Spirituality – Building a strong foundation for children

This is the era of medicines .Most of us have a medical kit specially done for our children ready at hand. Be it at home or on travel ,we take utmost care to carry it along so as to protect the child from all ailments. It’s of no doubt that seeing a child suffer is heart breaking for any parent ,which is why we try to give them perfect nutrition for the growing body, best education for the developing mind, lots of love for the tender heart and what not !  But how about something for the soul ? You may be thinking‐spirituality is a thing for the grown –ups. Is it so? Definitely not!

My school emblem had the three dimensions of education as ‘Physical, Mental and Spiritual’ (Courtesy : Seventh Day Adventist Institutions ). Many schools do have moral science as part of the regular curriculum. However, being primary influence in a child’s upbringing, parents can contribute immensely in building a strong spiritual foundation. Prayers can be taught from a very young age. I do not mean the mantras or verses. That could probably happen when they start talking.  But you could feed the inputs even before that –say by teaching a baby to fold hands, you are laying the base. It’s also a great idea for the mother or father to pray with the child.  As they grow up, they can start praying with you. (I must say the innocence of a kid’s prayers and their thought processes often amazes us. I had my nephew once praying that his mom grows a little taller‐LOL. )

What and what not ? Spirituality is a realization of the inner self and prayer is a means of communication with the Almighty. A long list of wants is the conventional structure of a prayer which we typically teach our kids. Instead – Let us try and open our children to a broader outlook towards life. Let them pray for others as well. Let them say thanks everyday for what they have –the food ,clothes, family and friends. Let them pray for the nature, flora and fauna. My daily prayers are still the same which I learnt as a child from my grandparents. Some of the interesting things I can share from that are‐ praying for the soldiers, praying for the suffering and needy, praying to be able to be useful and praying for the welfare of the world , that is ‐Loka Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu, what an inclusive thought!

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As they grow up ,children’s participation in family prayers becomes more meaningful. We can get them actively involved in many ways –like calling everyone for prayers part, a helping hand in cleaning the prayer room and the like. Reading scriptures from the Holy Books also can be made a routine. Needless to say, it’s better to teach them the meanings too otherwise which they may not able to appreciate the same later on.

How do prayers help? It creates a lot of positive energy for the kid . It helps nurture a concern for others / things around them. The child will develop high thinking – that is to be able to think beyond the ordinary perspective. Hence , the child would grow up humble, learning to be content in life.  It will also trigger a fear of wrong; rather a second thought that will watch their words and actions. The child will feel protected and confident, from the sense of security created by the magic of prayers.

While you can take them to temple or church regularly or make them memorize and chant mantras or verses‐  the focus should be on facilitating the development of a relationship with the Almighty , a relationship where you can share and listen as well. There was a shocking news that I read in a local newspaper sometime back‐ A  ten year old put an end to her life due to some low scores ! We often read similar stories when the board results are out and when teenagers are unable to tackle such disappointments in love, work, etc. Why does this happen? There is clearly a lack of hope and purpose there. It is this emptiness that a bond with the supreme force will help fill and they can make peace within.

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As they grow older, they will reason out the religious beliefs they imbibed and may ask you umpteen doubts that pop in their little minds. It is but natural since your child is an individual. He or she has the right to question and right to choice. They will eventually come to terms with their soul space. Parents should be open to respecting this phenomenon since forceful practice of anything will do no good. Whether or not they accept the religion, if the base is good enough‐there are little chances that your child would go astray and that should be your only expectation too.

Remember‐ you cannot always be with your child . To show what’s right and wrong or to help them get up and run after a fall, they would need a voice from within (Like the ‘All is Well’ from Three Idiots). Are we giving spirituality the importance it should be given ? So‐think about it, and give some food for your child’s soul too.

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