Understanding Spirituality in Children

Children of faith, and children in general, actively observe and participate in a variety of spaces (community practices) where they learn to make sense of their social realities. From a socio-cultural perspective, children enter a social world of meaning that is created and recreated through cultural artifacts, such as language (written or spoken), and tools, such as television and books. Therefore, as part of their development, children learn not only how to act in different social spaces (e.g., school, family, after-school activities, religious spaces/temple/church/mosque/synagogue/monastery), but also to navigate the meanings embedded in the activities in which they engage.

Spiritual Activities –

Children growing up in faith communities participate in a rich tapestry of activities and systems of meaning. As part of their faith, children learn many things, that may include the religious significance or meaning of their own names, a language of faith or liturgical language, sacred spaces, how to talk to God, how to express gratitude, how to say and read prayers and scripture, how to meditate, the meaning of religious symbols, stories of the prophets, heroes and martyrs of their faith, their family’s history with their faith, songs, how to celebrate holy days.

Children’s daily routines are filled with faith practices and faith purposes, such as decisions on what to wear, guidelines on what to bring as a snack or lunch, and praying/meditating in the mornings, before meals, while traveling to school or sometimes at school, during sports events, presentations, and before exams.

Therefore, to understand children’s religious/spiritual socialization, it is necessary to investigate not only the symbols, language, and collective practices that children are exposed to and how they choose to participate, but also how children make meaning of such practices in their daily lives. In summary, a comprehensive account of children’s spiritual development requires considering the goals, interpretations, and socio-historical context of the faith practices in which a diverse range of children are active participants.

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