These are not easy days for parents. Children are being raised in a society saturated with violence and cynicism and often too little emphasis on ethics.
At the same time, parenting has become for many a seemingly endless marathon of soccer practices, birthday parties, ballet lessons and doctor's appointments.Parents are under increasing pressure to try and raise "perfect" children, giving them every advantage, so that they can grow into sucessful, happy adults.
But too many parents are missing what local author Mimi Doe believes is a key to childhood - spirituality. All children have it, says Doe, co-author of a just-released book, "10 Principles for Spiritual Parenting." The problem is not enough parents take steps to cultivate their child's spirituality.
"We don't have much to say about the world we send our kids out into, but we can control the kind of home we create," said Doe, sitting in the living room of her gray colonial home on a tree-lined street in Concord, Mass.
She is taking a break from scrolling through the dozens of e-mails she receives daily from parents seeking spiritual advice. Doe, who co-wrote the book with her mother, Marsha Walch, a psychotherapist in Mississippi, is the family spirituality specialist for the Moms on Line Internet site maintained by America Online.
Not surprisingly, Doe has her own Web site (www.pink-bubble.com).
"All children begin life with an innate sense of wonder about their world," Doe and Walch write. "God is as real to them as Mommy and Daddy. We, as parents, can foster this precious state of being with our words, actions and attention. Where there is wonder, there is spirituality."
Doe, who travels across the country giving workshops on children and spirituality, says lessons about God or spirituality shouldn't be relegated to the brief time spent worshiping in a church or a temple.
"Spirituality is not the dogma of organized religion, although organized religion provides a great deal to nurture a child's soul," Doe and Walch write.
Spirituality, Doe argues, is hard to find in television videos, computer games, the latest battery-operated toy or any of the other high-tech gizmos with which children are surrounded.
Instead, it can be found in something as simple as taking "10 minutes to delight with your toddler on the spider web in the corner of the room instead of rush-ing off to the next event," said Doe, 39, who received a master's degree in education from Harvard University.
The 10 principles suggested by Doe and Walch, detailed with anecdotes and tips in separate chapters, are:
- Know God cares for you. Help children make connections with their own personal higher power.
- Trust and teach that all life is connected. Show children that everything - from a blade of grass to a skunk - has a purpose.
- Listen to your child. Children can tell parents things parents once knew but have forgotten, Doe said.
- Words are important; use them with care. Understand the power of positive words.
- Allow and encourage dreams, wishes, and hopes. Hopes are a child's seeds of desire, Doe notes.
- Add magic to the ordinary. Parents should become infused with their children's natural sense of enchantment.
- Create a flexible structure. Children need structure and creative freedom to thrive.
- Be a positive mirror for your child.
- Release the struggle. Worries can overwhelm parents trying to shield their kids from trouble.
- Make each day a new beginning.
"Spirituality is the base from which grow self-esteem, values, morals, a sense of belonging," Doe and Walch write.
Doe, who has two daughters, Whitney, 10, and Elizabeth, 8, said a spiritual approach to parenting has enriched her own family's life.
"This is not just one more project that parents have to take on," Doe said. "Any parent can adapt whatever feels comfortable to their lifestyle and incorporate it into their time schedules. But this really can tap into a child's soul and provide a wonderful opportunity for being spiritually alive - for children and for parents."