Raising Great Kids
How to raise a spiritual
Ages 2 to 4
What to expect at this
What you can do to nurture your child's
What to expect at this age
Though preschoolers are too young to grasp many of the abstract
concepts that go hand-in-hand with spiritual life, they have other
skills that will serve them well on the road to spirituality: They
have no problem believing in things they can't see, and they live
almost entirely in the moment. "Kids this age have an incredible
sense of wonder they're innate spiritual beings," says Marianne
Neifert, a pediatrician, mother of five, and the author of Dr.
Mom's Prescription for Preschoolers: Seven Essentials for the
This is the perfect age to begin nurturing your child's spiritual
side as sustenance for her soul, as a way of answering her cosmic
questions, and as a means of strengthening her interpersonal skills.
Every religion has some kind of belief embedded in it about loving
your neighbor. And giving your child a foundation in faith will also
give her something to fall back on in trying times later in life.
"As recent events have shown us," says Neifert, "in times of crisis,
people turn to their faith. It's a way to ground ourselves, and a
way to interpret events that we don't understand."
What you can do to nurture your
child's spirituality Clarify your own beliefs. 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? In addition to your own beliefs,
consider what kind of spiritual education you want for your child:
Will your family join a church, synagogue, or other house of
worship? Do you want your child to attend services regularly? Do you
plan to send her to religious school? If you and your partner have
different belief systems, it's wise to decide how you'll approach
spirituality with your child now, before she's old enough to
get confused by your differing opinions.
Introduce spirituality early on. "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.
And by introducing spiritual practices early on such as lighting
candles or singing hymns together your child will view them as a
natural part of life, and you'll have a spiritual influence on her
before other people do. Even if you don't believe in God or see God
as a single all-powerful being, it's worth talking to your child
about it. "Kids are going to hear about God all over," says Neifert.
"If you don't put your own spin on it, with your own values, they'll
absorb someone else's."
Don't pretend to have all the answers.When your child asks
where people go when they die, answer honestly: "Nobody knows for
sure, but some people think they go to heaven to be close to God.
Other people think they're born again in a new body." Inevitably,
your child will ask what you think. 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 and
this is one of them.
Use daily events to teach spirituality. 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 Mother Nature made." At bedtime, you can
sign off with, "God bless you, sweetie pie."
Instill an appreciation of nature. Nature is a great place
to find a tangible manifestation of the divine. "Kids learn with all
their senses they love to pick up a rock or jump in a puddle or
chase a butterfly," says Neifert. Help your child see nature as
something sacred by demonstrating your own love and respect for it.
When you go for a family hike in the woods or a picnic on the beach,
clean up after yourself (and even others), and be considerate of
creatures in their habitat. 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 her to the idea that the Earth is a gift, and that our
survival depends upon the survival of the planet.
Tell stories. 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 child
to the notion that different people have different ideas about God
by drawing on this wealth of literature. Read stories together from
an illustrated Bible, a book of Hindu mythology, or a collection of
Jewish folk tales, amending and simplifying as you see fit. Even if
you're reluctant to foster a literal interpretation of the
Scriptures, for example, reading such stories will give your child
the opportunity to ask questions.
Build on family traditions. Spirituality not only connects
us to the divine; it also connects us to each other and to the past.
If you're raising your child in the same spiritual tradition that
you were raised in, be sure she knows that she's carrying on family
rituals that were passed along by her grandparents and even
great-grandparents. Show her pictures of her grandmother making her
first communion. Let her help polish a pair of Sabbath candlesticks
that were handed down by your parents. And be sure to tell the same
family stories at holiday time that you listened to as a child.
Make it fun. Religion and spirituality should be more
joyful than somber and serious. Encourage your preschooler 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. Above all, do what spiritual people have done for
centuries sing and dance! If you don't know any traditional tunes,
a wealth of CDs and cassettes of religious music is available. Don't
forget to explore songs and chants from other cultures or traditions
Practice silence.Once a day or once a week, take a minute
to sit quietly with your child, encouraging her to be silent and
listen to her inner voice. Your moment of silence needn't be
introduced as some lofty practice of meditation, but simply as a
calming break in a noisy day. Whether your child uses this time to
commune with the divine or simply to rest and recharge, it'll help
put her in touch with the "big" picture.
Introduce a simple form of prayer. Let your child know
that prayer isn't something that's saved up just for Sunday morning,
or for times when she needs help with something. It's a tool for
communicating with a higher power anytime. So invite her to
join you in saying a prayer at different times of the day for
example, when she sees something beautiful, when she does something
new for the first time, when she wakes up, or at bedtime. A simple
prayer of thanks before or after meals can be an easy and effective
way to instill appreciation for the basics of life. If your child is
too young to make up her own prayers, help her along with what
Neifert calls "ping-pong" prayers: You suggest a simple phrase such
as, "Thank you, God, for..." and she fills in the blanks. The idea
is to let your child know that God, or the divine spirit, is always
available. "If the being who created the whole universe can listen
to you, that's pretty good," says Neifert.
Stress the spiritual side of holidays. Try to balance the
commercialism of the holiday season with activities that underscore
its deeper meaning. Volunteer at a local charity. Donate food,
clothing, or toys to a shelter, and have your child do the same by
choosing a few items she no longer plays with. Participate in church
or synagogue events centered on holiday themes. On the fun side,
share some holiday crafts with your child: Create a homemade
nativity scene out of cardboard and fill it with little dolls, craft
a menorah out of modeling clay, or make a Kwanzaa kinara to hold the
symbolic candles representing the principles of the holiday unity,
self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative
economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.
Consider joining a faith community. By regularly attending
services and social events at a place of worship, your child will
come to see that spirituality plays a central role in the life of
the community. She'll also grow up more comfortable with the liturgy
and rituals of your faith and come to see a house of worship as a
place where she can feel comfortable and secure. "Kids thrive on
predictability," says Neifert. "Whether it's a Catholic child seeing
the communion bread and wine, a Jewish child hearing the Hebrew
prayers, or a Hindu child smelling the incense in the temple, by
experiencing rituals kids come to appreciate the predictability of a
religious service, if not the deeper meaning." Most churches and
synagogues also have children's services that introduce kids to the
tenets of a religion in a way they can understand and enjoy.
Follow your child's lead. Let your child ask the
questions, and give her plenty of opportunities to discuss her own
notions of issues such as who God is, what heaven looks like, or
what happens to people after they die. 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 preschooler, you might discover
something you never thought of before.
Frederick G. Levine, a graduate of Harvard Divinity School, is a
writer and a father of two in Amherst, Mass. This is his first
It's No Accident
Corporations Sell Dangerous Baby Products
E. Marla Felcher
Today's parents, many
of them older, dual income, and mobile, demand product features
that fifteen years ago were unheard of: portable
cribs that weigh only a few pounds and easily collapse for
storage, car seats that double as infant carriers, over-sized
strollers for parents who jog. Products, it turns out, that are
too often inadequately tested and ultimately unsafe. Marla Felchers' 2 year long investigation has revealed case after case
of infants and toddlers being seriously injured and killed by
these products and case after case of manufacturers going to
great lengths to cover this up. It's No Accident exposes the
inner-workings of the infant products industry, highlighting the
tactics used by corporate giants such as Hasboro (Playskool),
Evenflo, Kolcraft, Cosco, Graco, and Century Products to keep
consumers in the dark about their safety records.
Get beyond "this is too
depressing", and take very seriously what this book is telling
This is a courageous book. It
challenges our assumptions about a topic that most of us either
think is well under control or too painful to face...
A must for Grandparents...
...why don't most parents hear
about the tens of millions of unsafe children's products
recalled every year?
Do you think the government is
protecting your children from unsafe products? If you believe
this is so, THEN THINK AGAIN...
E. Marla Felcher was
born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1957. She spent her undergraduate
years at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh. After earning
a M.B.A. from the University of Texas in 1980, she worked in
marketing for Gillette and Talbots, then later as a consultant
for Ben & Jerry's, J. Crew and other retailers. Between 1988 and
1992, Ms. Felcher was a doctoral student at Northwestern
University in Evanston, Illinois, where she wrote a dissertation
that applied principles of cognitive psychology to survey
research. Ms. Felcher has taught marketing at Northwestern
University, DePaul University, and Chulalongkorn University in
Bangkok, Thailand. In 1998 Ms. Felcher moved to Boston for a
9-month leave-of-absence from teaching. She planned to spend
this time on her hobby, writing fiction. Six-weeks into this
plan, her friends' son was killed by a portable crib. Once the
facts of the toddler's death began to unfold, Ms. Felcher
decided the truth was indeed stranger than fiction. Soon after,
she resigned from her position at Northwestern, and became a
free-lance writer. Her articles have appeared in The Atlantic
Monthly, Mother Jones, Wildlife Conservation and Child
magazines. It's No Accident is Ms. Felcher's first book.
Ladies, as you all
know the car seat laws for kids are changing.
Please sure to check
your state rules. I have a friend who had an infant die in a car
accident so I am very passionate about car seat use. The look on her
face convinced me.
Oregon rules say 6
yrs and 60 pounds which means they could be in a car seat at age 7
or 8 or 9! Know the rules please.
Also PLEASE put
contact info on your car seats. If you are in a car accident who
will the hospital call to be with your child if you are hurt?
grandma? hubby? sister? Please list someone outside your immediate
family too. And list your doctor. A paramedic just told me of a
family hurt in an accident out of state. They had no family ID and
the hospital did not know who to contact.
Mom's do you have a
"In case of emergency contact....." card in your wallet? You should!
DO you teenagers have
them in their wallet? My kids have a medical release card in their
preschool, your neighbor...anyone who cares for your child have a
medical release note or card to get help for your child's if they
are hurt and they can not reach you? The hospital can not treat your
child unless life threatening without it. A grandma I talked to
could not get help for her badly burned grand daughter because she
did not have a release note or card and they could not find the mom.
It was not life threatening, but a very painful wait,
Ladies I am not
saying buy my products. You can make them yourself just be safe.
Protect your kids please! OK off my soap box now. :)