Between the new Pope, the Supreme Court case on gay marriage and attention being garnered by the TV series, The Bible, there is an abundance of media attention being given to stories that reflect on values and spirituality. This entry is meant to offer a few suggestions for engaging your child on these issues. (By the way, when I say “spirituality” I mean the entire spectrum, including atheism.)
• As is a theme in this blog, set aside regular time with your child to see if s/he has any thoughts or perspectives on any of these issues (s/he may not, especially if s/he is young, but it’s always good to check). Allow your child to say his or her piece first, providing doses of empathy, before sharing your perspective.
• Let your child know what your spirituality is, using the principle of selective truth telling, to guide the breath and depth of your coverage (i.e., you share more or less based on your child’s age and wellness; see this blog entry for an elaboration on that principle).
• Empower your child to see the definition of a personal spirituality and personal values as a life-long journey that often includes confusing and mysterious segments, and that doubt is often sprinkled along the way (e.g., Mother Teresa’s diary included expressions of doubt about God’s existence).
• Keep in mind that the active practice of a spirituality can be associated with many important psychological and health benefits. The research supporting this assertion is compelling. (See Chapter Four, on rituals, in my parenting book for a review.)
• Ask your child to always consider some guiding principles:
√ That which is loving should always be prioritized over that which is not.
√ All people deserve to have their spirituality and values respected, as long as they do not hurt others, no matter how much we may personally look at things differently.
√ One group’s spirituality should not be codified into laws that infringe on the civil rights of another group.
√ Learning about other people’s spirituality and values can be a fascinating and enriching enterprise, no matter how much we may personally look at things differently. (For my blog entry on talking about diversity with kids, click here.)
√ Using a spiritual model to hurt people is always wrong.
√ Humility in the quest for truth can leave one open to developing a spirituality that is beautiful, wise, uplifting and meaningful.
In closing I’d like to thank my wife Lia for her help with this entry 😉