This past Saturday our church had a dinner gathering for parents to talk about spiritual development in children, and we discussed how different ages and stages have different questions and concerns. Our speaker/discussion leader, Sibyl Towner, said that from ages 0-5, the main question is "Am I loved?" Ages 6-11, it's "What am I good at? What can I do?" Ages 12-18, it's "Who am I?" And from 19-35, it's "What can I give my life for?"
These general categories are something of an amalgamation of developmental theorists like Piaget and Kohlberg, and I think they ring true. They build upon each other, and for many of us in our twenties and thirties, we're still working out identity issues because these questions weren't really addressed or answered while growing up in our families of origin. I think many of us are still discerning how our life purpose flows out of our gifts/competencies and our sense of identity. It's especially interesting for us now as parents to think about how best to facilitate our children's development and spiritual growth even while we continue to discover our own calling and place in this world.
Sibyl provided a handout with possible reflection questions for journaling:
- Beloved: How do you know you are beloved? Who has communicated to you that you are loved?
- Competent: What do you do well and enjoy doing? How did that come about?
- Identity: How well do you know yourself? How have places of service or activities in which you have been involved helped you to discover who you are?
- Purpose: What do you presently understand about your purpose? "Is the life that I am living the life that wants to live in me?" (Parker Palmer)
In addition to these questions, our children's ministry director, Mary Gonzalez, shared a few simple questions that she uses with her kids at bedtime each night: "What was good about today? What was hard? And where was God in this day?" And she noted that nine times out of ten, God was present and experienced in whatever was the hard thing of the day. We've been asking our older son these questions, and he's been responding quite well. They've helped him name things and admit his own shortcomings, and they've also been entry points for gratitude and thanksgiving.