Can Kids Really Understand Spirituality?
by Tara R. Wood
A friend and I were talking about a recent post where I discussed my conversation with my kids over the current Rob Bell controversy. I was able to share in more detail how that conversation with my kids went and how much I enjoyed having those types of spiritual discussions with them.
After listening for a while my friend stopped me and asked, “Do you really think kids are able to understand spirituality?”
It’s a great question. It’s one many, if not all, parents at some point wonder. Unfortunately, most of us adults have been programmed since we were kids that children are inferior to adults, incapable of understanding and feeling to the abilities of those over 25. We can teach children how to pray. We can teach them Bible stories and speak of the wonders of God, but it’s all data processing for them right now. Kids are just gathering the information, storing it, and practicing routines so that when they become “fully human” they can have a solid foundation to hopefully pursue their own spirituality when they’re developmentally able.
There are many ways and reasons why we’ve all been conditioned to believe this. And yet, most of us have moments where we have questioned this notion that children aren’t capable of experiencing God and spiritual concepts. Whether it’s a dream they’ve had, or a quiet moment that they say they were talking to God or angels, or simply in their unsolicited questioning and wonderment, there are times where it seems they understand (and experience) more than we give them credit for.
In fact, there is amazing research coming out on what little ones are really capable of. Alison Gopnik writes about some of these findings in her amazing book The Philosophical Baby. Some of this new understanding of early childhood suggests that in many ways children are more capable of spirituality than adults are. We may see their ability to imagine and believe in just about anything as proof that children don’t have a “mature” capability to believe in God. But a child’s ability to so easily believe in the concepts that adults work so hard to believe in may be proof of a faith that we were actually originally created to have and that adults loose as they get older. Perhaps it is children who are more mature in their faith than we are. Brings new depth to “a child-like faith”, doesn’t it?
So, to answer my friend’s question, yes. Yes, I believe that my children are more than capable of spirituality. I think that they are able to tap into spiritual ideas in a ways that I don’t. I actually find myself learning a lot more about myself and my own faith when I interact and engage with my children on spiritual topics.
How about you? How would you answer this question? Have you witnessed your child’s spirituality on a level beyond just regurgitating what they’ve been taught?
Tara R Wood, M.A., CGE is an author and educator providing skills and strategies on how to create a sacred family. Tara holds a Masters in Child Development and a Psychology degree with an emphasis in Marriage and Family Services. She has worked with children and parents for over 15 years as an educator and consultant in parenting skills and conflict, anger and behavior management. Tara and her husband currently live in Hudson, OH with their three children. Read her blog at tararwood.com.