Learning to be attentive to the spiritual aspects of life takes time and practice. From the time we are preschoolers, we are caught up in all the things that need to get done (however we define those things).
Western cultures teach busyness as a measure of ‘the good life’ and multi-tasking as an essential skill. It can be hard for children and adults to remember who we are and what our purpose in life is when we are always focused on getting to the next activity or life event.
One way to help children slow down and recall why they exist involves a simple act called practicing presence. Try the general version or a special Earth Day variation with children.
- Identify something that happens several times a day in a child’s life, such as a text alert, dog barking, handwashing, or logging on to a laptop/tablet. Let children decide which regular happening or activity to pick for a day or week. This is their cue.
- Decide on a short spiritual affirmation or prayer that they are comfortable saying several times a day. Keep it to 10 words or less. Examples: My life has purpose. Thank you, Holy One, for life. The world is an amazing place. Lord, have mercy. I will be joyful. We will overcome. For young children: Yay, world! I am good. God loves me.
- Ask them to say their affirmation or prayer each time they hear or enact their cue. They can speak it out loud or repeat it in their head.
- Encourage them to take a deep breath in and out after they say their affirmation or prayer to let their words sink into their body and mind.
- Check-in with them at the end of the day or week to talk about their experiences and decide whether to continue the practice, using the same or a different phrase.
Earth Day Variation
- Ask children to identify all the ways they encounter water on a typical day. Tell them that today, they are going to do something special each time they wash their hands, take a drink, walk through a puddle, or do anything else with water.
- Invite them to repeat the following spiritual affirmation after you: Water gives the earth life. [For young children: Water is good.] Or, invite each child to identify a way in which water is important to life on earth and to make that their spiritual affirmation for the day.
- Encourage them to say their statement about water (or the set affirmation) aloud or repeat it in their head whenever they encounter water throughout the day.
- Check-in with them at the end of the day to ask about how reminding themselves of the presence of water helps them to appreciate its importance in their lives.