Spiritual development in children… yep it’s part of their natural development. It’s part of their moral and cultural development. We didn’t just pick this topic randomly. We selected it purposely because just like physical development and social development, it is a part of your child that will continue to grow and develop over time. It’s the part of your child that plays into how they begin to make sense of their world and the people in it. It’s the part of their development that shapes their values and beliefs about their families, friends, communities and nations.
How then can we foster a healthy spiritual development? How can we help to answer their questions about their world in a positive way? How can we nurture values and beliefs and children’s spiritual development? Spiritual and moral development can be a daunting and abstract concept but as I was looking through various resources I came across this poem and thought I would share.
What is Spirituality?
delighting in all things
being absorbed in the present moment
not to attached to ‘self’ and
eager to explore boundaries of ‘beyond’ and ‘other’
searching for meaning
open to more?
Spirituality is like a bird; if you hold it to tightly, it chokes; if you hold it too loosely, it flies away. Fundamental to spirituality is the absence of force.
Rabbi Hugo Gryn
What are ways that you nurture spiritual development in your child?
education, family time, moral, parental relationships, parenting, positive parenting, spiritual
Questions about religion can be challenging for parents. You may be at ease explaining your own beliefs. But are you equality at ease with probing questions, especially about a religion or belief system different than your own? How parents respond when children ask questions about religion and spirituality can impact their youngsters’ behavior.
During April, we will discuss how parents can help children as they begin asking spiritual questions. As we discuss the research on this topic, join the conversation on the blog. Tell us about your own attitudes about religion and how you are guiding your child in developing a belief system.
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miscellaneous, moral, spiritual
Ok, here’s a big question for parents – should your child attend the funeral of a family member, friend, classmate, or neighbor? Maybe we should begin with why we have funerals. Funerals are a ceremony, a ritual that serves important functions. It is an occasion to celebrate the life of a deceased person and acknowledge the reality of his or her death. Funerals are a step in the mourning process.
Let’s be honest. Funerals are difficult for adults and that impacts our feelings about children’s attendance. Whether you should take your child to a funeral depends on the child and the situation. If your child is old enough and wants to go, then being included can be helpful. And depending on who died, it may be important for you to have your child present.
The big issue is preparation. Explain to your child what will happen at the funeral. This includes visitation (if attending) plus before, during, and after the funeral. Talk about the setting, music, flowers, service, casket. Let your child know people will be sad and some may cry, including yourself. If you have spiritual or religious beliefs, share how death is perceived. Depending on your own relationship with the deceased, you may want to have another family member or friend be with your child. Above all, don’t leave a child to experience the events alone.
I found that taking a child to the funeral home ahead of the visitation or service is a good step. Then the child can look and ask questions. This will help both of you find comfort and meaning. Likewise, a trip to the cemetery ahead of time can relieve fears. A funeral and burial is NOT a time for surprises. Don’t assume that once the funeral is over that’s it. Set aside some quiet time to hold your child, talk about the experience, and provide a feeling of safety and comfort.
As Donna and I pondered the topic this month, we wanted to make sure that we talked about the fact that many things die. Animals. People. Plants. Flowers. Bugs. Fish. All living things die. The most important thing when talking about the topic of death is to remember the child’s age. The age of the child is what guides your conversation. Here are a couple of age related guidelines directly from the extension.org article “Loss and Grief: Talking with Children”.
- Infants. Children under a year old seem to have very little awareness of death, but do experience feelings of loss and separation. Infants might show similar signs of stress as an older child or adult who is coping with loss: crankiness, eating disturbance, altered sleep patterns, or intestinal disturbances.
- Toddlers. Children between the ages of one and three generally view death as temporary. That’s why it’s very important to state simply and directly that the person has died and to explain what that means.
- Young children. Children between the ages of three and six might believe their thoughts, feelings or actions can cause death. Feelings of responsibility and guilt can arise. It’s important to tell children what caused the death and be attuned to any sense of responsibility the child might convey.
- Older children. School aged children begin to develop a more mature understanding of death, seeing it as both inevitable and irreversible.
- Teenagers. Teenagers are going through many changes and life in general can be very challenging. During a time of loss and mourning, let your teenager know that you’re there for her/him. Be present while also allowing space and privacy. Respect your teenager’s feelings, listen well, and let them teach you about their grief and how you can help.
To view the whole article : Loss and Grief: Talking with Children
How have you talked with children about the loss of living things and people? Share your conversations with your children about loss and death here.
Additional resource for talking with children about death are below:
Talking to Children About Death
Helping Your Child Deal with Death
Children and Grief
Like many kids, I grew up with pets. There were hamsters and turtles and fish and cats and dogs and chickens. Yes, chickens – remember I was a farm kid. So I tried to remember what it felt like when the pets died. I have vivid memories of some pets like my dog Boo and others not so much.
When a pet dies, the amount of information or what you say, depends on the child’s age, experiences, and maturity level. Offer your child a clear and simple explanation. Let your child’s questions guide the details you reveal.
Tell the truth. Use the actual words “death,” “dying,” or “died.” Be sure your child understands the pet’s body stopped working; it died; and will not be coming back. Do not say Baxter ran away when he really crawled in the garage and died. Do not say Penelope went to sleep and won’t wake up. Children take literally what you say and false statements will confuse them. Eventually your child will figure out you lied and that starts to complicate trust issues.
Sometimes there is a chance to say goodbye and if a child able to do so, that can be helpful. The family may want to observe the pet’s death in a special way. I remember wrapping pets in cloth, putting them in shoe boxes, and burying them in a special place. Every pet, no matter type or size, always got a burial ceremony. We talked about our pets, remembering the funny stories and antics.
And here’s one last tip. Don’t immediately get another pet. We don’t want children to think pets and people are replaceable. Wait until your child asks to get a new kitten. Then you can talk about how welcoming a new furry friend into your home is a way to honor the life of the pet that died.
Do you have a memory of a pet that died? How did your parents handle the situation? What have been your experiences with your own child?
When a child says, “I know Grandpa isn’t really dead. He’s just asleep,” how should a parent respond? As adults we know that death is an inevitable part of the life cycle. We go to funerals, send sympathy cards and offer support. Somehow we come to reconcile death as a part of life and learn to live with that knowledge. Children, too, will encounter death, but they don’t have adult coping skills. It is up to the significant adults in their lives to help children understand their feelings when a family member, friend or beloved pet dies.
Join us as we blog about how to help children as they encounter death.
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Ok, it’s true confession time. I always maintained that I would age gracefully. I have wonderful role models in my family and community who exemplify the “older person I want to be.” So what am I learning about this aging gracefully concept?
These aging adults have one thing in common – generativity. That’s not a word we use often, but it is a concern for others developed during middle age. It is a need to nurture and guide younger people and contribute to the next generation. Adults often do this by being active in their communities.
We’ve seen the generativity idea reinforced by participants in the Mid Life & Beyond program. http://www.extension.iastate.edu/humansciences/midlife-and-beyond Enrolled communities start with study circles using a guide, A Community for People 45 and Beyond. It is an opportunity for people to talk together and find ways to make their community a place where people can live successfully as they age.
This brings us full circle back to the children. Aging adults who remain active and want to guide younger people are serving as aging gracefully role models. How does the idea of generativity fit with what you know about older adults?
Yes it’s true, children form stereotypes about the aging process and older adults. Often times children may have negative stereotypes based on limited interaction with an older generation. To help children form positive stereotypes of the aging process authors Kaplan and Crocker offer some ways to help children develop more positive ideas about aging.
Kaplan and Crocker share that it is important to do more than just ‘talk’ about or share information on older adults. It is important to share experiences and promote opportunities to engage children with older adults as well. Spending time together allows children and adults to share stories and learn more about each other first hand.
Programs that offer the opportunity for youth and older adults to do activities together are called ‘intergenerational programs’. We would love to hear about intergenerational programs you have had experience with? How has it positively impacted your children and their thoughts about aging?
Click for more information on Age-based Stereotypes
Last week I spent an evening helping my granddaughter with an assignment for a college aging class. She needed to interview a person about a variety of issues relating to aging and I was the lucky one.
Her opening comment, “this class is so boring” immediately caught my attention. I wondered if the topic of aging seems boring to most young people. Caught up in the excitement of youth, do they look at people my age and think life must be boring for us?
However, as my granddaughter asked me questions she quickly identified me as active and engaged. She said I have a job, travel, enjoy hobbies, spend time with friends and family, and am involved in the community. Whew – at least maybe I’m not so boring.
Adult development was one of the final topics we discussed. That was a revelation as my granddaughter had not considered that adults continue to grow and development. So I got to thinking – do most young people assume that once you are an adult, that’s it?
All in all, an interesting discussion for both of us. I can’t wait for her next assignment in this class. I have the perfect opportunity to increase my granddaughter’s understanding of people’s lives as they age and how it is anything but boring.
When parents worry about gray hair and wrinkles or complain about getting older, should they also wonder whether their children are listening? During February, we will discuss children’s attitudes about aging. Research shows that family influences are among several factors that can impact how children view aging and older people. We’ll also look at the impact from TV, movies, books and jokes, and everyday language and experiences.
Join us as we blog about how to help children view the aging process in a healthy and realistic way.
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Finding research on the impact of arguing in front of children was easy. Wrapping my head around how to talk about it was harder. As we come to the end of the topic for the month, I think we could probably agree that it comes down to a word we have all heard before. Respect. We are not always going to agree with the adults in our children lives. That is a fact. It is important however, that we learn to agree to respect each other in front of our children. Children learn about respect from the adults around them. The most important role model they have is you. I encourage you to do your best to role model respect. It’s easier said than done sometimes but is so very important in the long run.
What are some thoughts you head about our topic this month? We would love to hear from you!
conflict, divorce, parental relationships
You remember them don’t you – the old tan rough looking sacks. Stuffed in the corner of the shed, barn, or garage, these sacks were used for storage. So what do gunny sacks have to do with conflict between spouses or partners?
We recognize that conflict happens and does not predict couple or family problems. But research does tell us that dangerous patterns of thinking and behaviors can lead to serious problems. One of these communication patterns is gunny-sacking. Very simply, this is keeping things in and then dumping them all at once. Picture all the unkind words, slights, perceived wrongs, and accusations stuffed into the gunny sack. Then one day when you go to stuff one more thought into the bag, it is full. So you turn the gunny sack upside down on the floor and all the hurt, pain, and anger spill out – right onto your spouse or partner. The next picture isn’t going to be a pretty one.
Managing Conflict: Escalating and De-Escalating is just one of the lessons in a series, Together We Can: Creating a Healthy Future for our Family. This program is for single parents or couples who are in conflicted or unstable relationships and have young children. Go to http://www.extension.iastate.edu/humansciences/content/together-we-can for more information.
Conflict between human beings happens. It happens between adults, between children and even between adults and children. So how do we learn to fight fair?
An article I found from the University of Texas at Austin gives some great ideas on how to have conflict in a ‘fair’ way.
Here are some of their suggestions:
- Deal with only one issue at a time: Stay focused on only one topic. Focus on that one issue until you have resolved it agree to disagree. Then move to the next issue.
- Avoid accusations: Like Donna talked about last week, use the ‘I messages’ and talk about how it makes you feel. Refrain from using the word ‘you’ as much as possible.
- Avoid clamming up: Get the issue out. When you stop communicating about what the issue is it can’t possibly be resolved. Shutting down or becoming silent doesn’t make the issue go away. Keep talking. If you need to take a break, do so but commit to coming back and finishing the conversation.
For more suggestions read the whole article from the University of Texas at Austin.
Share your ‘fighting fair’ techniques with us here!
parenting, positive parenting, temperament
Let’s jump right in with what I see as one of the best tools for improving communication with your spouse/partner. And in turn that will likely reduce disagreements. It is as simple as using “I” statements instead of “You” statements.
Here’s an example for a “you” message. “You forgot to pick up milk on your way home from work. How stupid can you be?” Or, “I can’t believe how stupid you are. You forgot to get the milk again.” That second set of statements is what we call a “hidden you” message.
Now let’s try a true “I” statement. “I need milk for dinner. There is none left in the refrigerator.” Do you see the difference? When we drop the accusatory and blaming words (and tone), we have a much better chance of getting the problem solved. In this example, what I really need is milk. This isn’t worth a full scale argument between two tired adults at the end of a long work day.
Using “I” statements is a respectful way of having a conversation. It helps you focus on the immediate problem or need, instead of escalating into a battle and bringing in more issues.
Have you tried “I” statements? Do you think this communication tool might work?
Fighting in front of the children creates a family life where conflict is the norm – and this conflict can negatively impact the kids. Fighting with your spouse or partner – or ignoring him or her — will affect your children. As we blog this month, we will explore ways for parents to reduce disagreements with each other. We will also talk about the complex issue of parental conflict and its effect on children. Join us and share your thoughts and experiences as well.
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