Research has shown that connecting your child with a faith community can contribute to his or her overall happiness. Nurturing the spirit, as well as the mind and body, of a child can contribute significantly to a child’s sense of well-being.
In 2007, Mark Holder, Associate Professor of Psychology at UBC Okanagan, and graduate student Judi Wallace tested 315 children aged nine to 12, measuring spirituality and other factors such as temperament and social relations that can affect an individual’s sense of happiness. “Our goal was to see whether there’s a relation between spirituality and happiness,” Holder says. “We knew going in that there was such a relation in adults, so we took multiple measures of spirituality and happiness in children.”
The results were a surprise — 6.5 to 16.5 percent of children’s happiness can be accounted for by spirituality. “From our perspective, it’s a whopping big effect,” says Holder. “I expected it to be much less — I thought their spirituality would be too immature to account for their well-being.”
"Spirituality is easiest to describe as having an inner belief system,” Wallace notes. Although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, she cautions that “spirituality is not religiosity, which is often more organized, and may be church-based.” UBC Reports, Vol. 54, No.2, Feb. 7, 2008.
- Children become highly programmed. As a result, at an early age they begin to exhibit the signs of stress and anxiety that plague adults in our society.
- Children need down time to discover the world in their own ways. They need to bury each other in the sand; build tree forts without having to take a 6 week how-to program; play dress-up; lie on the ground and stare up at the clouds, swim outdoors; collect sea shells and rocks; etc.
- Children need unstructured time with each other and with the adults in their lives to play games; imagine; read stories and poetry; explore; laugh and create.
- Extraordinary opportunities for learning and growing are lost when we structure every moment of a child’s life.
- Part of nurturing a child’s spirit involves simply being together as families and communities. “God is in the in-between spaces.”
Minister with Children, Youth and Families
Dunbar Heights United Church