How Can Spirituality Affect Your Family's Health?
Research shows, for example, that children who have positive active relationships to spirituality are 40 percent less likely to use and abuse substances, and have 60 percent less depression than other teenagers. There are also differences in the brain structure.
Lisa Miller , director of Columbia University's Clinical Psychology Program, draws on that research, combining it with her personal observations, in her new book " The Spiritual Child: Spirituality, she tells host Robin Young, refers to the child's relationship to a higher power, whether that be nature, God, the universe - even a tree.
The key is that the force has a guiding and active place in the child's daily life.
She also cautions that religion without spirituality can have an opposite and negative impact. Children come to believe they are no better than their last success and suffer a sense of worthlessness when there is loss or even moderate failure. Where love is conditional on performance, children suffer. What we have learned is that children are born with an innate capacity for spirituality, just as they are born with the capability to learn a language, read and think.
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But just as it takes time and effort to develop the ability to speak or read, it also takes time and effort to develop our innate sense of the spiritual. A strong new body of science, developed during the last decade to what we now consider to be a level of certainty, demonstrates, first, that any sort of spirituality becomes a source of health and thriving for kids and, second, that the lack of spirituality in families and youth culture can be a big source of suffering.
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We have found that the natural spirituality of children and young people can be encouraged and fostered by such steps as meditation, prayer, or long walks in nature where a sense of transcendence can be engaged. Parents can demonstrate approval for and model such traits as caring for others, empathy or optimism. In contrast to the performance self, the spiritual self is sturdy and resilient, happy at a win, but not dependent on it to feel worthy as human being.
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In our excessively competitive culture, with often thin support for spiritual development, parents must actively work to help their children to a spiritual life. Spirituality is more essential to thriving and success than ability to perform. And when they achieve their goals — that better job, or that higher income — the studies show that well-grounded, spiritually engaged young people can actually feel fulfilled by their life choices.