When and how do I introduce spirituality to my child? What kind of relationship do I want my child to have with the supreme power. These are all questions I have asked myself many times over the years. I didn’t want to address it right away, but I do wish for my child to bond with the beyond. A bond that inherently and categorically can be stronger than my bond with our child.
For me, spirituality is a way of recognizing that there is something greater than myself. Also, in life with all its complexities, uncertainties, and catastrophes, I want my offspring to find something to root her and not feel like being flung with every passing storm. As parents, my husband and I will try to offer solutions. But I want to empower my child to find solutions for herself. Spirituality can be a very powerful and effective instrument in the reservoir of life skills my little one amasses with each growing year.
I believe how strong should this relation should be is a matter best left to my child herself. But we as parents want to make the introductions, do the groundwork, and leave it at that. I find that spirituality and religion are interconnected in so many ways, but my spirituality is solely defined by myself. So I want to introduce religion first to our toddler and then spirituality. “Come, sweetie, say good morning to dear God,” may sound alright but might not be very effective. “Come here and meet our friend God.”
In general, I won’t really refer to God as my friend. Mostly I refer to God as “She.” “She” will not give me a high five if I score that goal on the field. Nor will “She” give me a tissue to wipe my face if the love of my life dumped me. But for my toddler, it will be a good start to a relationship that will grow and evolve with every passing year.
This association will hopefully evolve the most in those crucial adolescence years. As parents, we (my husband and I) will sometimes be loved and maybe even be hated at times. But during all that, “we” will always be “mom and dad.” On the other hand, God will be friend, foe, Enigma, a disparate mystical entity to our little one in her teenage years. You get the drift. My child might question the very existence of this relation. Well, “She” doesn’t solve any of my problems. In those delightful teenage years, our child might argue I have parents, friends, all emotional, social, financial, educational, medical support systems I need. So why do I need God? My answer to her question will be “for our soul.” The relation with God may even be tumultuous, to say the least. It will be rocky from the word go if our little one grows into a strong-willed, strong-headed young adult.
To make it easier for our child, I would clear all mismatched expectations early on. According to my belief, “God” does not help with any of the following: grades, homework, friends, bullying, illnesses, jobs, boyfriends, divorces, financial losses. “She” just listens and gives us inner strength. And when I am talking to God with this deep sense of gratitude for the life I have been given and submit to this idea that I aspire to be better than I was yesterday, I begin to really listen to my inner voice. And I get better at listening to my body and my mind. As I get better, I begin to find the connection between body, mind, actions, and thoughts. Eventually, I aspire to find my true self and start seeing myself in a better light. What are my own flaws? I have a messy room, am terrible at Geography, am a perfectionist, or am easily provoked by slights. I see each one of my flaws and strengths with a unique insight and clear perspective.
I want to wait till my child gets a first “D Minus” on a paper she worked on. And ask her to sit down and talk to God. She will find it impossible to have any sense of gratitude after receiving having seen a D minus. This might be the biggest hurdle our child will face in her quest for spirituality. In the midst of failure, I am asking her to start a dialogue with gratitude. “You got to be kidding me” might be just what I hear instead. I hope that two things will happen next. First, she will have to let go of the past and focus on whatever little good she has in her life at that stage. Whenever life does a backflip, I am left with this feeling of impending doom, and I want to have a plan of action. I wish my child will have her own plan of action.
In our household, we begin with concentrating on the visual uniqueness of our God. This helps in focusing. If I were an atheist, I would have placed an inanimate object like a book, which I believed in. Instead, in our home, we try to make our praying ritual meaningful by explaining the meaning of what we recite or read to our little girl.
As our child gets older, I hope she finds this practice of praying indispensable in good and bad times. And praying is truly beyond the current circumstances. So eventually, our child will understand praying is not asking, nor is it complaining. Religion can truly be instrumental in building the character of this little human being.