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"Jesus called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: 'Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me'" (Matthew 18:1–5)
I remember a pre-schooler asking “when is God’s birthday?” We know that a child can experience bereavement just as an adult but may not have the linguistic skills to express themselves. Children also have an insatiable curiosity, an expansive imagination and a deep sense of wonder. Spiritual thoughts and feelings are as much a part of the growth process for young children as their physical, mental, or emotional development. With their deep sense of wonder, children often ask that big faith question, “Why?”
Research shows that many children actively search for spiritual
understanding, beginning at a young age and have the ability to think
abstractly. Encouraging and stretching
this form of understanding and thinking increases the chances of successful outcomes
for your child especially in terms of creativity and wellbeing. But how?
The key is 'not necessarily telling' but gently leading your child to explore the topic and come up with ideas. Ultimately, Christianity is based on a relationship with God, and in this way you are building in emotional and adaptation intelligence - key "relational abilities".
Here are some resources you can use to help you:
Kitchen Table Project | Ten things we can do at home gives us 10 things you could try
Parents | Parenting For Faithprovides other resources
One thing that I found that has been really effective is:
1. Asking your child what they think/feel about the question they have just asked or about a topic
2. Inviting or encouraging them to connect with God and exploring their imagination with them. Here's an example : [The words in brackets are helpful instructions]
child : " Will Bugsy [pet] be in heaven ? "
Adult: " Should we ask God? Let's ask God in prayer. God could you show us if Bugsy will be in heaven? [God the Holy Spirit is our guide/counsellor walking alongside us. So we invite a greater intensity of his presence by simply inviting him into the situation] Come Holy Spirit , we invite you to show us [ You then wait..you may actually sense God's presence, often a warmth or tingly or peaceful sensation. Then ask] What can you see, what is God saying?"
Child: " He said 'yes'..and I saw this river , a tree..."
Adult: [follow up with further questions] What did you see? What colour? What else was there ?How did it make you feel? etc.
You can use this simple model of invitation in many other situations, e.g., if you are needing guidance or comfort. Try it and see.
Let us know how it went.