Whether or not you practice an organized religion, you’ll need to decide what you believe in order to foster spirituality in your child. That doesn’t mean you have to have all the answers, but you can take time to consider the questions: Do you believe in God? Do you believe there was a divine element in the creation of the world? What do you think happens when a person dies? It’s wise to decide how you’ll approach spirituality with your toddler now, before he’s old enough to get confused by your differing opinions.
Introducing God to Child.
“Young children don’t understand who God is, but they don’t really understand who a grandparent is either,” says Neifert. “Still, you want them to know Grandma, so you start talking about her from day one. It’s the same thing with the idea of God.” Just as your child takes your word for it that Grandma is an important person in her life (even if she rarely sees her), so she’ll take your word for it that God is, too.
Don’t pretend to have all the answers.
Your toddler may not have the ability to ask or completely understand where people go when they die, but you can still talk about it honestly. Keep it short and simple. If you have a strong belief, share it. If not, it’s okay to admit that there are some questions people spend their whole lives trying to figure out.
Learn from daily life.
Big ideas don’t always require big actions. You can demonstrate that spirituality is a part of everyday life by incorporating it into ordinary actions and words. When you open the curtains in the morning, you can say, “Look at this glorious day God has gifted” At bedtime, you can sign off with, “God bless you, sweetie pie.”
Instill an appreciation of nature.
Nature is a great place to find inspiration and a sense of spirituality. Help your child see nature as something precious by demonstrating your own love and respect for it. Plant a garden with your child, and make it part of your daily routine to check on the progress of the plants together. Start a compost pile so your child can watch mealtime leftovers turn back into soil that you’ll use in your garden. Introduce him to the idea that the Earth is a gift, and that our survival depends upon the survival of the planet
The world’s spiritual traditions are full of stories designed to explain everything from how the world was created to why people sometimes do bad things. Introduce your toddler to the notion that different people have different beliefs, myths, and traditions by drawing on this wealth of literature.
Build on family traditions.
Spirituality can connect us to the divine, to each other, and to the past. If you’re raising your child in the same spiritual tradition that you were raised, be sure he knows that he’s carrying on family rituals that were passed along by his grandparents and even great-grandparents.
Let them have their creativity.
Religion and spirituality should be more joyful than somber and serious. Encourage your toddler to paint a picture of God, make up her own story about how the world came to be, or simply imagine what heaven looks like. Together, act out plays or put on a puppet show based on creation stories or your own spiritual themes.
Practice silence. Once a day or once a week, take a minute to sit quietly with your toddler. Your moment of silence needn’t be introduced as meditation, but simply as a chance to sit still and listen to the sounds around her. Eventually, it’ll help put her in touch with the “big picture.”
Introduce a simple form of prayer.
If prayer is part of your spiritual practice, let your toddler know that it isn’t something that’s saved up just for Sunday morning, or for times when he needs help with something. It’s a tool for communicating with the God at anytime.
Moreover appreciate Questions
Let your toddler ask the questions, and give her plenty of opportunities to ask about issues such as who God is or what heaven looks like.
Try not to dictate the answers to big questions. If she asks you where God lives, begin your answer by asking her what she thinks. Or ask her to draw a picture and tell you about it. Spirituality is a two-way street: If you listen carefully to your child, you might discover something you never thought of before.