TConcern for our youth is growing around the world. Teenagers seem to have no discipline and non-violent values anymore. Although there are many measures against it, an increasing number of teens fall into drug addiction. So something is not quite right. Our teenagers are not in their centre. People often interpret wrongful behaviour as a youthful indiscretion or as a side effect of puberty. Yes, growing up is not easy, but that does not excuse bullying, cruelty to animals and disrespect.
In my opinion, the problem doesn’t occur with friends, teachers or the media. Toddlers should already learn basic human values and empathy. If this is missing, the children can easily be influenced by classmates or misled by the media. The foundation for personal responsibility should be laid in early childhood. But how is that supposed to work?
What is Spiritual Education?
Not only physical health is important for our children. Mental and emotional well-being should be promoted by the parents as well. This is exactly what we can accomplish with spiritual education. At this point it should be noted that spirituality and religiosity are not alike.
Religion vs. spirituality
Religion dictates rules and behaviours and, if not complied with, also threatens with feelings of guilt and punishment (such as Hellfire). On the contrary spirituality is not governed by institutions, but is developable, free and experiential. But that does not mean that you cannot educate your children in a religion. However, you should not load your kid with guilt (guilt for Jesus’ death) and fears (fear of hell). Science (see Gomez & Fischer) assumes that for this very reason, spiritual children are happier than religious ones. If you want to bring your child closer to your own religion you can do that with binding figures. Guardian angels or saints can convey security and serve as a contact person in prayer.
Children are spiritual beings and should be appreciated as such. As parents, we should love our children unconditionally. This means that the child does not have to be “good” for love. My hair always stood on end when I hear mothers say “Be good, otherwise I do not love you” or “I do not love you like that”. This love withdrawal puts the child in shock. The child loses the trust in love (which, above all, should be unconditional by the parents) and can later lead to relationship problems and broken trust issues.
Learning from children
I have recently found a letter from myself to myself. When I was 10 years old I wrote it to my future self. I had a very difficult time after my father’s death and discovered my love of words. The key message of this letter is that I should by no means underestimate children. We should see children as little philosophers. Children are deeply connected to nature and their own feelings, and can thus bring us back to our own roots.
Connectedness as the basis of spiritual education
The goal of spiritual education is not book-lore. We should help our children to deepen their connectedness. Connectedness is a feeling of belonging and trust.
Connectedness with nature
In order to give children a bond with nature, we should enable them to have a wide range of natural experiences. This can be, for example, a forest kindergarten or simply forest walks, collecting stones, keeping pets, playing in nature …
Connectedness with the social environment
In order to increase the bond with the social environment, dealing with people of other religions is essential. Furthermore, physical contact (hug as a greeting), daily rituals (reading before sleeping, washing hands before eating), thanking and forgiveness should play an important role.
Connectedness with oneself
A child should know and endorse his own body. Yoga or drawing mandalas can relax children and bring them to their centre. Children’s meditations, reading fairy tales and fantasy journeys help to create a creative mind.
Connectedness with a higher being
In order to maintain the basic trust in the world and nature, kids should establish a connection to a higher being. Whether Allah, God, Shiva, or simply a colorful, luminous energy: Connectedness to a higher being can be achieved by praying, meditation, telling stories of the higher being as well as with celebrations and rituals.
Education should be neither too strict nor too relaxed. Clear boundaries give kids stability. Freedom gives them the opportunity to develop themselves.
The greatest gift you can give your children is a spiritual education. With that you give them love and inner happiness. You make them masters of life and help them live a positive life.