Those who work in fields pertaining to child development have long understood that healthy growth and development depend on holistically considering several aspects of human development. These facets include physical, social, emotional, behavioral, and cognitive among others. Many in this branch of study believe that science demonstrates an innate need for spirituality within all of us and that this instinctive spirituality is at the core of healthy development in young children.
Understanding how the science of spiritual development in early childhood demonstrates the potential to positively affect our children is pivotal to parents, teachers, and others in positions of influence within our communities. Children raised in environments that encourage a rich and thoughtful spiritual life tend to be happier, more optimistic, more thriving, more flexible, and better equipped to deal with the struggles we all face in life. A firsthand spiritual background may play a pivotal role of prevention when it comes to risks and temptations common among teenagers including engaging in unsafe sexual encounters as well as the propensity to abuse drugs or alcohol.
Attributes such as moderation and self-control are encouraged as a result of being in touch with one’s spiritual sides due to the importance placed upon the value of life. This consideration for the care of self, others, and the world itself teaches children the value of moderating and controlling their habits and behaviors in ways that usually contribute to healthy lifestyles rather that those that tend to be harmful or destructive.
A deep sense of spirituality creates recognition, within individuals, of a sacred meaning to all of life. This understanding contributes to a feeling of significance of self as well as of others. This includes a healthy view of self, a thoughtfulness, compassion, and empathy for others, and a fundamental consideration for the well-being of family and community. The implications of these views on the individual, family, and society as a whole cannot be underestimated.
The fostering of spiritual development during early childhood leads to the overall success of children in a myriad of ways as they mature. One way this is demonstrated is in the view that spiritual development encourages positive coping skills and methods of adaptation especially with respect to the negative incidents we encounter. These children exhibit a greater sense of resiliency as well as a more optimistic view of their futures. Their see their own struggles as opportunities for growth and self-improvement. In a like manner, they tend to view the adversities of others as an altruistic opportunity to serve those in need.
Spiritual development in early childhood also contributes to a deeper respect for authority figures. The ability to recognize the existence of a higher power teaches children to place themselves in a position conducive to yielding to proper jurisdictions with respect to the social hierarchies valued within in their cultures. This breeds an understanding of proper boundaries, fulfilling relationships, feelings of personal security, and an ability not only find their proper places in society but to relate to one another in ways that allow them to coexist in a healthy way.
Spiritual development, particularly in early childhood, often creates an atmosphere of morality that encourages healthy views of ethics and a strong sense of justice that motivates these individuals towards acts of kindness, compassion, and charity. This outlook promotes more positive understandings and considerations of the religious differences that often negatively impact our world. Healthy spiritual development in young children constitutes a salient function of peaceful interactions among those with religious dissimilarity.
More developed social skills, improved strategies to learning, feelings of personal responsibility, a stronger sense of faith, a penchant towards integrity and honesty, a preference for peace and humility, and overall feelings of gratitude and contentment seem to be attributes more akin to children whose spiritual needs are fostered during early childhood.
As parents, teachers, pastors, social workers, psychologists, and a host of others concerned with the health and well-being of our youth and their futures, it is imperative that we consider the implications of positively influencing the spiritual development of our children. Entering into honest conversations about our personal experiences, questioning our youth about their thoughts and feelings, paying attention to the ways they may be searching for understanding, and simply being available are steps that will go a long way in fostering a healthy spiritual development in the young children with whom we come in contact.