I just received a comment on my post on Buddhism and raising children from a friend in my sangha. It's worth reading in full, so here it is.
“It does seem a bit strange to me that a lot of Buddhist parents seem skittish about talking directly with their kids about their own spiritual life. I don't understand that. It doesn't matter to me if you call it Buddhism or mindfulness or whatever—but passing on the teachings is important in my opinion, and it can't be done by just loving our children in my opinion.”
Related to this, I heard a sangha member speculate that the present aimlessness of her grown children resulted from her failure to provide a spiritual framework for them as they grew up. (I presume she came to Buddhism later.)
The same regret nags me. I felt I had nothing to offer my children spiritually. I myself was struggling to find meaning in life and did not wish to contaminate them with my deep doubts. I struggled to "figure it out" so that I could pass on to them what I had found. Funny thing: it turns out there's nothing to figure out. Too late.…
We haven't heard from our oldest son in ten years. I try to soothe myself with the fantasy—and I have at least some evidence to support this hypothesis—that, like the prince who leapt over the palace wall, he's on his own spiritual quest. Anyway, this is better than thinking that he's into something harmful to himself and others. So I think Nathan's right—just loving our children isn't enough.
About a week ago I was engaged in conversation with a group that included a brother and sister (maybe 13 and 16 years old) who are growing up with Buddhist teachings. Their emotional maturity amazed me, even humbled me. It seems to me they're on the right path. Learning how our minds work does not to me equate with indoctrination.
For an idea of how children's practice works at Clouds in Water Zen Center, check out past issues of the Dewdrop Digest.
For those of you interested in learning a little more about how a sangha approaches working with children, check out the link above to the newsletters. You'll get an idea of the topics my zen center covers with children, as well as the practices we work with together. And if you're a skeptic, check it out anyway. Never hurts to learn what others are doing.
*The image above is an example of the artwork component featured in Clouds in Water Zen Center's children's classes.