Teaching Prayer as an Unaffiliated Parent

As I have shared with readers before, I am not a consistent religious attendee nor claim to be part of any specific religion. I have been known to attend church services and graduated from a Jesuit University, so I’ve had some insights to being religious. But for someone like me, that deem spirituality important but is not affiliated with a specific dogma – how do we pass along spiritual values?

For families that have religious affiliations, practices, or routines – these suggestions may compliment your beliefs or can simply be disregarded. My intention is not persuade or change what is already working for your family. Rather, I offer insight to families that may have struggled, with teaching a connection to a universal power without having a strong foundation in a religious community.

What has been evident by working in the Wellness and Wellbeing industry for over a decade at Mayo Clinic is that gratitude and mindfulness play a significant role in stress management, happiness, and resiliency. Prayer and/or meditation are powerful tools to navigate our increasingly complex world.

The short version of the prayer/meditation we do at our dinner table is:

“Thank you for all that I have, and help me make good decisions.”

This acknowledges gratitude and reinforces wise choices. It’s short, simple, and to the point. It can be prefaced with “Dear Lord” and completed with “Amen” for those seeking more religious connotations. We even get silly by allowing each of our children the chance to lead and include their own unique hand gestures for emphasis.

When thinking about teaching bedtime prayers for children, I looked up well known ones like: “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, and if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

What the heck is that!? That terrifies even me to think about dying while I sleep! I was not going to proceed with that one. I was already sleep deprived.

Instead, I made up my own that the children seem to enjoy:

Thank you God, for all you do,
Thank you for my health and family too,
All that I have is given to me,
Because when I look around, you’re all I see,
Your whispers guide me to do what’s right,
Thank you for today and tomorrow,
Good night.

Play with these ideas and come up with what works best for your family. I have found it extremely helpful for those inevitable times when our children experience fear as they learn more about the world and start to even question their own mortality. It provides a sense of comfort and gratitude and provides a reference in times of uncertainty. I’ve also found benefit for myself when experiencing these same emotions. When I teach my children, I too am comforted in mindfulness, gratitude, and the reinforcement of wise choices.

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