A child’s spiritual experiences can expand their horizons, and yours!
When we refer to our spiritual world, what we often mean is religion – the teachings and rituals that constitute a particular practice designed to bring us closer to a higher power. Yet humans can, and regularly do, have spiritual experiences outside of religion. Growing evidence suggests that many children (as young as three years old) have profound, life-altering spiritual experiences they can describe and remember over time.
By nurturing this spiritual capacity or spiritual intelligence, parents, caregivers and teachers can support children’s overall development in a way that helps them grow into more deeply caring, thoughtful adults.
Opportunity for growth
Children often lead spiritual lives full of wonder. This can include asking big questions about the meaning of life, having wisdom beyond their years, sensing the connectedness of all things, seeing the invisible, or knowing things in ways that may seem impossible.
These types of experiences can be one-of-a-kind, but will often repeat themselves given similar circumstances. A child may, for instance, form a relationship with an invisible being they perceive as a benevolent guide who offers support in times of need (the imaginary friend). Or a child may be so empathic they literally know what people around them are going through.
The feedback we offer when a child reveals this type of spiritual seeing or sensing can make all the difference. Reacting out of fear or dismissing the experience as silly will simply end the conversation, shutting the child down. If, however, we respond with patience and thoughtful consideration, we can open the door to children’s increasingly expanded opportunities for perceiving, learning and knowing.
With awareness, discussion and practice children will, in time, be able to constructively apply their spiritual abilities in a variety of contexts, including school, social life and, ultimately, the world of work.
A personal experience
Spiritual intelligence can manifest itself differently in each individual. Their particular vision, perception or sensation will be personal, just like their beliefs, preferences or learning style. In general, spiritual intelligence can be said to include these themes:
• Increased self-awareness
• Maintaining love for and trust in life
• Finding meaning in daily activities and a sense of purpose through service
• Cultivating acceptance, gentle curiosity and love for all that is
• Gentle surrender to truth or one’s higher self
• Clarity of intention aligned with wisdom and compassion
Children are often able to naturally see beneath the surface of things because they do so with what is referred to as the ‘beginner’s mind.’ They have fresh eyes that observe without expectation, judgement or the need to analyze or categorize. They may not have the words to describe their experiences in a mature way, yet they have the capacity to be open to a larger consciousness.
Their sense of this interconnectedness is often expressed as compassion – toward a baby, hurt animal or struggling friend – or by giving gifts (small tokens, found objects, favourite keepsakes). Our acknowledgement of their openness and willingness to go with the flow of their generous feelings in the moment can serve as an ideal launch point for the development of their spiritual intelligence.
The more we nurture the development of spiritual intelligence in our kids, the stronger and more refined it will become. Approaching a child with an open heart as well as an open mind, offering opportunities for discussion, being patient even if their experiences clash with our own beliefs – these are gifts we can offer which honour the child as an individual and support their development at every level.
When we value rational analysis or sensory input as the only viable source of information, it becomes hard to acknowledge the relevance of a child’s inner knowing or ‘extra-sensory’ perception. But if we can harness our own spiritual intelligence and embrace the possibilities these children’s experiences offer, we may begin to see a world that is more than what first meets the eye.
Consider these ways to help support the development of your child’s spiritual intelligence:
• Observe, in even very young children, the signs of spiritual intelligence; notice and acknowledge their expanded perceptions.
• Invite children to discover their inner landscape by examining their own thoughts, feelings, preferences and virtues such as compassion, trust, courage, and gentleness.
• Discuss what you observe – suggest language that may help children describe complex feelings or sensations, such as awe, amazement, insight, intuition, inner knowing, sudden remembering, awareness or connectedness.
• Listen with generosity – allow plenty of space for developing ideas.
• Ask open-ended questions with no ‘right’ answers that offer chances to look at the world differently (i.e. Do you ever wonder about _____?)
• Encourage children to follow what they love and develop their inner talents in constructive ways.
• Provide opportunities for quiet contemplation and introspection away from the constant distraction of TV, video games, computer, and radio.
• Share insights of your own – about an amazing coincidence, an intuition you had about someone or the mysterious way a situation simply worked out for the best.
• Spend time in nature – the beauty of the natural world is the best catalyst for deep contemplation, fostering inner awareness and the development of a sense of unity with all living things.