I love this time of year! Being a school teacher means that for me January is often a time of reflection, renewing and preparation. I have always loved the space to contemplate my relationship with God, to spend time in prayer and rest and to develop an understanding of his guiding for the year ahead. I find myself questioning priorities and making new commitments.
This year, I am very aware of my growing children and how quickly the years pass. Our family is entering into a new era where our children are becoming more and more independent. It is a fun, exciting, challenging time that brings with it new skills to learn as parents. How do I make the most of these fleeting years before our children follow dreams of their own? How can I be a mum who encourages positive independent growth? How do I deal with my own confronting emotions and celebrate independent decision making? How do I cope with losing control?
I find myself reading articles about the typical stages of development. It reminds me a lot of my early years of parenting when I would appreciate the advice and humour offered through many texts regarding feeding, sleeping, physical growth, play. However, like then, I really haven’t come across any consideration of how as a mum, I might care for our children’s spiritual development. How do I encourage spiritual independence? Can I do more to foster mature spiritual growth?
When our children were younger, a priority was to engage in a family devotion together usually after dinner. We would read the Bible, discuss the reading, share thoughts, ideas and concerns and pray together. It was a special time of learning and growing for all of us. Our goal was to foster a love of God’s word, to provide an explanation of the choices we made, to encourage honest questioning and growth and to model a surrendering to God’s kingship. Looking back, this was so valuable in forming strong foundations of faith in the lives of our children.
However, as they have become older, we participate less often in family devotional time; usually sharing these during special celebrations or family events. Instead, we encourage our children do their own devotional time. If you walked in to our home on a weekday morning, you would most likely find us sitting around the breakfast table at some point, all on our individual devices. It probably looks like we are incredibly disconnected! However, most times we are each reading our devotion and may later chat about what we found surprising, confronting, encouraging or challenging. I think that it is important to foster independent responsibility and ownership in faith and my hope is that my children feel encouraged to develop their understanding of God and his word without feeling like it is a ceremonial ‘tick-a-box’ for the day. In that way, I try to be engaged and encouraging without being legalistic.
Gaining independence is so vital for our children, and yet, it can be a daunting time. As my children grow, God is teaching me to depend on him alone. So often my prayer is, “God, I can’t be there or do this for them right now, but I know you can! Protect them dear Lord - spiritually, physically, emotionally. Help them to know the strength of your presence with them, help them to be prayerful too and to rely on you. Help them to build a strong relationship with you, to know your word and live it out. Prepare them Lord for the plans you have for their lives so that they might live according to your will and purpose.”
I want to be deliberate in fostering independent spiritual growth in my children. For if we, ‘Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.’
So, if like me, you’re thinking about the year ahead and reflecting upon priorities, may I encourage you to consider how you too might foster spiritual growth in your children! And please, from a mum who is still learning, share any wisdom or insight that you have found helpful along the way!
Ladeane is wife to Adam, mum to Josh and Emma, a primary school teacher and author of Bible Bites - 365 Devotions for Aussie Families.