Parents often are very clear as they tell me the reasons they stop short of joining in a spiritual discussion with their child:
“I don’t want to share my views about spiritual things because I’m not so sure myself. I could say something to steer my child in the wrong direction.”
“I don’t believe in anything, really, other than human goodness. Although I wish I did believe that there was something more. I feel like I am passing on a big fib.”
“I don’t want to bias my children with my beliefs; I’d rather let them choose when they grow up.”
“I am just not sure how to put it. There is almost nothing at all for parents that helps us talk about spirituality, other than religion. But I’m not religious and don’t like the way religion was taught to me.”
As parents with feelings along those lines, we may hold off on conversations or discourage (actively or tacitly) children from sharing their spiritual questions, reflections, or experiences with us. All of these parental rationales for avoiding the subject are common and understandable. But they’re also misguided. In the moment our avoidance may seem like a small redirection, but it actually can derail an important developmental process in our children. The message they get is that their spiritual reality isn’t important to you, isn’t worthy of pursuit, or perhaps isn’t even real. Research shows that a parent’s decision about how to approach their child’s spiritual life is a high-stakes proposition with lifelong implications. Studies on spiritual development in adolescents who have spiritually minded parents have shown that the right type of parental contribution – the kind that will be outlined in the pages ahead – can make or break the development of adolescent spirituality and can influence the child’s lifelong physical health and mental health.
From “The Spiritual Child: The New Science on Parenting for Health and Lifelong Thriving” By Lisa Miller, PhD