This is such a wonderful advice, it should be the creed of parenthood. I was raised in a time and lifestyle very similar to what you describe and I see the difference between my childhood and how in a generation life has changed and values have been forgotten.
Thank you for reminder. Rated with much appreciation.
Janice, This is so right on! I posted it to facebook because your message needs to be read and hopefully meditated on by as many people as possible.
Sweetfeet- I like you too. I went to read your last post-so funny.
Mauricio-I agree so many kids are out of control. I loved your work.
FusunA-Thank you so much for the compliment. I'd like it if all kids could grow up in a more rural area and exposure to nature. Even though kids in Oakland live less than 40 miles from the ocean, some have never seen it. So sad. But when I taught I brought in some really fine women's spiritual poetry (including the mystics) and it did the same thing for the girls. Opened them wide. I could see it.
heidibeth-Thanks so much for posting on facebook. I'm really glad you liked it.