Learning the Language of the Spirit: 7 Teaching Tips for Parents
A lot of schools now have immersion programs where they literally immerse students into learning a new language by not allowing English to be spoken in the classroom for half of the day and teaching students core subjects, like reading and math, in that foreign language. Data shows that these students learn and understand the language quicker and, over time, become truly fluent. The reason? They spent years immersed in the language.
Learning to recognize the Spirit, or promptings from the Holy Ghost, is much like learning another language. In fact, in many ways, it is! Just like those language immersion programs, the more we and our children are immersed in situations where we’ll have opportunities to feel the Spirit, the more we’ll recognize it, understand it, and over time become “fluent” in it.
Teaching our children how to recognize the Spirit is one of the greatest gospel skills we can teach them. It’s through this skill that they’ll be able to receive answers to their prayers, build their testimonies, and be led to “the truth of all things.”
So, how do we do it? How can we effectively teach our children the language of the Spirit? Here are seven ideas shared by Sister Bonnie H. Cordon, who was the Second Counselor in the Primary General Presidency at the time when this episode of Gospel Solutions for Families was recorded.
Point Out Good Feelings
President Ezra Taft Benson once said, “When you do good, you feel good, and that is the Holy Ghost speaking to you.” What a simple, beautiful way to describe the Spirit. Teach that definition to your children. Have them share when they feel good and how that often correlates to a good choice. As they come to recognize good feelings and share them with you, you’ll be able to point out that these instances are examples of the Holy Ghost speaking to them.
Recognize Differences in Learning
All children are unique, so it’s no surprise that they all learn differently. Some are visual learners, some are hands-on learners, some are book learners, and so on. Because we all learn differently, the Spirit speaks to each of us differently, in a way that we can best understand. It’s not always a burning in the bosom, and it’s not always a still, small voice. If you have a child who is a visual learner, maybe having images of the Savior or temples in your home will help them to feel the Spirit. If you have a child who is a more hands-on learner, perhaps a visit to a Church history site or museum will help them to connect with the Spirit. To teach effectively, you need to understand how your children learn.
If you’re still trying to discover what kind of learner your child is, try this activity. In chapter 4 of the Preach My Gospel manual, there’s a Personal and Companion Study Activity that shares a list of how the Spirit communicates, along with examples from the scriptures. Go through the list and accompanying scriptures with your family. As they hear examples of ways the Spirit communicates, like “an idea that comes to mind” or “a feeling of peace,” they might come to discover that the Spirit communicates with them more than they think.
Recognize Your Child’s Spiritual Experiences
Recognizing the Spirit more in our lives comes as we actually recognize it more, meaning we talk about it. Give your child a voice in this process. When you sit down at the table, ask them, “How did you feel the Spirit today?” And don’t be afraid to ask them this question often. The more we ask them to think about their feelings and experiences, the more they’ll be able to better recognize where they’re coming from.
Share Your Own Spiritual Experiences
All of us learn from experience. And the more we vocalize and share when we feel the Spirit, the more our kids will learn from those spiritual experiences. When they understand that you’ve gone through the process of seeking the Spirit and following its promptings, they’re more likely to trust in the process and try it out for themselves. But they’ll never know unless you take the opportunity to share when spiritual experiences happen.
Capitalize on Teaching Moments
Sister Cordon shared an experience that turned into a teaching moment involving one of her sons. He couldn’t find a tie that he needed for a school picture, and he called her from school asking for her help in finding it. After having no luck finding it on her own, Sister Cordon dropped to her knees and prayed. The thought came to her to “look in the wash room.” She did but didn’t find anything. She prayed again, and again had the thought to look in the wash room. It was after her third plea to the Father that she really looked in the wash room and found the tie between the washer and dryer. She got the tie to her son, and she could have left it at that. But she didn’t. She used it as a teaching moment.
“When he came home I sat down and I bore my testimony to him about his tie and how the Lord did, through the Holy Ghost, help us find his tie,” said Sister Cordon. “Knock, and you’re going to receive that answer.”
Moments to teach our children happen all the time. It’s up to us to slow down and point them out to better show our children how God is in the details of our lives—even the seemingly insignificant ones—and how He often uses the Spirit to accomplish His purposes here on earth.
Establish an Environment That Invites the Spirit
All of us know that environment makes a difference in learning, and the same applies when learning the language of the Spirit. The more parents can do to create an environment that welcomes the Spirit, the better. Sister Cordon shared how playing soothing music on Sundays helped to keep a feeling of peace in her home. She also mentioned how daily scripture study and other good habits invite the Spirit to dwell not only in our hearts but also in our homes.
“Every home has its own set of rules,” she said. “Step back and ask, ‘What would set a positive tone for me?’” and then do it, because likely it’ll set a positive tone for the children as well.
Teach That the Spirit Can Speak to Us Anytime, Anywhere
While the ideal is to have homes where peace and order abide 24/7, we know that’s just not realistic. While establishing an environment where the Spirit can feel welcome is important, it’s important that children know that the Spirit can speak to us anytime and anywhere. So, if your home situation is not ideal, that doesn’t mean that the Spirit can’t still speak to you. Even though chaos may be all around you, you can have the Spirit because you can still be “quiet” inside.
“If you’re seeking good and you have a good intent, the Spirit is going to stay with you and keep guiding you,” Sister Cordon said. “Even if you stumble into a situation that might not be the best situation you should be in, the Spirit is going to help you leave, if you’ll listen to the promptings.”
Hear a personal story from Sister Cordon about how she learned this lesson at a party in Portugal, and hear her advice for parents who have children who have no interest in seeking or feeling the Spirit, by watching the full episode of Gospel Solutions for Families.
The language of the Spirit is just like any other language. The more we hear it, use it, and are immersed in it, the more we’ll understand it.
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