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Five Ways to Cultivate Reverence In Your Family

I read an article that attributed the rise in teen suicide to a decline in religious practice in our country.

Now, I’m not sure I agree with that completely, and this isn’t a post about religion. But the point the author was making was the despair that adolescents feel when they lack connection to something deeper and more meaningful in this world leads them to suicide as the only option when they become ostracized by their peers.

Countless young people now live in a world without any real meaning; they feel there is nothing for them to believe in. Emotional numbness is one of the consequences. They no longer value themselves for their inherent worth and dignity as created by God; they no longer find self-worth in their efforts to lead lives based on truth and love. Instead, many of our young people look outside themselves for validation — to material goods and social feedback.

Teenagers are at a vulnerable and crucial point in their development in which they begin seeking acceptance from the outside world and largely their peers in addition to, and often in place of validation from their parents.

So while our reactions, as adults, to a harsh comment on social media is usually something that stings for a moment and then gets forgotten, it’s a crushing blow to the developing adolescent brain.

When teens grow up in a culture that prioritizes social interaction over genuine community, the cultivation of individual gifts, and respect for the natural world around us, we place them on a very slippery slope.

Many of us, myself included, are feeling a cultural obligation to reach out a hand for those losing their footing. We want to do something to transform the tragic circumstances our country’s teens find themselves dealing with. So, while belief in God or the Universe and including religious or spiritual practices in daily routines is an individual choice, the prioritization of affirming and reliable positive experiences that provide the dopamine fix the teenage brain requires would be a step toward solid ground.

What can we do?

Regardless of whether or not we identify ourselves as religious we can model a sense of reverence. The feeling of reverence has the power to connect us to a belief in something greater than ourselves.

Reverence is a key component in Waldorf education and is introduced with even the littlest children.

Waldorf Today informs readers that imitation is first and foremost in instilling a sense of reverence and gratitude in young children, which will ultimately set them up for a healthy and strong social and emotional development journey. 

Five Easy Ways to Cultivate Reverence In Your Family

Lighting a candle at dinner or before bed.

Family dinner or a bedtime routine can invoke feelings of reverence when they are connected to the simple act of lighting a candle. The candle gives the every day activity a focal point. It provides a beginning and an end to the time together which is a basic introduction to ceremonies and a simple way to symbolize the lights within us and around us. 

An easy song to sing while lighting the candle: 

(Tune of Row, Row, Row Your Boat)

Light, light, light the flame. 

Peaceful as a dove. 

Joyfully, joyfully, joyfully, joyfully

Fill the world with love. 

Saying a blessing before meals.

Blessing our food before eating can have connection to religious practice, but doesn't necessarily need to. Taking a few moments to think about the origins of the food and being grateful for the Earth's resources encourages mindfulness and gratitude which are building blocks of reverence. 

A simple Waldorf blessing:

Blessings on the blossoms. 

Blessings on the fruits. 

Blessings on the leaves and stems. 

Blessings on the roots. 

Taking care of the home.

Cultures around the world cultivate respect for their homes and environment by removing their shoes when they come inside. Being mindful of taking our time to keep things tidy and in order is not only good for the developing brain, but also establishes respect and reverence for the structures that provide us shelter. 

Set up a nature table. 

Designating a small place in the home to keep seasonally related natural items like stones, pine cones, or fresh flowers and purposefully spending a few minutes there every day lays the foundation for appreciation of the world around us. 

Meaningful birthday celebrations. 

Using our children's birthdays as an opportunity to reflect on their growth and celebrate the person they're becoming is extremely powerful for their self-worth. Make their favorite breakfast or set up a small table with some of their favorite things and pictures of them as they've grown. Respect and reverence for the greater world and their purpose in it will start with unconditional love for themselves. 

Whether it's lighting a candle or tidying up the home, by modeling reverence for our children they'll carry with them that sense of appreciation for the world into adulthood. They'll know they're a part of something greater and be clear in their purpose even if those around them have lost their way. 

 

What are the rituals or activities that evoke a feeling of reverence for you? Do you have ways you make the every day "sacred"?