Ever wonder what goes on in a child's mind? Or what they believe to be true about God, angels or the divine? Chatting with children often takes you down that mysterious rabbit hole full of sights, sounds and more than a simple understanding of spirituality. And just last week, Canadian researchers shared their findings that kids aged 8 to 12 that report believing in a "higher power" also report higher levels of happiness!
Spiritual Life of Children
Being a deeply spiritual (imperfect but spiritual) person I have taught children's dharma or Buddhist classes and firsthand discovered how deeply metaphysical, spiritual and imaginative children are day-to-day. Somehow seeing such evidence in scientific studies helps "make it real" for the greater population of academic scholars and scientists.
University of British Columbia researchers led by Mark Holder initially studied children in a relatively Christian community in BC but then just repeated his research (questionnaires) in New Delhi full of a mix of ethnicities as well as religious beliefs to discover the same findings - children who are spiritual (belief in something greater) report greater levels of happiness versus those that solely go to church or report a level of religiousness.
Such young children also seem to have a surprisingly sophisticated grasp of spirituality, and are happier for it. They differentiate between what it means to "go to a place of worship" regularly versus "believing in a higher power that watches over me." Such a conceptual difference is one that many adults today have trouble with separating.
Actual statistical numbers are strong too. Spirituality actually accounted for 8 to 17 percent of a child's sense of happiness per this study. Whereas money, gender or a parent's marital status (divorced, single etc) didn't even register 1 percent.
Link to Happiness
Children want to be happy. Parents want to raise happy children. Being able to foster a child's sense of happiness from an imaginative and scientific standpoint is making significant progress in this world. It enables us as leading-edge educators, parents and creators to craft programs that "plant the seeds" of lasting happiness in children.
Such seeds can be metaphorically planted in school systems as well as homes. One effort by myself is my book, 365 Perfect Things to Say to Your Kids, that has an entire section devoted to helping adults "say just the right thing" to nurture a child's connection to something greater (i.e. spiritual, art, nature).
Because it is this connection to "something greater" or a "higher power" that contributes to a child's sense of happiness. And ultimately "happiness is the meaning and purpose in life, the whole aim and end of human existance" as Aristotle stated.
© 2010 by Maureen Healy
Maureen Healy is the founder of Growing Happy Kids, and parenting author of 365 Perfect Things to Say to Your Kids.