According to recent neurological and psychological research, if you want your children to be happy, positive individuals who are resilient in the face of trauma, you should raise them with “healthy spiritual habits.”
Given recent statistics that show up to 25% of 13- to 18-year-olds are plagued with anxiety disorders, even the most non-religious parents should heed to this advice.
Columbia University psychologist and author Lisa Miller explains that there is a direct link between fostering a child’s spirituality and the neurological development of both intuition and perception during the challenging teen years. As a result, she advises parents to foster a strong spirituality in their children:
“We can see the crisis in the making when spiritual development is neglected or when a child’s individual spiritual curiosity and exploration is denied,” she wrote. “In a culture where often enormous amounts of money, empty fame, and cynicism have become toxic dominant values, our children need us to support their quest for a spiritually grounded life at every age.”
While community-based practices are edifying, the home is the primary source through which a child learns about God:
Spiritual traditions in the home are also important. Research shows that family-based practices, such as bedtime prayers, family Bible studies, lighting Shabbos candles on Friday nights, and celebrating religious holidays, have an even greater impact on a child’s spirituality than time spent at Sunday school, youth group, catechism classes or other faith-based group programs.
In other words, kids develop a healthy relationship with God through individual interaction, first with their parents, and also with extended family members and community groups. Don’t think you’re going to chalk your kid’s faith off to a teacher or an app. It’s one thing to decide not to join a church or a synagogue, but it’s an entirely different thing to raise your child in a home without God:
The kids whose parents regularly attended religious services—especially when both parents did so frequently—and talked with their kids about religion were rated by both parents and teachers as having better self-control, social skills and approaches to learning than kids with non-religious parents.
But when parents argued frequently about religion, the children were more likely to have problems. “Religion can hurt if faith is a source of conflict or tension in the family.”
Parents should be careful not to confuse or replace a personal relationship with God with organized religion or religious practice. Another recent study concluded that while children’s participation in a religious community edified their moral core, it is their personal connection to God that makes them truly happy.