Children’s spirituality & faith development

St Nicholas Early Education

The social doctrine of the Church highlights the need to respect the dignity of children. Saint Pope John Paul II, in his apostolic exhortation, Familiaris Consortio (FM) reminds us that “special attention must be devoted to children by developing a profound esteem for their personal dignity, and a great respect and generous concern for their rights”.

As Catholics we believe that children are educated in dialogue, encounter, sociality, legality, solidarity and peace, through the cultivation of fundamental virtues of justice and charity (FM).

St Nicholas Early Education also recognises children’s spirituality which is “inherently mysterious...it is not just about extra-ordinary or exotic experience”; and “spirituality is often – and most obviously for young children – manifested, and enhanced, within everyday experience”.

Young children’s spiritual development is increasingly recognised and acknowledged to be as an equally important aspect of their wellbeing, as are their personal, physical, intellectual, social, and emotional developments.

The Christian tradition has always understood that different levels of spiritual awareness. The noted theologian, James Fowler, identified seven "stages" or types of faith in his 1981 book Stages of Faith and said that these stages tend to emerge as individuals grow and mature.  

There are really two stages of development for child at St Nicholas Early Education.  

The first stage of a child’s faith formation, which occurs from birth to around age three, is referred to as primal faith.  

It is the basis for future development in a young child's faith formation and sets the foundation for the more conscious and intentional faith. Young children develop a fundamental understanding of the environment around them and learns whether the people and thing around them are good or bad, trustworthy or not, pleasant or painful. This enables them to eventually understand that they are cared for.

The second stage is known as imaginative faith.  

This is when children can believe many things and it tends to be the magical and imaginative. Imaginative faith develops as an intuitive and non-rational response deriving from what a child feels, has learnt and is starting to think.  The trusted adults around the child transfer some of this to the child. This stages helps children to later believe the sacred mysteries which are not proven in a material sense.

St Nicholas Early Education nurtures both these stages of children. Our trusted carers provide opportunities for children to explore their world, as they gradually develop through the non-critical and beautifully naïve stage of childhood. 

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