I once saw a mother admonish her young son for telling his friend “I love you” as if he had said something inappropriate.  But what is more appropriate than telling someone we love them? Loving others is what we are here to do!

We often associate the words “I love you” with romantic relationships so perhaps the mother in this situation thought of love in this way by default and felt that her 4 year-old was too young to be professing it.  But her son wasn’t meaning that he was “in love” with his friend.  He was just trying to tell his friend that he cared for him and appreciated the connection they had.

This got me thinking about all the confused messages we get about love.  It made me think about what Love really is and what I want my boys to know about Love.

 

TWO TYPES OF LOVE – EMOTION & TRUTH

When we use the word “love”, we’re often filled with an emotion or feeling of caring, attachment, enjoyment or similar.  All these are good things, but they are not true Love.  Do I really love chocolate? – no, but I do especially enjoy eating it.  In the past, when I’ve  said I’m “in love” with someone, I’ve actually meant that I’ve felt strong caring for and attachment to them.  When we use “love” in these situations, we probably really mean “BIG like”.  Not to undermine two of the most thrilling experiences of life but, in both cases, it is the flowing of chemicals in our bodies that creates the feelings.

Although we may speak of it less often, there’s also the greater Love in our lives.  It isn’t a feeling and it isn’t about something or someone being more special than another.  Our children need to know about it because it is in the giving and receiving of this true Love that we thrive.

 

True Love

True Love is deep and wide, knowing no limits – it is unconditional and infinite.  Depending on nothing, it is always there.   My love for chocolate is not unconditional – I’ll admit to being a bit of a chocolate snob and, if it’s not high quality, I don’t love it.  In past romantic relationships, I’ve stopped feeling “in love” with someone when I’ve been hurt.   True Love is reverence for life – as it is, without judgement.  When we sense it, it is not overwhelming like falling in love or eating the best chocolate we’ve ever tasted are.  It is quiet and familiar.

Familiar because we are Love.  Love (God/The Universe/Source) made each of us with her own energy.  Love is not a chemical reaction but a recognition of our oneness.  Love is our truth.

I want my boys to know that they have infinite Love inside them and that their purpose is to share it around indiscriminately.  I want them to understand that it is universal, not something they offer only to people who are special to them in some way.

Our example to our children is the best way to help them understand this Love.  When they see us extending friendliness, help and compassion to everyone we meet, they learn how to do the same.  I also think it’s valuable to talk about Love directly with our children.  When one of my boys shows kindness, I sometimes say “thanks for sharing your Love”, just to remind him that it’s there inside.  If I’m centred enough when he’s bothering his brother, I’ll suggest “Use your Love”.  (This does not usually stop the bickering – other intervention is generally required – but it brings Love to his awareness.)

I also want my boys to know that they are Loved.  If they understand that everyone has this Love within to share, it makes the world a friendly, supportive place to be.  In one of my early blog posts I wrote –

“As a mother, I am a representative of God’s love”. 

I later read The Spiritual Child, a book by Dr Lisa Miller, based on her scientific research.  In it, she said that a child’s understanding of divine Love is based on their experience of their parent’s Love (and that of other close family & friends).

 

IN SUMMARY – DON’T LEAVE IT TO FAIRYTALES & LOVE SONGS

If we leave it to fairytales and love songs to teach our children about Love, they won’t know its true power.  To make my point, here are the lyrics of two songs I’ve heard recently – “Only love will break your heart” and “You’re nobody until somebody loves you”.  What kind of expectations will they have if this these are the only kinds of messages our children get about Love?  The feeling of love is represented everywhere in pop culture but true Love – the type that makes a real difference in our lives – is largely missing.  We can intentionally create a culture of Love in our family to represent it.

The beauty is that, in many situations, we sense the presence of both types of Love – when I hug my boys and tell them I Love them, I actually mean both that I feel love and sense the exchange of true Love between us.

 

Much love to you and your little souls,

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I’m aware of a book called Joy is My Compass – Taking the Risk to Follow Your Bliss by Alan Cohen.  Despite declaring in January that joy will be my compass for 2017, I’ve not yet read the book but the phrase joy is my compass captivated me.  It reminds me that we are intended to live joyfully – not in the fearful, grasping way we are socialised to.  It can be hard to switch from believing that sacrifice & sheer hard work are required to live a good life to allowing ourselves joy and, even, prioritising our joy.  But my intention is to raise my boys with a different world view – to value joy, to seek it and create it in every moment.  I want joyful to be our normal.  For such a life, joy is the perfect compass.

 

HOW ARE JOY & HAPPINESS DIFFERENT?

Happiness comes to us in moments.  It is dependent on external circumstances – like getting a particular job, partner or fashion item.  Therefore, just as easily as favourable circumstances can come and go, so, too, can happiness.  Happiness is high GI, causing spikes in our emotions.  Joy is something quieter yet deeper and more stable.  There is a sense of meaning in joy that there isn’t in happiness.  It is always available to us, we just have to choose it.  And there are so many ways to let joy in.

“Happiness is like rising bubbles — delightful and inevitably fleeting. Joy is the oxygen — ever present” – Danielle La Porte

My son Jake, loves eating ice-cream and he also loves building Lego.  I would argue that the ice-cream makes him happy but, once it’s eaten, the happiness it brought dissipates quickly.  On the other hand, building Lego is a fun & engrossing activity for him and the satisfaction he gets from it is nourishing in a way that ice-cream just isn’t.  I would call this joy. Danielle says that “joy is the fibre of your soul”.  It is the fuel for our lives.  Joy is low GI.

 

THE VALUE OF JOY

Joy Indicates Spiritual Alignment

Joy is our natural way of being.  It indicates to us that we are in alignment.   By this, I mean that our mind, body and spirit are working together for the greater purposes of our soul.  I think the experience of flow is actually an experience of deep joy.   I wrote the following about flow in my post How Our Children Raise Us

At times, I have watched my boys play and have recognised their feeling of full absorption & joy from my own childhood.  I used to get it when I was swimming in our pool, singing along to music and writing stories. Scientists call this state “flow” and I think of it as allowing God to flow through me.  Do you remember the healing quality of that feeling?  How content and internally energised it left you?

Now, I still experience flow when I write and have found a way to use my writing to encourage other parents.  What brings our children joy in childhood may be the same things that bring them joy in adulthood.  Those things may end up being connected with the contribution they make in the world.

Joy Attracts More Joy

Have you noticed how a day that begins with joy often continues that way?  Perhaps it starts with a particularly heart-felt “good morning” hug from your child which you take a moment to appreciate fully, right down to your toes.   Then, as you go about your day, people everywhere seem to be particularly friendly & helpful to you and, in the afternoon, you receive a piece of good news then your partner arrives home in the evening with your favourite wine/chocolate/desert for “no reason”.   It just feels that life is going well for you and you feel joyful. This is the law of attraction at work.  We attract the feeling we are putting out.  So, by deliberately letting joy in where we find it (and it’s always there), we cultivate more joyful experiences.  Choosing what we focus on is key to utilising the power of this law – so let’s focus on joy!

Joy Supports Emotional Resilience

When joyful is our normal, our capacity to weather difficult experiences is much greater.  No matter how much joy we cultivate, life is intended to grow us and no one is exempt from its challenges.  With a joyful way of being, though, we know we have that joyful place to return to once we are through the difficult experience.  My son Jake is easily joyful, something I am so grateful for.  As a result, he moves through difficult emotions quite quickly.  It’s not that upsetting emotions should be avoided – they have something to tell us – but they don’t need to keep us down.  We can even feel that life is ultimately joyful while at the same time going through a major experience that deeply saddens or angers us.

 

CULTIVATING JOY IN OUR CHILDREN

  1. Notice the activities, places and people who bring our children joy and create opportunities for them to spend time with these people, places and activities. For example a place may be anywhere by water and a person may be a particular friend who is on the same wavelength.  I don’t think having things brings joy but the actual using of things may bring joy – such as playing an instrument or, as in Thomas’ case, the process of lining up his toy cars.
  2. Help our children to recognise for themselves the activities, places and people who bring them joy. For younger children, we might point out “you seem to feel really good when you’re playing outside with a ball”.  For older children, we might ask, “which of your friends do you feel most like yourself and relaxed with?”
  3. Teach our children joyful habits of mind. Gratitude is a powerful place to start.  Self-love is essential.
  4. When we notice our children are in a joyless state of mind, perhaps whining for things they want or hanging on to a grudge after a sibling argument, remind them that they will get more of how they feel and help them to choose a more joyful state of mind.
  5. When things are deteriorating for the whole family, stop for a joy break. Having fun with people we love is a joyful experience and can act as the reset button for everyone.  Our family loves playing indoor soccer together.
  6. Find a way to do the boring/difficult things joyfully. When my boys were younger, I used to sing a tidying song as we put away the toys.  I find interesting ways for my son to practise the spelling words he’s learning for school. This shows them that joy is always there, waiting for us to notice it and to take it.
  7. Be the example of joyful living. Our example is our greatest teacher.  Be joyful for your children’s sake…and your own.

 

IN SUMMARY – NUTRITION FOR OUR SOULS

Joy can feel like a guilty pleasure at first, especially for those of us who have been taught that using our own effort is the only way to build a satisfying life.  But, if joy is our compass, pointing in the direction of our purpose and giving our lives richness & ease, it is, surely, nutrition for our souls. Actually, there’s also a book called The Joy Diet by Martha Beck (and also on my “books to read” list). I’m putting my family on the diet now.

 

Much love to you and your little souls,

 

 

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One night last weekend, I had to get up to Thomas (3-years-old) so many times I lost count.  I just couldn’t figure out what he needed and he didn’t seem to know either.  When I heard him call out again at 3:34am, it was almost physically impossible for me to open my eyes, which only wanted to sleep.  Once I’d managed to rouse myself, I decided I was going to cover all possibilities to secure Thomas and I both at least a couple of hours of unbroken sleep before it was time to get up.  So, I fetched him a drink and a snack, added another blanket to his bed, gave him another cuddle and even measured out a dose of paracetamol thinking “this is so unlike him, he must be sick”.  It worked for him but all that activity had woken me up and I took another hour to get back to sleep.  The next day, I was hopeless.

I cried over a disagreement between my husband and I – we weren’t even arguing, we just had different points of view.  I couldn’t muster up any energy or enthusiasm to play with my boys.  My patience was paper-thin and I became that shouty parent I wrote about in my post “WHY AM I SHOUTING AT MY CHILDREN?!” All my respectful parenting strategies went out the window and I resorted to the path of least resistance to get my boys’ co-operation – bribery.  My brain felt mushy and my body felt like a heavy bag of bones.  My inner resources had leaked away along with my sleep.

 

A BRIEF LESSON ON THE PURPOSE OF SLEEP

We often think of sleep as largely a physical need but it is a lot more than that.  Sleep is for the renewal of all parts of ourselves – body, mind and spirit.  When sleeping, our bodies don’t have to move beyond their survival functions and natural rhythms.  When sleeping, our minds don’t have to perform conscious actions.  When we’re awake, the physical needs of our bodies and noise of our thoughts can interfere with our connection to Spirit because they are more obvious and hard to ignore.  But, when we are asleep, they are quieter so our souls can more easily connect with and receive spiritual energy and, therefore, be regenerated too. 

This is why “sleeping on” a problem can be so helpful.  Through sleeping, our soul gets a chance to be heard and offer its intuitive solution.  We are often also more creative after sleep.  I write these blog posts first thing in the morning because that’s when ideas and words come most easily to me.  It is also why there is a healing quality to sleep.  When I was depressed, I would take to my bed.  Not just to escape from the world but because the break from having to function gave my spirit some refreshment.

“The process of truly becoming yourself takes a lot of energy and this energy can be replenished during naps”. – SARK, Change Your Life Without Getting Out of Bed

 

GETTING ENOUGH SLEEP FOR ALL THE FAMILY

Generally, I fall apart if I don’t get at least 7 hours of good sleep.  As a result, I have always been very protective of my boys’ sleep, not wanting them to suffer from lack of it.  As babies, it was straight to bed as soon as I saw their tired signs (once I figured out which of all my baby’s peculiar little movements were actually “tired signs”).  I wasn’t willing to go out for a day and make do with letting them doze in their capsule or buggy because it compromised the quality of their sleep.  I have always tried to prioritise and optimise their day naps and night sleeps because it’s so essential to their well-being.  (And mine – every parent knows the suffering an overtired child can inflict!)  Experiencing true sleep deprivation for the first time as a parent, I also realised I need to prioritise my own sleep.

Fortunately, my long night of getting up with Thomas was during the weekend and my husband was home.  So, in the afternoon, when I could barely haul myself out of my chair, I plodded up the stairs to my bed and I had a nap.  In her book, Change Your Life Without Getting Out of Bed, SARK includes permission slips to take naps.  I was so grateful when I first saw these.  I always feel guilty about deserting my family for nap-land but I do it when I need to because it is essential.  When I got up after an hour of dozing that afternoon, I made a lemon pudding for desert and played Lego with Jake.  I was restored.

I doubt there is a parent out there who can’t relate to that overwhelmed, can’t-function feeling of sleep deprivation, at least from the newborn days.  But, if your exhaustion doesn’t come so much from lack of sleep as it does from being busy and over-committed, I implore you, too, to sleep-in or take a nap when you need it.  Sometimes we wear our busyness like badges of honour – we must be important if people are relying on us to do all these things – but we’re miserable and we make those around us miserable too when we’re under-slept.

 

IN SUMMARY – A PRESCRIPTION OF SLEEP-INS & AFTERNOON NAPS

The title of this post may have seemed tongue-in-cheek at first but it’s not.  When we’re tired, any energy we have (physical, mental and spiritual) is used up on simply surviving and there is none left to be our best selves.  We want to be patient and kind and wise and all those sorts of things as parents – and just as people – but these can be near-on impossible when we’re sleep deprived.  Our bodies, minds and spirits are all beautifully connected and they all need plenty of sleep.

Let’s teach our children to take care of themselves by having sleep-ins and naps through example.  We could even nap with our children on Saturday afternoons.

 

Much love to you and your little souls,

 

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While I’m always on the look-out for natural opportunities to bring spirituality into conversation with my family, I sometimes struggle to engage my boys and bring the ideas to life.  So, when I came across Christina Fletcher’s Spiritual Kids E-Course (Building the foundations for the spiritually aware family), which included activities for parents to do with their children, I was keen to try it out.

Delivered to my inbox weekly over 6 weeks, the course was manageable for our busy family.  Each week, there was a short video for parents to explain the week’s topic, a workbook full of practical ways to share the ideas with our children and, sometimes, a meditation.  Although the course has an easy-to-follow structure, it is designed as a “toolbox” of ideas and activities to dip into as needed.  I have only just finished the course but have already watched some of the videos more than once and used course activities to help me respond to things that have come up in our family.  This speaks to the relevance of the material and I know I will be dipping in regularly!

Christina’s invitation is to “play” with the activities of the course.

“Spirituality, believe it or not, is meant to be enjoyed and lived, and not seriously forced upon us”. – Christina Fletcher

The playfulness of many of the activities make them engaging for parents and children alike! They include crafts, reflective activities, meditations, stories and poems.  Christina understands that children need fun, varied ways to engage and that their attention spans can be short.  Designed for 3-13 year-olds, there are activities suitable for all children in this age range and they be can used over again as needed.  One of the weekly topics was An Introduction to Meditation, an area I was particularly interested to get tips on as I’m a “beginning meditator” myself.  I was able to teach my 6-year-old a simple breathing meditation, which he has asked to do again more than once.  I got some great ideas for “meditative activities” to do with my 3-year-old to introduce him to the idea of taking some quiet time to be with himself.

Christina has set up a Facebook group for parents using Spiritual Kids to share ideas & experiences and ask questions as they use the course materials.  She is actively involved in this group, ready to help in any way she can.

The Spiritual Kids course, is helping me to make spirituality more dynamic and alive in our home.  I am becoming more tuned into myself & my children and am better able to help my boys to tune into themselves.  Christina has created this course with a full heart, sharing her wisdom in a way that allows families to bring their own perspective to the content and activities.  It is both accessible for families who are new on their spiritual path and insightful in a way that will  enrich the spiritual connection within families further along on their journey.

I got even more than I expected from Spiritual Kids – and my expectations were high because I love Christina’s work!  It is an incredible resource and I am excited to see how it continues to deepen the spiritual connection within my family. For anyone looking for a way to shift from just talking about spirituality with their children to bringing it to life, the Spiritual Kids E-Courseavailable here at spirituallyawareparenting.com, will get you started and sustain your journey together.

 

Much love to you and your little souls,

 

29/8/17 – Since writing this review in May, I have purchased other products created by Christina for my personal use.  As a keen user and supporter of her work, Christina has recently invited me to participate in an affiliate program.  I share her offerings with you gladly, knowing from personal experience the incredible value they give to parents and their children.

 

For more support bringing spirituality to life in our family, subscribe to Julie’s weekly Nurturing Little Souls Newsletter.

 

 

When I realised that it is not for me to pass my spiritual beliefs and practices onto my children, I was disappointed.  My understandings and ways of doing things work for me, helping me to be loving, strong and joyful, and I want my boys to feel loving, strong and happy.  But I would not be doing my job if I presented my way as the only way.

 

WHY NOT?!

One of our central roles as parents is to nurture our children’s natural spirituality so that they may experience guidance and support in their lives.  To do this, we need to help our children to find what works for them, not to copy what works for us.  This is, indeed, a divine assignment!  If we try to “convert” our children to our own style of spirituality, they may follow us because they feel they should but possibly without ever truly connecting with Love/God/The Universe.

The nature of spirituality is that it is felt with our spirits, not intellectualised with our minds.  We, therefore, cannot just present our children with a set of ideas to believe or practices to do.  We need to provide our children with a range of view-points and ways to practise – opportunities for their spirits to find what helps them to connect.

 

MY TRUTH VS THE TRUTH

Here’s a distinction that I made recently in a moment of quiet while brushing my teeth one hectic morning.  My truth is what works for me.  My truth points me in the direction of the truth, though it could turn out to be less accurate than the truth.

Truth resonates.

If something resonates with our soul, it’s going to work for us.  That resonation is Spirit leading us along our path.  Each person is wired differently so our ways of understanding and connecting with Life will differ.  Even beliefs that turn out to be “false” may serve our spiritual path. Being “right” is less important than connecting.  The intention to love and be loved is enough.

When all’s said and done, all roads lead to the same end. So it’s not so much which road you take, as how you take it. – Charles de Lint

 

SO WHAT CAN I PASS ON, THEN?

What we can pass onto our children is a commitment to their own true path and an openness to others’.  We can steer them inwards to help them recognise their truth.  I have started guiding my son to use what “feels good/right” as his compass of sorts in life.  It can be applied to so many things, including the way he treats others, the way he spends his time and the way he experiences his spirituality.  I am directing him to look inward, rather than to me.

Our own point-of-view isn’t irrelevant, though.  We can share it without insisting on it.  We can invite our children to join in with us so that they may try our beliefs and practices on for size.  My boys are only 3 and 6 years old so they take what I say as truth right now.  But I know that won’t last forever! – and I look forward to exploring other ideas and being spiritual adventurers together.  I’m willing to explore with them things that don’t personally work for me too.  It is important for my boys to see that my heart is open, always ready to grow some more and always respectful of other people’s perspective.

 

IN SUMMARY – SHINE THE LIGHT ON THEIR PATH

Spirituality is a personal experience.  It is guided by internal resonance, by Love.  We need to respect our children’s unique life journey and support them by shining the light on their path, not our own.  I am excited about my boys finding a spirituality that works for them and brings them love, strength and joy as mine does for me.

 

Much love to you and your little souls,

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For Annie

As I take a moment to stop and watch my boys play or sleep, drinking them in in the way that mothers do, I sometimes wonder Do they love themselves?  They appear happy in their lives, they’re certainly proactive about standing up for themselves, they do the things they enjoy…it looks like they love themselves but I don’t know if I can really tell.

The sad truth is that, although we arrive in this world aligned with Spirit, knowing that we are loving and lovable, at some point, that changes for most of us.  Immersed in a society that is quicker to criticise than to encourage, we start questioning our own lovability.  As a parent, I often doubt my ability to prevent that shift from happening…but I have to try.

I recently found myself in a pattern of criticising more than encouraging my boys, especially my eldest, Jake.  I’d been a bit unwell so my tolerance level was low and my ability to hold my tongue had disappeared almost entirely.  After a few days I realised, Oh my goodness, I’ve been picking on my own son!  I had fallen into a pattern of regularly judging, prompting and correcting him.  Poor Jake couldn’t do anything right – “you didn’t say ‘thank you’”, “stop using your fingers, there’s a knife right there!”, “if you kept your room tidy, you wouldn’t lose your Lego in the first place!”  Given the way I was speaking to him, He must’ve thought that I considered him hopeless and, maybe, not loveable in some way. That thought horrified me.  The way we treat our children shows them how to treat themselves and I did not want him picking on himself like I had been.  I have to show him what it really means to love.

 

WHAT IS SELF-LOVE?

Self-love is not building up our egos with a c.v. of external “successes” to make it feel worthy of love.  It is connecting with our true essence which is love. Self-love is about the way we regard ourselves and the way we treat ourselves, knowing we are inherently loving and loveable.  A simple way to explain it to a child is to be your own best friend – appreciate yourself, care for yourself, extend kindness to yourself just as you would a friend.

I’m going to be my own best friend, stick with me till the end. –  Jewel

 

HOW TO LOVE OURSELVES

We love ourselves in the same ways we love other people.  If a person doesn’t have much self-love, they may find it grows by treating themselves lovingly anyway.  I doubt I’m the only parent on the road back to self-love after years of being unkind to myself so the ideas I offer below are for parents and children alike!

Speak nicely to ourselves  We need a cheerleading squad inside our heads, not a judge.  For parents, the way we talk to our children becomes the way they talk to themselves – so no picking!  We can also coach our children to speak kindly to themselves when we hear them talking negatively about themselves.  This doesn’t mean being dishonest, just compassionate.  For example, instead of “I stink at reading” we can teach them to say “I am learning to read” or “I’m finding reading difficult right now” or focus them on their effort and determination instead of the reading.

Forgive ourselves when we make mistakes  Forgiving ourselves is perhaps the truest act of self-compassion.  It allows us to move forward without the burden of our past.  Sometimes I can see that Jake is heavy with the regret of something he has done and I suggest to him that he can forgive himself.  My post about forgiveness explains more.

Give ourselves what we need  Perhaps we feel in need of help, rest or a good laugh over our favourite comedy show.  When we honour our needs, we honour ourselves.  We can help our children to be aware of their needs and encourage them to be proactive in meeting them.

Do what feels right for ourselves  This is about honouring what we know is true for us – from following our dreams (even when they don’t seem “realistic”) to listening to our intuition (even when it doesn’t match popular opinion).  We can steer our children inwards to help them make authentic decisions for themselves.  My post about intuition may give you ideas about how to do this.

Spend time with ourselves  Just as we invest time in our friendships, we need to invest time in ourselves.  Hanging out on our own gives us the quiet to hear our own voice instead of others’ for a while.  For our children, this means allowing them plenty of unstructured, unscheduled time to potter as they wish.

Do things that bring us joy  Our busy lives are often not set up for joy.  We tend to prioritise what we think we should do over what lights us up.  But it is in joy that we recognise ourselves and recharge.  I think it’s important that we prioritise time for our children to do what brings them joy.  For example, we can enrol them in the extra-curricular activities they want to go to – not the ones we think, for some reason, they should do.  We can use joy as a criteria for planning their time and ours.

Surround ourselves with people who treat us well  When we truly value ourselves, we expect other people to value us too.  We don’t submit ourselves to others who are disrespectful or hostile.  We care for ourselves by choosing kind company, people who lift us up.  Children make many new friendships throughout childhood and will likely need our help to become discerning and make positive choices.

 

WHY IS SELF-LOVE SO IMPORTANT?

Self-love is not simply giving ourselves warm fuzzies to cheer ourselves up.  It’s surely a happier life for those who love themselves – and that’s important but it’s not the only benefit.  By loving ourselves, we build our strength to truly love another.  We practise unconditional love for ourselves in order to be able to extend that love to others.  My observation is that it is often those who appear toughest who are actually the weakest – unable to love themselves, they have little to give to others.   The ways they are tough on themselves become the ways they are tough on others.  Children who love themselves become rich sources of love for the other people in their lives.

As I near the end of this post, perhaps I have stumbled upon the answer to my question of how we can really tell whether our children love themselves.  Maybe the depth of love they extend to others is reflective of the love they have for themselves?

 

IN SUMMARY – OUR ROLE AS PARENTS

In those moments when loving ourselves is hard, it may help us to remember that the Universe created us from Love, exactly the way it wanted us to be.  Self-Love is not about building up our egos by counting up our successes and wonderfulnesses.  It is about knowing we are successful and wonderful regardless of what we do because we were made that way.  Our role as parents is to reflect our children’s lovability back to them so they have no doubt of it.  It is also to model self-love so that they may see what it really means to love themselves through the various circumstances of life. 

 

Much love to you and your little souls,

 

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Since our whole country (and many others) stop for Easter and participate in the delicious traditions of eating chocolate and hot cross buns, I felt my boys needed an explanation of the occasion.   Not being Christian myself, I find some aspects of the Easter story don’t fit with my understanding of The Universe so I tell it in my own way.  This post is about how my family finds meaning in Easter.

I wasn’t going to write this post because I don’t like upsetting others and I’m not controversial by nature.  I’m aware that some people may feel that, not being Christian myself, I’m in no position to write about Easter, let alone pick-and-mix from Christian beliefs.  I realise that some people who consider religion entirely separate from spirituality may feel I should stay well away from this, the central story of Christianity.

But, one of my personal life lessons has been to be more courageous and to follow my intuition & inspiration, even when it’s scary.  Having thought I wouldn’t write about Easter because I feared upsetting others, the ideas for this post came flooding to me as I was driving to the shops a few days ago and I felt had to write it.  So I am – knees trembling a little if I’m honest.

I have to trust that I have readers who can accept that we all understand things a little differently and that agreement isn’t necessary but Love is.  This is my point of view on Easter.  I offer it not to tell you what to think but as food for thought – to help me clarify what’s true for me and you to clarify what’s true for you.  This is my truth and I write it with Love and respect for all perspectives.

 

WHY I DIDN’T TELL MY CHILDREN THE EASTER STORY AT FIRST

A little over a year ago, Jake (4 years old at the time) saw a cross at a church and said to me, “That’s where the Easter eggs come out”.   I had never told him the Easter story and wondered how he had managed to even link the symbol of the cross with Easter time.  At that stage, Jake had eaten plenty of Easter eggs in his short life but I hadn’t told him the Easter story for a number of reasons –

  • The brutality towards Jesus – Jake is a sensitive soul and I think he would find some of the details quite disturbing, especially the thought of Jesus’ hands being nailed to the cross.
  • The resurrection – how can I help him to understand that Jesus rose from dead but none of our relatives or friends will?  Death can be difficult enough for a child to get their head around without adding this into the mix.
  • The idea of humans being inherently sinful – I believe we are all inherently worthy, created as the Creator wanted us to be, and I want my boys to know this.

 

WHY I DO TELL MY CHILDREN THE EASTER STORY – MY WAY

Whether we take Bible stories as historical events or symbolic tales, there are lessons we can learn from many of them.  I think most religious traditions likely have stories with wisdom to offer when we are willing to interpret them with Love.  So, when it came to Easter, I looked for the wisdom in the story, and what I have found is a lesson in love.  I now tell my boys the story with a bias towards forgiveness and, at their young ages, I choose not to include sin or the death & resurrection yet.

My simplified edition of the story emphasises the moment when Jesus, hanging on the cross in pain, said “forgive them” of all the people who had put him there and taunted him.  I explain that the hot cross buns we eat on Good Friday remind us how he was put on the cross and the Easter eggs we eat on Easter Sunday show remind us of how he forgave the people.  A baby chick is a new life and we talk about how forgiving someone is like having a new life because, when we forgive, we can be happy and kind again.

This way of telling the Easter story seems age-appropriate for my boys and provides an opportunity to remind them of the power forgiveness has in our lives.  The ability to forgive is essential to everybody’s lives.   (I wrote about what forgiveness means to our family in my post Teaching Children About Forgiveness.)

As with any story, different people find different meaning in the Easter story.  And for people who aren’t Christian, being open to finding a message is far more powerful than hoping our children won’t ask what Easter is all about.  I realise a number of key concepts are missing from my retelling of the Easter story.  As my boys get older, I will add more details until they have the full traditional version.  I will explain to them the Christian perspective on Easter, share my point of view and encourage them to find their own.  And it may be that they may discover meanings in the Easter story that I haven’t.

 

IN SUMMARY: LOOKING FOR LOVE WHEREVER WE ARE

For some, Easter may just be about the chocolate and hot cross buns.  For me, it’s a chance to talk with my boys about love and forgiveness.  As a spiritually-led parent, I’m always on the look-out for opportunities to emphasise the power of Love in our lives, however they present themselves.  If I was living in a different culture, I would be looking for the same opportunities amongst a different set of stories and traditions.   We are spiritual beings, looking for what resonates.  Love & forgiveness resonate for me.

 

Much love to you and your little souls,

 

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Our spirituality is ultimately about our relationship with Life.  Any relationship requires communication.  I want my boys to know they can tell the Universe whatever is on their mind so I am gently introducing them to prayer.  The Universe is always on our side, even when we don’t pray, but prayer helps us to be bigger participants in the unfolding of our lives.

 

WHAT IS PRAYER & WHO ARE WE PRAYING TO?

For me, prayer is an invitation, an opening up to the Divine.  The Divine will work in our lives as much as we allow it to.

A prayer can be offered through our words (written & spoken), actions or thoughts.  They all count.  Essentially, we pray with our spirit so it doesn’t matter which form a prayer takes.  This blog post is more about prayer expressed in words as that is the variety most visable to our children so easiest to share with them.

In our house, we usually address our prayers to God, using the word in a non-traditional sense.  Really, any word would do – the Universe, the Divine, Spirit, Source… My understanding of God changes constantly, getting less and less precise over time, but I don’t think that really matters.  He/She/It/They know I’m talking to them when I pray, even if I can’t fully imagine all that they are.  (You may be interested in my post Introducing my Children to God.)

 

TYPES OF PRAYER

I want Jake and Thomas to realise that they can talk to God in any situation, for any reason so I’m trying to offer them different types of prayer.  Keeping it simple, these are the three we usually use –

Gratitude – Prayers of gratitude are an easy place to start.  Sometimes, when I’m with my boys and I think of something I’m grateful for, I’ll just say thank you for it aloud eg. “Thank you for the beautiful sunshine today”.  We also take turns saying grace before a meal, using the words my boys learned at their kindergarten.  (To be honest, they fight over whose turn it is to say grace and it doesn’t always feel very sincere.)  My post on Gratitude talks about the benefits of gratitude and other ways of expressing it.

Intention  –  In these prayers, we share our intentions – such as for dreams to be realised and problems solved.  They may be for ourselves or for others.  Of Course, God already knows what our intentions are but, through these prayers, we open ourselves up to receiving the help we need.

Chat – For me, prayer is an on-going conversation.  Sometimes, I just find myself with something to say and I know God is listening so I start talking.  When I’m in the car alone, I talk to God as if he were sitting in the passenger seat.  I talk about anything, knowing that I am heard and that He is the best listener of all.

 

THE NATURE OF PRAYER

I don’t think the words we use in prayer are important but it is interesting to look at the meaning of Amen.  It is a way of saying “Your will be done”.  For me, that means trusting that God hears and cares about my desires & concerns.  It also means that He sees the big picture that I can’t and will do what is best for everyone, for the highest good.  Prayer is said in faith and we can let go once we’ve said what we have to say.  When I was younger, I used to pray over the same things repeatedly.  God heard the first time – it must have been so annoying!  Once said, it’s said!  We can trust that things will turn out for the greatest good.

 

When things we have prayed about don’t appear to go our way, it is not an answered prayer.  When I was a teacher, I had to put the good of the whole class over the needs of an individual at times.  God has the same task but with billions of people to look out for – what a job!  There have been times when things haven’t gone the way I had planned but there have been unexpected gifts in the seemingly unwanted outcome.  There have been times when, later, I have been able to see that it is a good thing I didn’t get what I prayed for!  Sometimes, I can’t see why things didn’t go as I had asked and I have faith that it was still a good thing.  And sometimes I just wake up the next day feeling differently, able to see the situation I’d prayed for with greater Love – my answer was simply a new way of seeing things.

 

WAYS TO PRAY WITH OUR CHILDREN

Here are some gentle ways I’ve been introducing prayer to my children.

Invite them to listen in on my prayers – This was my first step. For example, an ambulance would go whizzing by when we were in the car and I would say a short prayer aloud.  When my husband was going into hospital for a small surgery, my boys listened while I said a prayer for my husband and the medical staff.  Jake and Thomas always say an enthusiastic “Amen!” at the end.

Provide a script – Particularly for young children, it is hard to come up with the words for what they have to say.  Some of our prayers use the same words each time to make them easier for my boys to say, such as our grace and our morning prayer.  Both prayers are short with child-friendly language.

Offer for them to add bits – Usually I say our morning prayer aloud and my boys listen.  Often, before beginning, I ask if there’s anything they’d like included, perhaps something they’re worried about or looking forward to.  So far, I add these things in myself for them but, in time, I think they’ll want to say them themselves.

God Box – (It could be called anything.  Use the language that works for your family).  Currently, I initiate most of our prayers.  When my boys are starting to suggest their own, this is an idea I’d like to try.  They can write or draw their prayer on a piece of paper and post it into their box.  The act of posting it is their “Amen”, their letting go and trusting.  Every now-and-then, they may like to review the notes in their box to see what has happened since.

Remind them that they can talk to God anytime, about anything – If our children are aware that we do this, it will be normal for them.  I say a lot of spontaneous prayers and will often say them aloud with my boys if I’m happy for them to hear what I have to say.

 

IN SUMMARY – WHY PRAY?

When I pray with Jake and Thomas, I invite them to participate but never insist.  Interestingly, so far they have always chosen to join in.  The words we use aren’t important, the only rule being it must be respectful – God has no interest in the toilet talk that litters their usual conversation when they think I’m out of ear shot.

I recently re-watched Rob Bell’s humorous and powerful talk on Oprah’s Super Soul Sessions.  He said that most of his prayers go like this – “Here, you take it”.  Knowing we don’t have to figure it all out or do it all on our own is so comforting and freeing.  Our prayers are an acknowledgement of this.  This is the main reason I want to share the practice of prayer with my boys.

 

Much love to you and your little souls,

 

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“What is spiritual parenting?” – Well, that’s a big question?! Ultimately, we must each answer it for ourselves but I’d like to share my definition with you in the hope that it might help you to clarify yours.

 

THE PURPOSE OF SPIRITUAL PARENTING

For me, spiritual parenting is parenting with the intention to empower our children to be the unique individuals they are intended to be. This definition rests on my belief that we are all spiritual beings who come here to Earth with a purpose – a contribution to make and lessons to learn. It is when we are aligned with our purpose that we truly thrive. I want my boys to fulfil their souls’ purpose and I want them to thrive so spiritual parenting is an obvious choice for me.

Letting Go of Other Intentions

The first step of spiritual parenting may be the hardest. It is to put aside our own agendas to allow the divine agendas for our children to unfold. These are some of the intentions we may need to let go of –

  • for our children to be who we wish we could be eg. “I want him to be more confident than I am”.
  • for our children to be mini versions of ourselves eg. “She’s going to be a piano player like I am”.
  • for our children to be socially-acceptable eg. “If he doesn’t play sport, he’ll never fit in with the other boys”.
  • for our children to be our trophies eg. “Everyone will think I’m a great parent because she has perfect manners”.

Once we have released these kinds of motives, we quickly realise that our intention to support our children in being the people they were divinely intended to be affects almost everything! This morning, I took my youngest to kindy dressed in his Paw Patrol pyjamas and my eldest to school in the same clothes he wore yesterday…and the day before. I had to leave my ego (which fears judgement and craves approval) at home. This appears to be a relatively inconsequential example but these everyday choices to allow our children to be who they really are show them that we value and encourage their truth.

 

HOW TO DO SPIRITUAL PARENTING

Having prioritised our children’s authenticity, we can turn our attention towards how to help them be themselves. The biggest part of this is to honour and nurture their spirituality. Our spiritual connection with Life helps us to make the best choices for ourselves. Faith gives us the courage and strength to live out the guidance we receive. If our  children know how to recognise spiritual guidance and support, they will more easily find and follow their own unique paths.

At first, I wasn’t confident I was up to this task as I felt I was still early on my own spiritual path. But one thing that made it less daunting was to remember this – children arrive spiritually aligned. So it’s not that we need to teach them to “be spiritual” but to find ways to maintain their natural spirituality.

There is no fixed way to do this. My approach is to explore together and follow my children’s lead. I believe they will show me what they need and what resonates with them if I am paying attention.

We can invite our children to join in with our own spiritual practices & beliefs but must remember that the real goal is to help them to find what works for them.

For example, I like to begin my day with prayer. Sometimes I don’t get to pray first thing so I invite my son to join me in prayer as we drive to school. We call it our “morning prayer”. I use the same words each time I say it, perhaps adding in details relevant to the day ahead. My son likes to listen and join in with the “Amen”. One day, he might choose to say the prayer himself, using the simple script I’ve created or his own words.

 

IN SUMMARY: HIGH INTENTIONS & ORDINARY MOMENTS

The phrase “spiritual parenting” can sound a bit lofty but it is not perfect parenting. There are plenty of times when my family’s behaviour (including my own) is decidedly “unspiritual”. Spiritual parenting is everyday and practical – we’re all dealing with dirty nappies, squabbling siblings, hectic mornings and poor table manners, no matter what our intentions! Spiritual parenting is deciding to use the ordinary moments to find out more about our children and show them how to bring forth who they truly are each time. Begin with a big, open heart and you’ve made a great start!

 

Much love to you and your little souls,

 

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This post was first published as a guest post on the blog at kidsmindbodyspirit.com.  Kids Mind Body Spirit is an online directory of holistic services and resources for children, parents and educators. 

A journey in the car with the kids in the back can go many ways.  Sometimes, we feel harassed by incessant squabbling that we’re not able to get to the bottom of because we can’t see what ‘s really going on.  Other times, we get to quietly listen in on the conversations between our children and feel our hearts flutter with what they say.  This is a story about the latter.

It was a Friday afternoon.  Thomas (almost 3 years old) had been to kindy and Jake had been to school.  As I drove, they were exchanging notes on their days – sandpits, train sets, playground adventures and friends. Then, totally unprompted, Thomas said, “I’m grateful for kindy”.  Fortunately, we were stopped at traffic lights, otherwise I might have driven off the road.  Even Jake realised that this was a momentous moment for our family – “Mum, Thomas just said he’s grateful for kindy!”  This was the first time we had heard Thomas spontaneously share his gratitude.

Gratitude is important in our family.  We have a few simple habits – rituals – to help us keep gratitude active in our hearts and minds.  When tucking the boys into bed at night, we each share something we’re grateful for.   This year, we also began a gratitude jar.  Every Sunday night, we each write something we’re especially grateful for from the past week on a piece of paper (we each have our own colour).  We then fold the pieces of paper up and put them in the large jar that sits in the hall.  The idea is that, on 31 December, we’ll each have 52 special moments to reflect on and appreciate.  If it’s been a tough year, we’ll realised there has still been lots to be grateful for.  If it’s been a “good” year, we’ll appreciate it even more.  We also get to think about the things we have written on our pieces of paper every time we walk past the jar in the hall.

“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is ‘thank you’, it will be enough”. – Meister Eckhart

 

GRATITUDE AS AN ANTEDOTE TO ENTITLEMENT…AND SO MUCH MORE

Of course, there are plenty of times when it feels like the “attitude of gratitude” I’m trying to cultivate has disintegrated to dust.  On that Friday afternoon, Thomas and I had picked up Jake from school and surprised him with the news that we were taking our scooters to the skate park.  Currently one of Jake’s favourite hang-outs, he was thrilled.  But there was no “thank you” on hearing the news.  In fact, his first words were, “can we get ice-creams too?”  *@?#! When our scootering was finished and it was time to go home, he kept whining, “why can’t we stay a bit longer?”  I found myself recycling my mother’s sentiments – “I’m not going to take you for treats if you’re always going to ask for more.  Why can’t you appreciate what you have?!”  (In Jake’s defence, he did thank me afterwards and is often very appreciative of his own accord.)  Then I grumbled to myself, “I don’t know why I bother doing nice things for them, it’s never enough.  How did they become so entitled?”  I want to be able to treat my boys sometimes without them expecting it all the time.

We can become a bit complacent about gratitude these days.  It’s been a bit of a buzz word for a number of years now and every gift shop has items with sentiments of gratitude on them – mugs, prints, journals, ornaments, magnets…  (I do like the quote “When I count my blessings, I count you twice”, though.)  But gratitude is powerful – it cultivates real joy and empowerment.  On one occasion when entitlement was in full swing, I said to Jake, “When you’re grateful, you’re too busy enjoying yourself to think about what else you want and it helps you to notice even more things to be grateful for”.  Gratitude gives us a sense of our cup running over and, in turn, our capacity to be generous, creative and forgiving, for example, expands.

So, gratitude is not just a temporary pick-me-up technique.  Gratitude helps us to tap into the abundance (in all senses of the word) that is available to us and our own capacity to serve.  I imagine how I would have felt as a child to know that I had so much myself and so much to give.  I would’ve been happier and felt more powerful.

 

BUILDING OUR CHILDREN’S ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE

Here are some quick ideas we can use to start building our children’s gratitude.

Create regular opportunities to share something they’re grateful for.  Get the whole family involved in quick, simple moments of gratitude.

Be a grateful example – when I’m grateful for something, I sometimes share it aloud, in the moment.  I try to point out a variety of things I’m grateful for.  My boys pretty much stick to toys, outings and unhealthy food at this stage, but I try to include acts of kindness, beauty in nature, health and other people, for example.

Encourage genuine appreciation instead of polite thanks when they receive something (eg. a gift or help).  This is hard and I haven’t yet discovered the best way to do this.  With young children, it can be difficult to get a genuine “thank you” from them of their own accord.  When it comes to gifts, after each birthday party, I help Jake to write thank you notes.  We discuss the effort each person has gone to to select the gift for him and include in the note one thing he likes about it.

When my boys are behaving in an entitled way, I’ve started saying, “Put on your gratitude glasses”.  I think I’ve lectured enough for Jake to know what I mean.  It’s a fun reminder rather than a disapproving instruction to choose gratitude.

Avoid calling our children “ungrateful”, as if they have done something wrong.  This turns them off gratitude because it seems like something they should be rather than what it really is – a choice to live in fullness, joy and service.

 

IN SUMMARY: PLANTING THE SEED OF GRATITUDE

Entitlement seems to be a modern-day parenting issue that is difficult to navigate – ironically, a case of external abundance and internal lack.  My hope is that a focus on gratitude can do something to offset it.  We can’t make our children be grateful but we can demonstrate a life of gratitude and invite them to share in it with us.  Hearing Thomas announce that he is grateful for kindy, is reassuring.  Perhaps all those things we try to teach our children don’t just go in one ear and out the other.  Even if we don’t currently see any evidence of our children taking it on board, they are absorbing it.  We have planted the seed.

 

Much love to you and your little souls,

 

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