Stages of spiritual development.
In the Catholic Church, a sacramental church, the seven sacraments are provided at some of the major milestones of human development such as Baptism at birth, Marriage or Solemn Vows at the entrance to adulthood, and Last Rites at the time of impending death.
Other religions have their own traditions and customs in marking and providing ritualistic recognition and acknowledgment of major life transitions. In this, and subsequent articles, a brief description will be provided for each 7 year cycle as well as the developmental goal, and the activities which contribute to the achievement of that goal. Maturity can be thought of as achieving the developmental goal in each stage of the life cycle.
The first seven years the child is narcissistic. Here is how Osho describes this stage:
”For the first seven years a child is self-centered, as if he is the center of the whole world. The whole family moves around him. Whatsoever are his needs, they are to be fulfilled immediately; otherwise he will go into a tantrum, anger, rage.
He lives like an emperor, a real emperor—the mother, the father, all are servants, and the whole family just exists for him. And of course he thinks the same is true for the wider world. The moon rises for him, the sun rises for him, the seasons change for him.
A child for seven years remains absolutely egoistic, self-centered. If you ask psychologists they will say a child for seven years remains masturbatory, satisfied with himself. He does not need anything, anybody. He feels complete."
Osho. Maturity: The Responsibility of Being Oneself (Osho Insights for a New Way of Living) . St. Martin's Press.p.24
The child at this age is to be spoiled. The child is to be nurtured. The child’s needs should be met in a loving, generous way. If the child’s needs are dependably responded to and met, the child will become secure. If not, the child will be anxious, avoidant, or disorganized.
Children at this age are to be protected and loved. The family and the church should be a place for play and use of creative imagination.
Signs of positive development are an attitude of trust and confidence, and ability to regulate one’s emotions and physical functions, and the willingness to try new things and interact with a sense of purpose with others and the environment.
Freud and other developmental psychologists have observed that the basic human personality is pretty well set by age 7. After than it is fine tuning.
The function of the church is to support the parents and the family in nurturing the development of the child. Providing family activities where young children are included is important. Helping children understand their feelings and the world around them is the main focus. Churches often facilitate social support for parents with baptism and dedication ceremonies.
Churches are challenged to find ways of including young children in the life of the church without being condescending, patronizing, and marginalizing. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me” but churches often sequester them into daycare rooms and “Sunday school classrooms.” Rather than manifest patience and welcome, many older church members, having been raised with what John Bradshaw called “poisonous pedagogies” operate on the principle of “spare the rod, spoil the child.”
Children should grow up loving church, but most find it boring and off putting and as they are able to voice their own preferences, say they don’t want to go to church.
Many churches have “youth ministers” and “Sunday school teachers” rather than family ministers. A good family minister focuses on helping parents and other church members grow spiritually in their care and concern for the children among them. While the focus is on caring for children, the more significant focus is on helping parents and other adults care for children.
Nothing will help an adult mature faster than to have a child for whose growth and developoment they are responsible for.