Friday, February 01, 2008

Children's spirituality thoughts

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.


TK said...

al-thanks for posting those bedtime questions. I have discovered similar questions in research I have been doing on spiritual mentoring.

I'm kicking myself for not connecting the dots. What a great way to draw my own children's attention to the work and presence of God in their day to day lives.

Sean Smith said...

I enjoyed reading your lastest article in CT. That was a good one.

Aaron said...

Thanks again! This was a great post! I can't wait to begin asking these questions at night!

I also appreciate the summary (I imagine there was tons of stuff) of the different questions that we have at different ages.

Is there any way I can get some of that material? Did you guys record it where I could maybe order some of it. I really am interested in the 0-5 & 6-10 stage. My kids are 4, 3, and 7 months.

Thanks again for the post man!

Grace and Peace,

Margaret Feinberg said...

very cool! So what if a child has one or more of their developmental questions go unanswered...what is the long-term effect?

Al Hsu said...

Thanks, everybody. Aaron - We didn't record the session, but we have handouts from it. If you e-mail me at ahsu at ivpress dot com, I can e-mail you a PDF scan of the handouts.

Margaret - We didn't talk in-depth about what happens if we don't answer these things in the various developmental stages, but I think it's pretty clear that it can lead to us experiencing various kinds of dysfunction in adulthood. If we don't have a clear sense of being loved, we'll constantly seek out love (from all the wrong places). If we don't have a good sense of our competencies or abilities, we might be constantly frustrated with jobs or activities that don't line up with what we're good at. If we don't have a secure sense of our identity, we'll seek out identity from other sources that aren't really who we are. And if we don't have a clear sense of purpose, we'll waste years doing things that might not be of any real value.

Not that any of us do any of this perfectly (all of us were parented by imperfect parents, and all of us who are parents are imperfect parents - sigh), but I suppose the goal is to have a certain baseline of health and functionality in all these areas.

Dianne said...

great post. and i'm not even a parent. i find it helpful to ask myself those questions at the end of the day.