Spiritual Development in Children and Raising a Godly Family
Dr. Kimberly Riley
Children are growing at a fast pace. They are learning new things all of the time. You may be wondering how to incorporate spiritual development into their rapid moving world, so this article can be a guide for you to assist the children in your life.
Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it. – Proverbs 22:6
Teach Children How to Know Who They Are
Isn’t helpful for us to know who we are? One of the first things we learn about ourselves is our name. Children have the desire to know how to spell their name and they practice writing it on everything, all the time. They want to know who they are.
They learn details about themselves, like their address and phone number so that they can share that with others when asked. Children want to know who their grandparents are and where they are from. They are curious about a lot of things concerning themselves that we have answers for.
Sometimes children wonder why they are here on earth. They begin early trying to figure out what their purpose is. Adults sometimes miss the chance to help a young child develop their sense of self, so when they are in the stages of wonder, we should teach them that they are a gift and they are made perfect, just the way they are. It is helpful to teach young children this because life starts to change and the world around them may get tough, but they can always remember that they exist for a reason.
Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from Him. – Psalms 127:3
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. – Psalm 139:13-14
Part of teaching children about who they are spiritually includes showing them how to find the information in their own in the Bible or other spiritual spaces, like church. In our darkest days, we should all know how to quickly remind ourselves who we are or know where to get support through the storm.
Children should probably know where to go that is easily accessible to them when they are not quite sure about who they are or who they were created to be. Sharing your own personal experience with self discovery is helpful for them to understand that everyone has moments where they aren’t sure what to do next in their life. It teaches them that it is completely normal and healthy to wonder about those things.
Teenagers go through a stage where they are preparing for adulthood and really take a deep look at their identity. As they are processing their changes emotionally and physically, they are also working through their spiritual changes also.Teenagers are different than young children because they have had more time on earth, which means they have had more time to experience joy and pain and allow those experiences to shape their view of themselves.
What do you tell the teen who may question their faith because of the trauma they have experienced? How do you remind the teen to be thankful when they have had nothing but wonderful days? Both scenarios can cause a teen to lose sight of what they know to be true spiritually, which is that they should be looking to God in the ups and downs of their life.
A soft push back to what teens may have forgotten is all they need in these moments. There is no need to be overpowering with our words and actions because that behavior will only cause a young person to feel ashamed as they are on the road to developing themselves and their spirituality. We want to be kind when teaching children the things that they may not know or have lost in the shuffle of growing up.
Because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. – James 1:3
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. – Romans 5:3
It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to the Most High. – Psalms 92:1
Teach Children How to Pray
Praying is an essential part of growing spiritually. Children who know how to pray are able to build their relationship with God and have private conversations with Him about the things that are important to them.
When children trust God with their most intimate thoughts, they can go to Him with everything. We want children to have a relationship with God that will carry them throughout their lifetime.
We can begin by praying with children through all moments in their life. They can learn to pray and give thanks for the food they are going to eat, pray in the morning because they are able to begin a new day or pray in the evening about all of the things that took place over the day, pray in times when they are afraid or sick, and pray for their friends and family.
Children should be encouraged to talk to God using their own language, meaning if they are really young and they want to draw a picture to God, that is okay. The point is to get them in the routine of actively having conversations with God everyday to build a strong relationship.
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. – Philippians 4:6
But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. – Matthew 6:6
Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath. – Psalms 116:2
Teach Children How to Love
Children who are developing spiritually should definitely learn about love. They should learn how to love themselves, love others, and learn what they should be looking for when being loved by the people they are in a relationship with.Children should be able to identify real healthy love given to them by others, but sometimes in abusive situations, children are left to decide what is okay love and what isn’t. Self love is important because it will safeguard a child’s heart during the times when others who should be loving them well are not.
Self-love will carry a child on the days they told that they are not worth the love of anyone else. Self-love can motivate a child to keep going during adversity. Loving yourself is the gateway to loving others, so children have to understand what it takes to really care for themselves.
There are certain actions children can take that show great love for their mind, body, and soul. Here is a simple list you can use to help the child in your life understand self-love. You can help them see how doing all of these things are helpful because of the positive outcome afterwards.
- Eat enough food to give your body the energy it requires to do what you want to do.
- Get enough sleep so you can think clearly every day.
- Spend enough time with your friends and family to have healthy relationships.
- Read and listen enough to get the information you need.
- Talk enough with God so that you can clearly recognize His voice.
- Play enough so that you have a fun and fulfilling life.
- Relax enough to be able to keep going when you feel tired.
To acquire wisdom is to love yourself; people who cherish understanding will prosper. – Proverbs 19:8
As children learn about loving themselves, they will also understand how to love others. This is a time where you can show your love to a child and be a role model. If children feel loved, they will often try to love others the same way.
Loving others may look like being helpful when a person is struggling, listening to a friend who is going through a tough time, sharing a toy with a sibling, volunteering to help clean up around the house or out in the community, or simply just saying kind words. You can validate a child who you see sharing their love by thanking them for being so loving to others.It is nice that we as adults get to show children how to love people through their differences and value everybody’s unique experiences. The idea is to help children understand that everyone is lovable but to still remain safe when being with people who are strangers to them and know that love should never hurt or cross their physical or emotional boundaries.
Children should learn that just because we are asked by God to love someone doesn’t mean that we trust them immediately, because building trust takes time. We are simply saying that we are called to love people because they are people, like us. We are not saying that loving someone makes them a safe person or that they will love us in a healthy way all of the time.
Our main goal in relationship with children is to teach them what healthy love looks and feels like so they can recognize the difference between healthy and unhealthy behaviors that someone says is based on love. We can teach children that the ability to love comes from God because He loved us first, and with them loving themselves so that they can love others.
Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. – 1 John 4:7
So be very careful to love the Lord your God. – Joshua 23:11
This is my command. Love each other. – John 15:17
And do everything with love. – 1 Corinthians 16:14
Teach Children How to Manage Their Emotions
Children will experience many things in their lives that they might now know how to respond to or manage emotionally. Children may feel sad when someone passes away or mad when someone hurts them. They may feel afraid when giving a speech at school or lonely when they do not have many friends.
A child could feel a number of emotions all at once if they have a lot of things happening in their lives that they are trying to figure out. Spiritually, there is a way for them to find peace through whatever it is they are feeling.
We want children to know that it is very much part of being a normal human being to feel emotions, even when the emotion is uncomfortable. Children can start to learn at a young age how to recognize their emotions and manage them. We can teach them to pray, write out their thoughts, talk to someone else, get help, listen to music, read, go outside and get fresh air, as well as many other things to manage and cope with their feelings.
Sometimes children have symptoms that fit the criteria for mental health disorders. When this is the case, it is still helpful to teach the child how to manage their emotions from a spiritual perspective, but also let them know that it is okay to get help in other ways to manage these symptoms too.
Reminding children that we are searching for ways to maintain and manage things in our lives and to not give up even when those things remain, is helpful. Children will grow into healthy adults if they understand that their faith can give them comfort during tough times.
This is my command be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. – Joshua 1:9
Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again my Savior and my God. – Psalms 42:11
Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. – James 1:19
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:7
If the child in your life would like to work through their spiritual development or you would like to get support as you are raising a Godly family, there are counselors here at Seattle Christian Counseling who are available to go on the journey with you. Spiritual development benefits everyone in the relationship, so enjoy growing together.
“Devotions”, Courtesy of Samantha Sophia, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Happy”, Courtesy of Ben White, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Prayer”, Courtesy of Vince Fleming, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Witnessing”, Courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License