How cool was it to hear President Obama reference Hindus and non-believers in his inaugural remarks? You know how many Presidents have done that before? That's right: zero.
I don't consider myself religious but I'm not sure I consider myself a non-believer either. I consider myself "still figuring it out." Lots of moms I know struggle not only with how to introduce religion to their children but also whether they should in the first place. It's become almost cliched to explain "I consider myself spiritual but not necessarily religious"--something I have been guilty of saying, regardless of the fact that I try not to say the word "spiritual" as a rule, if only because it conjures up this crystal I insisted on wearing in the eighth grade. My parents strove to expose me and my sister to all the religions of the world--a sort of Encyclopedic approach to the topic--which is the way I thought I would like to raise my kids. Neither my husband nor I consider ourselves particularly "religious," and, amongst the myriad things I have on my "Let's Worry About This" list, the place of religion in my kids life has never made a cameo. However, this new study makes the case that your children will actually be happier if you raise them with some concepts of spirituality. And who doesn't want happy kids?
The interesting thing about the study is that it makes a clear distinction between "religious practices" (think: going to temple, praying, meditating) and "spirituality." Religious practices, the study says, are not predictors of "happier" children. Spirituality is.
I was dubious. (It's that word--"spirituality"--it just conjures up too many hackey-sack playing wannabe Robert Thurmans I have met). And I wasn't really won over by the finding that "the study shows that children who feel that their lives have meaning and value and who develop deep, quality relationships — both measures of spirituality, the researchers claim — are happier." Sounds like proving your point with a bunch of platitudes to me--who says that feelings of meaningfulness and deep relationships are indicators of spirituality? Aren't there myriad secular ways to show your children meaningfulness, and to foster deep relationships?
But this got me thinking:
"Enhancing personal meaning may be a key factor in the relation between spirituality and happiness," the researchers stated. Strategies aimed at increasing personal meaning in children — such as expressing kindness towards others and recording these acts of kindness, as well as acts of altruism and volunteering — may help to make children happier, Holder suggests."
Again, it seems conclusory to label such practices as "spiritual." Then again, if you think of "spiritualism" as some sort of moral compass--something that guides us in our never-ending quest to make our children good people--then the construct starts to work for me.
What do you think? Are you raising your children "religiously"? "Spiritually"? Do you think there is a difference?
(Thanks to Dhrumil and his rawness for showing me this study)