Teaching Children Religion/Spirituality

lunamoth

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What do you all think? Is it important to teach children about religion and spirituality? Were you happy with the religious teachings (or lack thereof) you were taught as a child? Will you do things differently for your children than what you learned? What is the best way to get across your beliefs in a simple way? I'm interested in views from everyone, if you follow a religon or tradition or if you are walking your own very individual path.

My first child has been asking more and more about God as she moves into the age of reason (she's 4 and a half). For example, our pet cat had to be put to sleep last year because "he was very very old and very very sick." And so he went to cat heaven and is with God. And she, being astute as most 4-year-olds are, immediately made the leap to "but Grandma is old. Will she die?" And so I find myself teaching her the very simple things I learned as a child, even though I now have a more sophisticated (well, at least more detailed!) theology and I know that some of the things I tell her as literal are for me metaphorical. She attends sunday school at the church I now attend, which is quite liberal and fits my views well, so I am comfortable with what she learns there even. But more important I feel are the messages I pass along to her at home, both the answers to her direct questions and the example I set, the things I say, the ways I react to life.

And this past week our fish died (aside: actually it was due to a mistake on my part and I feel rather terrible about it). Due to bad weather we wrappped him up and put him in the freezer to await burial in the rose garden when the ground thaws. So now the question is "where is Fish?" and I say "he is also in heaven" and the next question is "is Fish in the freezer?" (by the way, his official name was Fish) and my answer was "well, just his body is in the freeezer, the important part of Fish is with God." so she says "is his head in the freezer?" (as opposed to his body, the unimportant part, see how quickly I am digging myself into a hole here...) and I say, "his head is still with his body in the freezer but his spirit is with God, and he is also in our hearts." This ended the conversation, for now, but I am sure that it will come up again soon. Can't wait for the ground to thaw.

But in retrospect, it seems like any formal religious ed I got as a child was quite boring and unfulfilling. And as soon as I got to be a teenager with normal skeptical teenage know-it-all attitude, formal religious teaching seemed to push me away from sprituality rather than toward it. And thre was so much contradiction with the rational in world in which I was trying to figure out in order to survive. No one explained to me that religion was supposed to be extraordinary. Totally lost upon me was the mystery and joy and awe of God and my place in His creation. These were left for me to discover only after young adulthood was gone and midlife loomed large. And, needless to say, after many mistakes had been made.

So, my children will likely go through the same process. Maybe we all have to discover it on our own and can't really be taught the important part of the spiritual life. But I'm pretty sure that something was instilled in me during my childhood and youth that helped draw me back to spirituality and for that I am thankful. I remember the clear belief I had as a young child, I'm not sure you can call that faith because it is so inherent and not an act of will, and I long to have that again. And I hope for my children to have that as well.

What about you?
 
I think that any kind of spiritiual teaching you can get into young people before they are 12 is going to benefit them later. it is better that have something or some kind of truth to fall back on, than for them to get caught up in ANYTHING and get into real big problems in there future.
Kids need roots and a stong foundation in the Lord. They can figure out the rest as they grow older.


Sunday School is a very good way to do it. And you can ask the children what they learned and you will know by what they say if they are in a good place.
I was raised in a church where went 4 times a week and had the Word of God pounded into us. But will tell you that now I am older, I would not trade a minute of church, sunday school, childrens church, bible school in the summer, childrens choir, church outings and summer camps- for nothing.
Why?
Because where else are they going to get it?

Did I run from my teaching as I got old enough to run? YES I ran like a bat out of hell to test the world and everything and anything I could get into. But I am here today loving the Lord and ever so thankful for parents who set me up in a good direction from the start.
At least this way, a parent has not deprived them from not knowing about God.

It does not matter so much the religion, because they will stay with it or leave it when they are older anyway, but most children will not forget what they learned no matter how basic it may have seemed.

I just see people starving today and I dont think they even know what they are hungry for so they keep trying all new things.

Good Luck and may God bless the young children and the parents who care enough to set a foundation of love in there hearts from the start.
 
You know.. I think this is a good question. God wants us to come to him as children come to him.. the purity and total faith that a child has can never be attained in adults. I knew Jesus as long as I can remember. I remember having conversations with him when I was 3 or 4 and telling my Mom what God told me. I was a little evangalist always talking about him to everyone. I was comfortable with praying to him and would pray for a long time just to have that "talk" with him. Now when I grew up I had that rebellion that EVERYONE has. I forgot a bit about God and thought more of the world. It was easier for him to call me back to him then it would be for someone who never knew him... Does that make sense? I had the groundwork already. I believed. I knew he was there. The foundation was already set. God lets us go through our rebellions for a reason. It matures us.

Yes I believe you need to teach your child. Not only for her but for you. I have a 13 yo and she has her faith. Even though shes going to hit her rebellion stage soon. God will be there to guide her through it. I trust in that.

Even if you only tell her bible stories.. And teach her how to pray. Tell her she has an angel watching over her. She will LOVE it. And someday when she questions everything which she will. She will always remember that feeling she had when she prayed with the Holy Spirit.

Good luck :)
 
I don't think it's a requirement. You can teach morality without teaching religion or spirituality. I know many fine atheists that are more moral than most people who claim to be religious, and use that as a weapon to harm others.
Beyond basic moral behavior (or whatever is accepted as such), any religious rituals, ceremony, beliefs, philosophy, or behavior shown to the child is purely optional, to me.
 
I think we ended up comparing the body and spirit to like eggs - the self bit as like the important bit inside of the egg, and the shell as like our skin and muslces. The eggshell isn't alive, but the inside bit of the egg can outgrow the shell...

So is Fish were like an egg, the egg bit insde is all gone to heaven, but the shell is in the fridge...

Or something like that. :)

We use terms like "heaven" and "God" fairly easily, but everything else is "some people think this about God, and other people think this..."
 
Dear Lunamoth

Thank you so much, your story so beautifully described, it warmed my heart on this cold winters night, I feel you did a great job. My own feeling is that it would be beneficial for our children to be taught about all religions like they learn history, because from my perspective these will reduce and help to eradicate prejudice. Also to share energy with children, the youngest I have worked with was 2.5 years, we felt the energy of the plants and crystals, stones and hugged trees so that the children are totally at one and do not lose their connection to the nature of GOD's domain and creations. In recent years we have taught them to bless, love and thank the water too.

You are truly blessed to have such joy in your life.

Sacredstar
 
Sacredstar said:
Dear Lunamoth

Thank you so much, your story so beautifully described, it warmed my heart on this cold winters night, I feel you did a great job. My own feeling is that it would be beneficial for our children to be taught about all religions like they learn history, because from my perspective these will reduce and help to eradicate prejudice. Also to share energy with children, the youngest I have worked with was 2.5 years, we felt the energy of the plants and crystals, stones and hugged trees so that the children are totally at one and do not lose their connection to the nature of GOD's domain and creations. In recent years we have taught them to bless, love and thank the water too.

You are truly blessed to have such joy in your life.

Sacredstar
I think you are right SacredStar. I find a lot of peace in nature. Last summer I had a new experience with plant life and dirt. This happened 3 times durring the growing season.

I had pulled tons of weeds from the property and twice as I held and hauled the weeds I could feel a tremendous life or power in my hands through the contact with the plants and there roots. It was like a stimulating vibration that lightly jolted my senses in my hands and ran through my body.
I have only felt and recognised this as of last year. I also had the same vibration of life when I placed my hands into some dirt in the ground and something happened that I cannot really explain.
It was a comforting and pleasurable experience, nothing to fear at all.

So I wondered how can this be? I just accepted it and did not question it, but that God must be in it somewhere.
So teaching the children about nature and the waters and this dominion that God gave to us is a good thing. ;)

I remember as a child and the church taking us to plant trees and grow vegetables. Especially one year we planted and harvested popcorn, then sold it for a fundraiser.

I hope I will be blessed to be in touch with it again this year when the weather breaks.
 
I think that teaching ethics and morality is important to building a child's character. There are many rational and secular foundations to ethics, which exist regardless of one's religion and are valid and useful for all children to learn. In addition (and along side that), if a family has a faith/tradition which they believe offers additional foundation to morality, then they will of course want to teach that as well.

My only concern would be that children learn that there are many foundations to the same ethics and that different people have different beliefs. If a child is to be taught the religious beliefs of the family, then he or she should also be taught what those of other religions believe - not as preaching, but just for his/her own education and awareness. In the process, those who have other foundations for ethics (religious or secular) should not be demonized.

If this sort of respect, compassion, and tolerance of those in disagreement (so crucial to our future as a diverse people) is taught alongside the families religious beliefs, then I would say that is a good thing.
 
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