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6 ways to teach your child about spirituality

6 ways to teach children what spirituality is

For some people religion and spirituality are synonymous, but regardless of whether you have a faith based in a religion, or in wider spirituality, teaching children that everyone can have spirituality regardless of whether they believe in a god is important.

Spirituality is often confused with spiritualism, which can of course be part of some people’s spirituality. Sprituality is also sometimes assumed to be something those who don’t believe in a god don’t have.

When my mum died she had a humanist ceremony and it was full of meaning, joy and spirit and it finally helped me to see what spirituality meant to me. I don’t always get it right and it can be hard to teach something you are discovering for yourself, but here are six ways I have found to teach your child about spirituality.

Describe your family spirituality to your children, let them own it

Family mottos, sayings or collages of important beliefs have become a trend in interior design, but with good reason. Declaring your family’s beliefs and values can teach your child about spirituality and help them verbalise it.

Just as an atheist can struggle to find the words to describe religion, describing a spirituality that isn’t based in religion can be a challenge. My own spirituality took a long while to define, I don’t believe in god, but atheism always seemed like an absence not just of god, but like a kind of vacuum of beliefs, values and spirit too.

Children who aren’t raised to be religious can feel that they are missing out by not going to church or calling themselves a particular religion, I know I whined to my parents endlessly about not being christened, mainly because I was teased about it at school – but often it is just a case of explaining what families have and believe and celebrate in place of religion.

When my daughter asks about ‘not being christened’, instead I will tell her long stories about the processions of people who turned up to greet her, I will show her the cards they sent and the twinkly diamond necklace my best friend gave her, a star to guide her through life. My son already loves to unpack his baby box and talk about the photos, socks and hats.

Find your happy places

The first time I encountered the word spirituality I was training to teach, my mentor was leading a PSHE session with a GCSE group. He defined his spirituality as at is strongest when he was in nature. It was a bit of a lightbulb moment for me. I realised being outdoors really made me feel in tune with the world. I’ve gathered more since, staring at the stars always helps me to realise that I am just a tiny piece of the universe and that my problems might seem huge, but they aren’t really, not in the big scheme of things. Spending time gardening with my kids is one way that I encourage them to value nature, whereas my husband likes to talk to them about Space and the universe.

Ask questions

I think its important to raise children to be inquisitive, to have questions and to be philosophers, one of the best ways to do that I find is to model asking lots of questions. Visiting places that encourage questions about the world, museums, historical sites, exhibitions can keep their minds wondering and encourage them to ask more questions.

Model emotions and positive thoughts

Talk to children about what is going on inside your head too, its incredibly powerful for them to gain these insights. From explaining you are feeling worried or sad, to telling them you are sending positive thoughts to someone, letting them hear how you think about others and care for them teaches them to have a caring spirit.

Donating to charity, fund raising and thinking about others is a big thing I try to model.

Create rituals

We do celebrate Easter and Christmas, they have largely become Christian festivals these days, but they haven’t always been that way. I make sure to explain to my children what different religions are celebrating at these times and to discuss what we are celebrating too. For me Easter is about new life and nature bouncing back. Christmas is a festival to see us through the darkest days of Winter and a time to really share with friends and family.

We have our own rituals too, from pizza Friday to the annual climb up the hill to the tree where my Mum’s ashes are scattered, to lighting a candle to signal the start of family time at the weekend, or retreating into nature without technology in our caravan. Big and small, rituals are a big part of defining a spiritual family life.


Books can take you to so many different places and help children understand other people’s perspectives and develop empathy. One of my favourites is the Soul Bird, by Michal Snunit, it’s a lovely story about how a bird processes different emotions.


How do you teach your child about spirituality, I am always on the hunt for new ideas?



  1. 09/06/2014 / 11:33 pm

    this is a very well thought out and informed post Penny. i have not had the conversation with my two yet about religion/god etc… yet although i know it will come up soon x

  2. parentshaped
    11/06/2014 / 10:42 am

    It normally comes up when you least expect it I find! Good to have some tricks up your sleeve 🙂

  3. 23/06/2014 / 1:50 pm

    I love this post!

    I am in no way religious (I find many religions are far too dogmatic and restrictive) however I do consider myself to have a very firm spirituality. That doesn’t mean I always know what it is that I believe exactly, but I do have beliefs. My biggest concern is finding a way to explain to O that just because mummy and daddy have certain beliefs doesn’t mean he has to have them too, you know? I’m helped in this a fair bit that whilst TJ and I have similar beliefs we do differ a fair bit too. TJ like rituals a lot more than I do – he recently completed a 4 week shamanic practitioner course and spent the weekend at a Summer Solstice gathering. I, however, prefer much simpler things, like getting out in nature, singing and writing.

    I feel most closely connected to Unitarians but we don’t have a church nearby and I just cannot bring myself to go to a church when I don’t agree with the basic principles of Christianity. But I do miss the community aspect (I wasn’t brought up Christian, I explored it when I first left home) and wonder how we provide that for O. We went to Pagan Pride a couple of years ago but again we’re not fully Pagan either. We strike our own way forwards and I enjoy that. When O was 7 months old we held a personal blessing for him in Chalice Well Gardens in Glastonbury on Beltane (during a quiet moment) with just me, TJ and one friend. TJ’s sister was pretty annoyed we didn’t invite her, but for us it was personal and needed to be done with someone who honoured our spirituality, not having to explain that to the staunch atheists in the family who don’t think we should have any belief. (Although we did get family and friends to help lead a wedding blessing ceremony I wrote for us, it just felt different doing such a big thing again for O, like it needed to be more intimate for him somehow).

    If you came into my house you’d probably be surprised by how much we have about. For instance, I just made a feature wall in the living room with a nature poster surrounded by paintings for each of the 8 pagan holidays. I want this to be very prominent for O growing up – that life continues in a cycle and that we can celebrate the changing of the seasons in nature just as we can celebrate the changes in the seasons in our lives. One book he loves is about a beech tree who loses his friend the oak tree in a storm and he is so sad he loses all of his leaves… but the green man comes and plants an acorn and a new oak tree grows. It is so simple but such a great way to introduce the concept of death to a child and how those people we lose are gone but new people always come into our lives.

    Talking of books – one of the things I find most helpful is reading a wide variety of books. I read religious books and I read books by atheists and I read theology books (not all the time, that’s pretty hard going!) I find it helpful to know more about what people believe and why they believe it as this helps me not only to develop my own spirituality but also to know I have a basis from which to answer any questions O may bring up. Whilst I certainly do believe in God (though not in the judgemental fatherly figure way at all!) I agree with atheists an awful lot more than I do with a lot of religious folk – and that can be super confusing, to say the least.

    I think, whatever you do, you have to live your life the way that is best for you and your family. You can guide your children through your own actions, just as you described. They will always have questions and there will always be times when they ask why they are different to so-and-so but being true to yourself is much more important than trying to take an easy option and going with the flow – and if you can show your kids this through the way you live your life then you’re doing a fantastic job!!

    (Sorry for the super long comment!!)

    • parentshaped
      25/06/2014 / 12:38 pm

      Sorry I just discovered this, I am only just getting used to having people read this blog as well as A Residence. I am really interested in what you have to say, especially yet bit about art work. I know I make an effort to bring art and nature into the home and to take my kids to the theatre because I think experiencing theatre is one of life’s important collective rituals which goes back to ancient times. you have really got me thinking, thank you for the super long and super comment! Made my day finding it today. I often find myself fascinated by Paganism, many of the pagan rituals got appropriated by other religions and the whole nature thing appeals.

  4. 25/06/2014 / 1:32 pm

    Oooh I can totally see how you would be fascinated by Paganism… it is so diverse and as you say an awful lot of the original Pagan holidays and rituals were appropriated by other religions! What amazes me is that they try so hard to deny this… why not celebrate the things that bring us together?

    I think with your love of theatre you might actually enjoy Pagan Pride… it’s held in Nottingham each year and when we went they had a storyteller and it was amazing, sitting and just listening to him. He was dressed almost like Jack Sparrow, which was a bit surreal but also really inspiring – he felt comfortable enough to do this!

    In fact you would probably love any pagan celebration as the modern ones are full of theatre which everyone can get involved in – it is truly a community event. When we were in Glastonbury for Beltane it was like being part of a family despite not knowing anyone. People sung and danced and just celebrated together – it was so magical. Later that evening I sat by the Chalice Well itself and sang amazing Grace (the only song I could think of that I could sing without music ha!) to O who chimed in as babies do… after we finished a lady came across and thanked me for letting her be a part of it! For me it was just returning the favour of a couple who came into the White Well and sang amazing hymns in Hebrew when we were there, allowing their song to echo around the walls. You can’t describe these things, unless you experience them. I was always too shy as a child to enjoy drama and music but I see the joy in O as he discovers his voice and that he can move his body in certain ways and I do hope we can encourage that in him.

    Anyway, before I go on for too long again, have you seen Project Wild Thing? I blogged about it recently – about swapping screen time for wild time, which seems pretty apt after your post on split-screen viewing yesterday! You might really enjoy looking into that too 🙂

    And if you do put some more artwork up in the house, do share!! I’ll have to try and take photos of the things we have up. Or you could pop round for a cuppa some time. It’s a shame I can’t drive over to see you as I’d have loved a proper chat xx

    • parentshaped
      29/06/2014 / 9:16 am

      I love your pictures, just seen them on instagram. I am looking forward hugely to the Project Wild Thing area at Camp Bestival, I met the guy who mad the dil last year and it all sounded fascinating.

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