When to Introduce Spiritual or Religious Practices to Children
When is the right time to introduce children to spiritual practices and religious philosophies? These topics contain many big questions and you need to be ready with some reasonable answers. This is no easy task for parents and guardians, even if they are practicing their principles daily. Spirituality is a fluid belief system, where the eclectic mix allows for change and growth. There are elements of flexibility in most religions that don’t interfere with personal growth; however those attached to the extreme conservative are not afforded these freedoms.
Have no doubt that your children or teens will ask the same questions you did. Questions about creation, Darwinism, Gods, Goddesses, reincarnation, time travel, spirits, life, death, and whether our planet is the only life giver in the universe will continue. Tell them your view as honestly as possible, while adding that some of these questions may never be answered. It is so important not to taint children with firm doctrines, they need to explore and open the heart and mind with new possibilities. Indoctrination from early childhood is very dangerous; these one-sided fixed views lead to aggression towards those with different beliefs. Cults also fit this scenario; rules and restrictions designed to control do not have any spiritual context. Before set religions came along paganism was the normal state of affairs. Most pagan beliefs were focused on nature, with a pantheon of Gods/Goddesses assigned certain duties. Shaman and seers were employed when big decisions needed to be made. Many pagan cultural traditions were carried into the modern religions. When new philosophies and science sprung up and began to run parallel to religion there were many violent clashes, though some had always welcomed new theories or inventiveness. If you add the suppression of women and slavery to this, it is so easy for children to be confused.
Introduce children to multi-faith beliefs and interesting ceremonies and spiritual festivals, many schools are taking this approach. These can be practiced at home or you can take a family outing to a colourful festival or parade. We are bound up in the stories of our ancestors, that is who we are, but we can learn even more! Start with something simple like Ostara, it’s about birth, renewal, spring and fertility (Spring Equinox: September 21st Eve in Southern Hemisphere – March 21st Eve in Northern Hemisphere, but anytime is spring will do for a practice). Gather your family to set up your dining table with an evening feast, with all the fruit and vegetables you love. Gather decorative eggs or paint some papier-mâché ones. Many of the traditions of Ostara were adopted by Christianity and called Easter and connected to Jesus rebirth. If your children have toys or ornaments that are rabbits or hens, add them to the table. Tradition colours for tablecloths, candles, ribbons or other decorations are soft greens, mauve, pink, apricot, white and lemon. Go outside and find some flowers or greenery for the display. Once the table is set and food it served, give thanks for the season and each other. Let the children decide on any other parts of this nature appreciation ceremony. Traditionally the next day is spent in nature.
There is so much love, happiness, and beauty in ceremonies, stories and beliefs, why wouldn’t you want to explore them as a family? With so many ceremonial traditions in the world, it makes sense to offer this knowledge to your little ambassadors of peace and harmony.
Sharon D Bush
Writer Historian Artisan Sage
Sharon D Bush, B.A. Double Major History/Ancient History University of New England