"Nurturing Spirituality In Children"
Peggy Joy Jenkins, Ph.D.

What is spirituality and why is it of value to children are questions that I am sometimes asked when people hear about my book, Nurturing Spirituality in Children. In answering, I quickly point out that spirituality doesn’t mean the rules and dogma of any organized religion, nor the value system of a culture. I rather like a definition from Webster, “showing much refinement of thought and feeling”.  To me, the “thought and feeling” is an awareness that we are multidimensional beings, living in a spiritual universe governed by spiritual laws.

And so, why is spirituality important to children? Because, like us, they are spiritual beings having a physical experience. The fresher they are from the spirit world, the more expanded their awareness. They know our thoughts and feelings, see into other dimensions, and remember where they came from. It is important that these natural gifts be supported, not denied or made fun of.

A spirituality based upon true identity can build children’s self-esteem. They need to see themselves as “short people” here for a purpose, not as incomplete or unfinished.

An understanding of spiritual laws that can be counted on in all situations gives children a sense of security and control over their lives. In age appropriate ways, they can be taught the creative power of their thought. Principles such as “what you focus on expands” or “where your attention goes, there energy flows,” put them in charge of their life.

Another way that spiritual understanding aids children is that they come to see this world as an ordered place run by higher laws, a classroom where they are totally supported in learning what they need to learn. In this context, the world is seen as a benevolent place, not chaotic, haphazard or dangerous.

Albert Einstein was once asked, “What is the most important question that a human being needs to answer?” He responded, “Is the universe a friendly place or not?” What messages are we giving children about the universe? Do we want them to grow up feeling that it is non-supportive and wrought with danger? This creates a feeling of helplessness, and with it, low self-worth which, in turn, contributes to teen suicide, gangs, drug use, violence and promiscuity.

We must embody the consciousness that we want for our children because, as the saying goes, “more is caught than taught”. Are WE choosing to live in a “safe” world that responds to our dominant thoughts and feelings?

As important as our modeling is, it is still not enough, however. Children need to be told that spiritual laws and principles exist. And these need to be discussed and demonstrated. As an analogy, consider virtues education. A parent valuing the universal virtues would be leading a life that embodies most of those virtues. However, many children don’t “get it” just from that! They need to have the virtues named (i.e. perseverance, compassion, orderliness, self-discipline, loyalty, humility, purposefulness, courtesy, courage, etc.). Then these need to be explained, observed, and become part of the language of the family. It is the same with spiritual principles and laws.

When my son was about nine, I was desperate for ways to teach him underlying spiritual principles. He was open to such knowledge, but there were few books appropriate for his age level. As I read my spiritual books, I would come across simple analogies and “lights” would come on. Here was a way, I thought, for me to demonstrate some of these abstract ideas for my son. I began a constant lookout for concrete objects to explain abstract spiritual ideas. Most were triggered by a few words here and there from various authors. I stepped these concepts down to be age appropriate, and before I knew it, I had enough for a book. Experiments with Sunday School classes convinced me that children above six would retain such lessons, as they were not only visual but also concrete, and the children could handle the objects.

As brain research shows, 83% of what we learn is through seeing and doing. The ancient Chinese said, “I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand.” Such visual analogy lessons work wonderfully for the parent who is juggling a job, home chores and car pools because they take only 5 to 10 minutes, and some can even be done in the car.

I urge you to consider principles you deem important and then look around your house for tangible ways of demonstrating them. If you need idea starters, my book has 50 such lessons. They are for “the child within” just as much as for the children in our lives.

An ancient sage said, “Woe to the man who has to learn principles in the time of crisis.” Now is the time to nurture the spirituality of our children and our own inner child.


Dr. Peggy Joy Jenkins is an adult educator specializing in parent/teacher education, understanding behavioral styles and activating inner joy. She is founder of Joyful You-Joyful Child, Inc., a non-profit organization. Her book Nuturing Spirituality is available for purchase on the website order form.  Or you can e-mail her at joyful@joy4u.org or call 928-282-1311.