A reassuring and instructive lesson in spiritual parenting that strives, but only partially succeeds, to cement the link between science and spirituality.
In this paradigm-shifting book on parenting, Miller (Psychology and Education/Columbia Univ., Teachers College) claims that spirituality exists innately in all human beings from infancy onward and that spiritual education is an important part of a child’s development. Emphatically, and repeatedly, describing research that correlates different levels of spiritual awakening with different developmental stages across cultures, Miller contends that spirituality is a universal experience. She carefully defines spirituality outside the confines of any particular religion, as “an inner sense of relationship to a higher power that is loving and guiding.” Many of the studies the author cites provide surprising and useful information. For example, the knowledge that spirituality correlates to lower rates of substance abuse, depression, and risky sexual behavior in adolescents can encourage parents to make important changes in their children’s spiritual lives. Some of the studies could be more open to interpretation, such as twin studies showing that an adolescent “surge” in spirituality is 52 percent attributable to purely genetic factors—though Miller does not advance alternative explanations. Ironically, the author’s focus on the science behind her theory takes something away from the engaging and deeply felt case studies and personal stories she shares in later sections. Unfortunately, she saves two particularly poignant examples—adolescents dealing with depression and sexual addiction—for the penultimate chapter. If the plights of Marin and Kurt had been introduced earlier, Miller could have established more emotional connection with her readers, who would then be more engaged with the science she presents.
New science or a leap of faith? Either way, nurturing spirituality in your children may save them a world of pain.