It used to be so easy to define one's beliefs. You could easily identify them by affiliation: "I am Catholic (Lutheran, Protestant, Muslim, Jewish, etc.)." Further, once you ascribed to a religious doctrine, your way of life was set out for you based on the spiritual practices, traditions, understanding of the afterlife, and notions of life purpose, as well as your ideas about the type of relationship humans share with your religion's deity.
Through the work of forward thinkers like Neale Donald Walsch, Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle and others, New Age Spirituality has entered the collective consciousness of the world. As a result, increasing numbers of people are questioning their previous understanding of religion as static, unmoving, unchangeable and absolute; instead embracing an idea that spirituality can evolve just as we, as a species, do. Initially this shift in consciousness can seem confusing and even haphazard because people who have been accustomed to rules, scripture and regulations to guide their actions now have the opportunity to truly Be Themselves and Choose Their Own Paths.
How then, can parents, who may have chosen to reject their own prior ideas about religion, explore their own spirituality so that they can assist as their children have their own spiritual questions arise? Is it even necessary?
In my work for Neale Donald Walsch's School of the New Spirituality, based on the Conversations with God series of books, we help parents present spiritual messages to children in age appropriate ways. Through that work and my personal experiences I have found that children will ask questions about Life and whence we come, no matter their religious or spiritual (or lack thereof) background. So while I don't think there is anything you are compelled to do, nor are there any right or wrong answers in parenting, only what feels appropriate and beneficial to you at the time, in your situation; you may wish to prepare yourself with a solid understanding of how you feel about spirituality before your child asks you the Big Questions.
Reading books is always a good place to start to explore new ideas, if you haven't yet begun your spiritual journey; even if that feels life a luxury of time which parenting has temporarily made unavailable to you, small bits can go a long way when paired with introspection! Conversations with trusted friends can be great avenues for exploring your inner truths. Merely taking a moment in the morning to set an intention to get in touch with your inner self, your connection to others, how you feel about the notions of God, the Universe, Life, the All, the Collective (or whatever you wish to call it) can help you to find answers throughout your day. And of course, establishing a daily practice of meditation can assist you in finding both inner peace and inner purpose.
From a Conversations with God perspective (which doesn't have to be your own, I only mention it for a point of reference), spirituality
isn't really something that you adopt, it is just something that you Are. We are spiritual beings who have chosen to have a human experience so spirituality is really just about the processing of remembering Who We Really Are – an indivisible aspect of God.
To you, spirituality may be your oneness with your family, oneness with a flower, gratitude, or a multitude of other identifications.
However you define spirituality (or not!), for yourself, will influence how you approach spirituality (or not!) with your child. Just know that whatever agenda you have, your child is surely to thwart!
o matter how you choose to approach the topic, the answers you give are probably not as important as the messages that your demeanor conveys. Maintaining an environment of love and respect, being transparent and showing that you are there to listen non-judgmentally, and answering questions honestly allows your child to voice his or her concerns safely.
Originally printed in Nurture: Australia’s Natural Parenting Magazine, (2013). All Rights Reserved.