Teach by example
Tiffiany Dodson and her husband, Tom, of Lancaster, PA, focus on teaching their daughter, Mallory, 4, about the Golden Rule: "Treat others as you would like to be treated." So last Christmas, they "adopted" a needy family with a 1-year-old girl. Dodson helped Mallory pick out some of her own clothes and toys to give to the family to remind her of the need to help others who are less fortunate, she says.
Lean on your spiritual beliefs in hard times
When a grandparent or a pet dies, when a natural disaster hits, when your child encounters something unfair--all of these are opportunities for your child to turn to a higher power or connected universe for comfort. "In our family, we talk to our angels when we are upset," says Rebmann. "I've taught my kids to ask their angels about problems they have and to trust their own 'inner ears' when the angels talk to them."
As for Andrew Park, the religion-free dad living in the middle of the Bible Belt, he and his wife are still struggling with how to approach their kids' spiritual education. The parents talk with their children about issues of faith when they come up in stories and movies; they broached the topics of heaven and an afterlife when the kids' grandparents died; and they attend Christmas Eve church services every year as a family holiday tradition. "We've also visited a couple of different churches and taken the kids along. But as for actually joining a church--that's way too hard for us," says Park. "We're still sort of fumbling around in the dark, like many parents we know."
And as with all aspects of parenting, fumbling is perfectly okay and expected, says Rabbi Sasso. Teaching kids about spirituality isn't about doing it perfectly or finding the "right" church. "It's more about asking deeper questions with your children and letting them see people living out their lives with meaning," says Rabbi Sasso. "All parents can do that."