Green Family Circle Luncheon and Lecture speaker and author of The Spiritual Child: The New Science on Parenting for Health and Lifelong Thriving discusses spirituality and her findings with The Horticultural Society of New York.
As a clinical psychologist your research into the spiritual development of children, adolescents, and families, has generated strong evidence that spirituality is part of our inherent biological nature and is foundational to thriving. In your new book, you not only synthesize the results of these studies but offer parents a pathway toward understanding the essential importance of promoting a spiritual life in their children. Why is this research so groundbreaking and why is it so important?
Models of child development have been essentially silent on the matter of spirituality in child and adolescent development, largely due to a lack of scientific research. With a relatively recent wave of rigorous science in top peer review journals, we now have a breakthrough wave of science that shows us: 1) children are born inherently spiritual, 2) this natural spirituality can be supported by parents and caring adults, and 3) if it is supported, it is the greatest source of resilience and thriving known to the medical or social sciences.
Just as the child is born with an innate social sense or cognitive ability, every child is born with a biologically based capacity for natural spirituality. This natural spirituality, if it is supported, is a tremendous resource for health and thriving. The research supports this: adolescents with a strong personal spirituality are 60% less likely to suffer from substance use and abuse and 80% less likely to engage in risky and unprotected sex than adolescents who are not spiritually oriented.
How would you define the science of spirituality?
Science is a way of seeing and testing, and an infinite range of topics can be regarded through its lens. We often look at a great force in terms of its impact, indirectly. For example, gravity– we cannot see gravity, instead we look at the expression or effects of gravity on objects or planets. The science of spirituality does the same. The science of spirituality examines the impact of spirituality on human thriving, health, and development by measuring the effects of spiritual life on the brain, our bodies, our health, and our relationships. The science of spirituality has shown there is a lifelong connection between spirituality and thriving. It has also shown that the essential foundation for spirituality is established in the first two decades of life.
The science of spirituality has shown there is a lifelong connection between spirituality and thriving. It has also shown that the essential foundation for spirituality is established in the first two decades of life.