10 Tips to Nurture Spirituality in Children and Teens
Today I’m happy to present a guest blog post by Julia Neiman. Enjoy!
10 Tips to Nurture Spirituality in Children and Teens By Julia Neiman
Teaching our children to be spiritual beings is a great way to develop a deeper connection with them. Children want to know who they are and that they have a connection to something greater than themselves, whether that be God, the universe, nature, the force or whatever you want to call it.
When I talk about spirituality, I am referring to the real essence of who we are. Developing spirituality is a lifetime journey of self-discovery. It is about opening our hearts and finding our true purpose in life. Spirituality is about our attitudes, values and our practices; about the things that motivate us at the very deepest levels of our being.
Here are 10 easy tips to get started:
1. Set an intention. First thing in the morning have everyone in your family set their intention for the day. This is an important practice in the Law of Attraction. Your intention is what guides you on your journey and as parents, it is in your own best interest to help your children have good intentions. Have them state their intention, for example, I intend to be mindful in school today, or I intend to have a happy day. At the end of the day, you can ask them if the day turned out as they intended it to. If not, ask them where it went off track and what they could have done differently.
2. Gratitude journal. Every day, preferably in the evening, everyone in the family should write down at least one thing they are grateful for. It can be anything from being happy for being alive, to thanking another family member for something they have done for them. Or have everyone state what they are grateful for during dinner if you eat together as a family. It’s a great conversation starter and creates a closer bond between family members.
3. Guided visualization. Children are very visual so guided visualizations or meditations work great. Through guided visualizations you can create healthy, thought provoking images to transform negativity into positive affirmations. Some of the benefits of guided visualizations are relief of stress and anxiety, decreasing panic attacks, boosting self-esteem, learning to use introspection to find answers, and provides opportunities for children to connect with themselves on deeper levels.
It is best to use guided visualization when you can create quiet time with no interruptions. Before bed is a good time, after or instead of reading, use guided visualization to calm everyone down and put them in the space to have good dreams. Include setting an intention to remember their dreams prior to the visualization. Then ask them about their dreams in the morning.
4. Martial Arts. As odd as this sounds, martial arts actually emphasizes self- control, respect and compassion. I especially like Tai Chi which is wonderful for teenagers. Some years ago I had a client in foster care that was very angry. I took him to a Tai Chi class in hopes of providing an outlet for that anger. Because Tai Chi is a traditional martial art based on non-aggression and teaches discipline and self-control, he learned that it is a more powerful use of energy to deflect rather than attack. It was a valuable lesson that stayed with both of us to this day.
There are many good benefits with martial arts. In addition to learning self-control and discipline, martial arts boosts self-esteem and confidence, it provides a tool to channel anger, it is great exercise and increases a child’s sense of his own physicality.
5. Yoga. Yoga brings about inner peace and sets up the mind for stimulation. Yoga is also a good way to increase children’s awareness of their own bodies, aides their sense of balance, provides relaxation and opportunities to be introspective. It also reduces stress and lowers anxiety levels.
6. Arts and Crafts. Any form of arts and crafts is a great way to explore spirituality because it provides children opportunities to be creative and use their imaginations. Did you know that Albert Einstein believed that one’s imagination is a more important indicator of one’s intelligence than their knowledge?
Art can also be used to express our deepest feelings in a way that is safer then verbal communication. Art is an excellent therapeutic tool because children can draw those emotions that they have no words for or are afraid of saying out loud. Children tell the truth through their art.
7. Explore nature. Teach children about transformation by learning about butterflies; teach them about interconnectedness of life by talking about eco-systems while hiking in the forest or the desert or playing on the beach; teach them about conservation by picking up trash wherever you are. You can have nighttime picnics and gaze at the stars or have daytime picnics and tell stories about what life was like in your neighborhood before civilization moved in. There are endless ways to teach children about the universe and their place in it through the exploration of nature.
8. Music. Music was important in my family. When I was a young girl, and I’m about to date myself here, there was a show on television called Sing Along With Mitch. We watched that show as a family and sang along to all the songs. It was silly but we had a lot of fun as a family and I have great memories of that time. Studies are being done that show that music has powerful and positive effects on several dimensions of wellbeing.
9. Community Service. Volunteering for a community service project can provide children and teens with a broader understanding of how they fit in the world. It helps them develop compassion and empathy for others and find gratitude that their own circumstances are different than others. Community service allows kids to learn what it means to be in service of others and to find a sense of satisfaction that they did something for someone else with no other benefit for themselves.
10. Study spirituality. Read books/magazines about spirituality or watch movies about spirituality and discuss them as a family.
Keeping teenagers engaged in spiritual practices.
I was asked recently about how to keep teenagers engaged in spiritual practices. It’s a good question because by the time they are teenagers, many kids have developed a sense of “duality,” that is to say concepts of right and wrong, either/or, self or non-self, and so on. If they have been exposed to spiritual practices from when they were young, they won’t lose that because they will have come to understand that everyone and everything in the universe is connected with everyone and everything else. However, even if they have never explored spirituality before it isn’t that difficult to engage teenagers in spiritual exercises.
Why should you encourage children to develop their spirituality?
Because the emotional and physical benefits to their lives are priceless; because it can provide them with a sense of purpose, help them figure out what they are passionate about. All of these things can promote health by relieving stress and anxiety as well as help children open their hearts and develop compassion and empathy. All of these benefits lead to healthy adulthood with healthy relationships.
The ways to nurture spirituality in children is endless, limited only by your imagination!
Julia Neiman is the Founder of Transform For Life, an online coaching program for teens, and Executive Director of Group Home Consultants, a nonprofit that provides independent living skills training to transition age foster youth.
Julia has 20 years of experience working with troubled teens. She believes that their dreams matter and is passionate about helping them learn to make those dreams come true. To that end, Julia has just written her first book, 31 Powerful Lessons: Empowering Teens and Young Adults to Develop an Entrepreneur Mindset. The book is currently available only at her website as an ebook. Later this year the book will be available both as an audio book and a bound book.
Visit Julia’s website at http://www.julianeiman.com for a free download of a great organizational tool entitled, Get Stuff Done. Then check the Free Downloads Page for more free stuff.