Spirituality in Nursing
Professor Cheryl Clark
June 19, 2014
Spiritual Needs of Children
Caring for a dying child has been one of the saddest yet most rewarding parts of being a hospice nurse. The children for whom I have cared have had the most honest, humbling, and intuitive spiritual lives. I have learned more from children about the basic principles of faith, truth and love than I have from most adults.
According to O’Brien (2014), David appears to be in the mythic-literal stage of Fowler’s faith development, particularly when he holds dear the cross that comforts him. Yet he exhibits some elements from the synthetic-conventional faith development stage as he relates to the statement on the card that reminds him he must carry his own cross daily (Case Study, 2014). Thus, he is claiming the cross as his own faith identity. In this faith stage the need for privacy is strong, and it is important for Karen to respect David’s privacy.
I am in agreement with Burkhardt’s beliefs about children’s spirituality. She confirms my belief that children live in their spirits more than adults (O’Brien, 2014). I believe that we are all born with intuitive spirituality. However, life experiences, logic, and learning diminish our ability to trust our intuition. Our experiences as adults seem to hinder our inherent innocence, and we attempt to explain human suffering. Children are more able to find meaning behind suffering. David found meaning in his attempt to carry his own cross daily. Karen struggled to understand why people have to suffer. David helped her find meaning instead of understanding.
David told Karen he was cold and wanted to be held. He intuitively knew he was dying and did not want to be alone. Being alone at the time of death is a common fear of the children for whom I have cared. Their parents also share this fear. Listening to children is the most important way to help them. Accepting that David did not want to talk about the cross seemed to symbolize his desire to avoid talking about death. Karen respected this. In my experience, dying children also want reassurance that they will be missed. It is important for the nurse to help parents tap into their children’s intuitive spirituality. This is often difficult, but every effort should be made to be holding or touching the child when they die.
I admire the research of Robert Cole in seeking the truth about children’s spirituality. An important aspect of his work is his ability to encourage children to discuss their spirituality, without prodding, or pushing them towards what he believes (Finn, 1985). Cole believes that children are truth tellers and are able to answer