Inward & Outward Spirituality

With many sports, after-school activities, clubs, service projects, and in some cases, in-person school canceled, children currently have a lot of time to focus on their personal life. They have more time for solitude, inner reflection, and creative pursuits (art,  journaling, videography). These interior experiences help a child cultivate self-awareness and explore their identity. But it is possible to become too focused on one’s inner life, which can negatively affect a child’s spirituality.

If your child is withdrawing from social interactions, can’t see the point of activities that don’t align with their own interests, or can’t stop talking about how smart and creative they are, it might be a sign that they need to shift some of their attention to spiritual practices with an outward focus.

Outward practices of spirituality focus on interactions with the world to make it a better place. These practices help your child put their values into practice and experience firsthand what it means to work for social justice and communal peace. To encourage outward spirituality, explore practices such as:

  • Serving others (starting a neighborhood food drive for the local food pantry)
  • Caring for the world (cooking Meatless Monday meals)
  • Building community (making a lawn sign to encourage essential workers)
  • Seeking justice (write a letter to the school board in support of unisex bathrooms)

Alternatively, if your child is complaining about another trip to take canned goods for the local food pantry, seems more focused on getting kudos for planting trees than addressing climate change, or can’t stop crying about all the people who come to the shelter where you’ve been volunteering, it might be time to engage with more internal practices.

Inward practices of spirituality focus on interior self-awareness and cultivation. These practices help children feel grounded and create space for them to explore who they are and what they value. To encourage inward spirituality, explore practices such as:

Healthy spirituality flows between inward and outward spiritual practices. When inward practices become stale or self-serving, we turn to outward practices to temper self-absorption. Similarly, when outward practices become overwhelming or attention-seeking, we turn to internal practices to reorient our attitude and recharge. Being attuned to your child’s attitudes and activities can help you facilitate healthy movement between inward and outward spiritual practices.

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