Families, communities, and nations are stronger when children and youth are taught about religion and assisted in developing their own spirituality. When children and youth understand that there is a God in heaven who loves them, they develop spiritual and emotional strength to deal with the things in this world.
Alice G. Walton, in an interesting article titled “Raising Kids With Religion Or Spirituality May Protect Their Mental Health: Study,” shares the results of a new study from Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The team of researchers was curious about the effect of religious services on children and teens and if the religious experiences affected their health and mental health in later years. The youth were followed for a period of time from eight to fourteen years.
It turned out that those who attended religious services at least once a week as children or teens were about 18% more likely to report being happier in their 20s than those who never attended services. They were also almost 30% more likely to do volunteer work and 33% less likely to use drugs in their 20s as well.
But what was interesting was that it wasn’t just about how much a person went to services, but it was at least as much about how much they prayed or mediated in their own time. Those who prayed or meditated every day also had more life satisfaction, were better able to process emotions, and were more forgiving compared to those who never prayed/meditated. They were also less likely to have sex at an earlier age and to have a sexually transmitted infection.
“These findings are important for both our understanding of health and our understanding of parenting practices,” said study author Ying Chen. “Many children are raised religiously, and our study shows that this can powerfully affect their health behaviors, mental health, and overall happiness and well-being.”
I found it interesting that the study found that there was a difference between just attending religious services and praying/meditating on one’s own. This supports what I have learned personally and in observing other people. One can attend religious services every Sunday and never have a personal spiritual experience. It is by personally praying, studying the scriptures, meditating/pondering the truths found in the scriptures, etc. that we have spiritual experiences. It is the connection with the Spirit that helps us overcome temptations and leads to joy and happiness.
Children and youth who learn to find their own spiritual answers in prayer, scriptures study, and personal revelation are better prepared to face the rigors of the world. Therefore, they are happier, stronger against temptations, and more willing to help other people. Spiritually strong children and youth help to strengthen their family, community, and nation.