If you’ve ever spent time with young children, chances are you’ve heard this question: Why?
Why is the sky blue? Why do I have to go to bed now? Why can’t I go out with my friends? Why? Why? Why?
As a mother of four, I’ve heard this question a thousand times. But this past month, the question took on a more tender meaning when asked by my 4-year-old son with this context:
“Why did Grandpa die?”
“Why isn’t Grandpa coming back alive right now?”
“Why didn’t Heavenly Father answer my prayers to help Grandpa feel better?”
Death is not an easy thing to explain, especially when it’s unexpected. We teach our children that because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we will all live again. But for a 2-year-old, 4-year-old, 6-year-old, and 10-year-old who were used to seeing their grandpa in their house every day, this sudden separation seemed permanent. And the faith of seeing him again was questioned.
These tough “whys” got me thinking, but more importantly they got me praying. Through the Spirit, I came to recognize that these tough life experiences were just what I needed to teach my kids about the Holy Ghost—why they needed it, how they can learn to recognize it, and how they can claim its power every day.
Listen to Help Them Pinpoint Their Spiritual Promptings
I’ve found that more effective than any formal lesson is really listening to your kids and pointing out when something they say or do might be because of the influence of the Holy Ghost.
When I asked my kids if they’ve ever felt the Spirit, my 6-year-old said no, and my 10-year-old said, “Yes, at my baptism.” That was two years ago.
Sometimes when we teach the concept of the Holy Ghost, kids think its influence is reserved only for special occasions or when they have a big decision to make. They expect a “burning in their bosom,” a “voice of warning,” or a literal “still, small voice.” They don’t realize that a recurring thought, a feeling of comfort after they cry, or remembering something at just the right time are all ways that the Holy Ghost communicates too.
In general conference, Elder Larry R. Lawrence shared examples of how simple impressions not to yell, not to complain, and even the thought to clean your room can all be examples of feeling the Spirit. It’s anything that comes to our minds and our hearts and “challenges us to be better and to climb higher.”
When we talked about the definition in that way, my 6-year-old was able to see that when she chose to sit next to a girl on the bus who was sitting alone, she was feeling the Spirit. My 10-year-old was able to recognize that her thought to clean up without being asked to help her busy dad was a time when she felt and followed a prompting from the Holy Ghost. Even my 4-year-old has shared tender thoughts that I’ve helped him recognize were a result of him feeling the Spirit.
When he was worried about his grandma who was in the hospital, he said, “I would be happy if Grandma was with Grandpa again because then they would be together. But I would miss her really so much.” I was able to turn that sweet comment into a powerful teaching moment. Through tears, I was able to tell him that his knowing that they would be together in heaven was the Spirit testifying to him that death is not the end and that families can be together forever.
Our kids, even the really small ones, feel the Spirit more often than they might recognize. It’s up to us adults to really listen to them and be in tune enough to help them pinpoint spiritual promptings as they occur.
Share Your Spiritual Experiences
Our children are more apt to recognize the Spirit in their own lives when they hear examples from others.
With the recent passing of my grandfather and the hospitalization of my grandmother, I’ve cried a lot. And my kids have noticed. As hard as it’s been, I’ve also recognized God’s hand in it and have had confirmation that “all these things shall [be for our] experience, and … for [our] good” (D&C 122:7). Sharing those tender mercies with my children hasn’t made the trials go away, but it’s helped them to widen their perspective on life.
President Henry B. Eyring taught that “only through the Holy Ghost can we see … events as God sees them.” As I share my spiritual experiences, as we read examples in the scriptures, and as we watch inspiring Church media dealing with other difficult “whys” of life, I’m teaching my kids to focus on what they feel. As they do, the true teacher, the Holy Ghost, helps them to see things as they really are.
Help Them Understand the Power of Claiming the Gift of the Holy Ghost
Anyone can feel a prompting from the Spirit, but only those who have been given the gift of the Holy Ghost after baptism can have access to it 24/7.
I have only one child who has been baptized, and trying to teach her the importance of having the Holy Ghost as a constant companion has been difficult. She hears the word but doesn’t always understand it. It’s why I appreciated President Eyring’s talk “The Holy Ghost as Your Companion” so much.
President Eyring taught that while it’s important to have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost to be a teacher, guide, and comforter, the real power lies in what the Holy Ghost can help us become.
As we act on spiritual promptings, the Spirit will send us more impressions of what God would have us do, and as we do them, we become more like Him.
“When we accept that promise of having the Spirit with us always,” said President Eyring, “the Savior can grant us the purification required for eternal life, the greatest of all the gifts of God.”
I had never thought of the companionship of the Holy Ghost in that way. By changing the definition, my family is better able to understand the Spirit’s power and the necessity to live worthy of it every day.
The Holy Ghost is not a gift that is “nice to have.” It’s a “need to have” if we want to inherit eternal life. As we teach that truth to our children, over time they will come to recognize the Spirit’s power to change, its ability to answer the toughest “whys,” and the awesome blessing “to have the Spirit to be with us, not only now and then but always.”