Spiritual parenting: nurturing the soul and character of our children


Rev. Dr. Dave Holmes – Team Minister at Knox

By Dave Holmes

Welcome to Knox United Church’s social-media support system for spiritual parenting!  Since this is the first post, let me introduce what we’ll be doing here.  It will probably change – we’re learning as we go.  But here’s where we’ll start.

In each post we’ll have a section called “The Big Picture.”  In parenting, we’re often so busy that we get lost in details and just getting to the end of our too-long lists.  So in this section, we’ll climb up to the balcony and try to get some perspective, to remember the essentials, what’s most important.

We’ll offer some practices in each post as well – practical things you can do with your kids to nurture their souls.  This section is all about building up your own toolbox and generating ideas and creativity.  Feel free to send us ideas, add or refine in the comments.

Finally, we’ll suggest some links.  After all, we’re not the only ones looking at spiritual parenting!  So we’ll try to connect you with a larger family, so you know what else is out there.

Let’s begin with a blessing:  May you grow in faith together with your children, experiencing the love and grace of God in your daily lives.  May you find wonder and depth in yourselves, and in the world around you.  Good times or troubled times, may everything be turned to blessing for you and your family.  And may your children grow characters that are strong, and grounded in God.

The Big Picture: soulfulness in a consumer culture

It is so easy for us to live our lives near the surface, forgetting the depths of soul.  Particularly when children are young, we are busy!  We go from task to task, and finish the day before we finish our list.  We can spend our time satisfying rather superficial wants by going out and buying things, or experiences, services.  Sometimes we want to ignore our depths, because there is pain there!  Other times we simply forget, caught up in the rush.  But we all have depth, spirit, soul.  The richest moments in our lives are when we touch the depths in a moment of beauty or clarity – and when our depths and our surface lives are aligned, when what we do is “good for our soul.”

Our children also have a surface and a depth.  But it is a challenge for us as parents to see their depth, because when they are very young, they don’t have the vocabulary to put it into words.  When they reach teenage they may have the words, but they will often stop talking to us, reverting to single-word responses or emotional outbursts.

“Spirituality is the base from which grow self-esteem, values, morals, and a sense of belonging.  It is what gives life direction and meaning.”  (Doe and Walch, 10 Principles of Spiritual Parenting, p.x).  It might be difficult for us to see “the depths” in our children, but what happens down there is of tremendous importance.

And children are born with soul!  They are not born as “blank slates,” but with unique personalities that are almost instantly discernible.  My own two sons were obviously different, and showed it within hours of birth.  Each one has their own gifts and interests and personality.  My spouse and I didn’t “form” their character, we discovered it over the years.

How do we parent so that the true character of our children can shine forth from the depths, and be honoured and respected in our family circle?  How can we parent such that our children develop the connection with God with which they are born?
Practices:  bedtime prayers

How we begin and end our waking day can be significant.  We would often sing our children to bed, with this song (the tune is, I think, “Taps”):er

Day is done
Gone the sun
From the hills, from the lakes, from the sky
All is well! Safely rest.
God is nigh…

In my later years I have learned a practice that I wish I had done with my children!  It is an Ignatian or Jesuit practice (adapted) called the examen.  Basically it is a way to look over the day to see if we can discern where God has been present, and how we have responded to God.  You might ask your children:

What happened today that was special for you?

At any time today, did you sense that God was near?

Did anything happen today that was disturbing for you?

Then you can end with simple prayers of thanks or blessing.  Perhaps both you and your child can pray!

Do you have other ideas or practices for night prayers?


We didn’t start this blog in time to begin the season of Advent, but here are a couple of links to Advent practices.  One is the website of High River United Church, where you can also find parenting resources.  The other is a fun Facebook story of some Lego wise men and their camel, journeying towards Bethlehem day by day.

  • www.highriverunitedchurch.org  Look for the minister’s blog, and “adventures in faith and family.”
  • Go to your Facebook page (or start one, they’re free) and search for “Wandering Wisemen.”  “Like” and/or “follow” the page and you should see each day’s post.  It’s fun!
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