The Spirituality of Parenting

Speaking of Faith, public radio’s conversation about religion, meaning, ethics, and ideas, is one of my favoriteRabbi Sasso says that children have an innate wonder and a natural sense of the divine. podcasts. The host has my ideal job. I would love to get paid to talk to great minds about the Big Questions and how various various religious traditions have tried to approach answering them.

They just replayed one of my all-time favorite episodes, The Spirituality of Parenting. The featured guest is Rabbi Sandi Sasso of Congregation Beth-El Zedec in Indianapolis.

This is an episode that really spoke to me. Rabbi Sasso speaks far beyond her own faith tradition and affirms that parenting is a very spiritually challenging task, partly because children seem to be born with an innate wonder and a sense of God. One of the most interesting tidbits I picked up was that research confirms that children have an idea about God—whether or not their parents have explicitly taught them about their own views of the divine—by the age of five.

A lot of the questions children ask are the very questions that we still struggle with (which is why we have a tendency to dismiss them), but she emphasizes that the key to nurturing your child's mind is to have the conversation, explore the questions—don’t worry about not having pat answers.

She actually also really affirms trying to raise your child within a faith community and tradition, although she recognizes that often people have extremely negative religious memories and don't want to inflict that on their own children. I loved a part where she talks about realizing that we also help to define a religious tradition—we aren't just descendants of a tradition, we are its ancestors too. That’s a powerful challenge to me, especially given my complicated relationship with my heritage faith.

We ordered Sasso’s book, God's Paintbrush, which is one of the books we heard an excerpt from on this show. If you're wanting any material like this for the children in your life, let me pass on that it's really great (it's endorsed by Protestant, Catholic & Jewish religious leaders). The first time I read it, I cried (although with all of the extra hormones I’ve had in the last year, I can say that about a lot of things!).

The book has observations and thoughts on God and then asks questions about God that the child can answer. Lily’s not ready for this chat yet, but it seems like a great way to have a dialogue with kids about matters of the spirit. I'm still getting used to age ranges, but I'd say this is ideal for kids in the 3-7 age range.

Here's one of my favorite pages, to give you a taste of the style:


My class went on a hike the other day.

We climbed to the top of a mountain,

and I shouted H-E-L-L-O!

I heard a voice call back


It sounded just like my voice--

only far away.

My teacher said the sound I heard

was an echo.

It was fun to hear our own voices--

we kept calling out, and the sound

from space kept calling back.


I wonder what God's voice sounds like.

            Is it deep and gruff?

            Is it soft and gentle?

            Is it loud or quiet?

I think, God keeps calling out and maybe

we are the sound that calls back.

            Maybe people are God's echo.


How are you God's echo?

What does God call us to do?

You can download or stream the podcast here. For parents who want to nurture the natural spirituality of children, Sasso has a list of recommended books