How to Guide an Uplift Lesson
Uplift lessons are designed to help you guide your children to find their inner compass and connect with something larger than themselves. They help you start a conversation that nurtures your child’s natural spirituality.
The lessons are like recipes, allowing you to pick and choose what ingredients you want to add or cut to make the experience your own. Because we pull from the wisdom traditions and because the wisdom traditions are inherently tied to cultural contexts, there may be passages in our lessons that don’t resonate with you and your family. Because of this, we’ve worked to give you several options so you can select what works for you and ignore anything that doesn’t. Feel free to pick and choose.
Each Uplift lesson has five parts:
- Preparation Guide (Optional): Insights from the wisdom traditions and modern science. If you’re crunched for time, skip it.
- Framing Activity (Recommended): Suggestions to set the mood include lighting a candle, singing a song, doing a meditation, saying a prayer, ringing a bell, etc. See our original recordings in our singing lesson for songs to sing.
- Opening Activity: Usually a video or an embodied practice — something that draws kids in.
- Age-specific Content: For teens, kids, and littles.
- Closing Activity: A celebratory activity to move toward action and to end on a high note.
And here are three ways you can use the content:
- Uplift Gathering: Sit down for a 20-minute experience once a week
- Uplift On the Go: Use a single activity at breakfast, dinner, or before bedtime throughout the week.
- Uplift Conversations: Use a video, question, or prompt to build more meaningful interactions naturally throughout the day — one on one or as a family.
A key benefit of Uplift is that our resources can blend naturally into your life. The Uplift experience can be as simple as saying, “Hey, check out this video…” or asking a single question and discussing it together as it feels natural. If you decide to make a habit of gathering together, we suggest starting small and aiming for the same time each week so it becomes part of the natural rhythm of your house.
Note: If your kids resist answering the discussion questions, try using the questions as prompts for you to talk about your feelings and experiences, recognizing that your kids will join in naturally as they feel the desire.
Here are some additional ideas and tips:
- Put the lesson in your weekly calendar.
- Add the lesson to a weekly task list or chore chart.
- Tie the lesson to topics your kids are naturally interested in right now (Harry Potter, basketball, ballet, etc.) so they connect to the teaching.
- Use a digital device such as a tablet — or AirPlay/Chromecast from a smartphone to a TV — so everyone can view the visual content together.
- Tell personal stories as well as stories from your family’s history.
- If your kids consistently resist a certain aspect of a lesson (such as the discussion questions), skip it. Do what works for you.
- Combine the experience with a board game or video game your kids enjoy (20-minute Uplift lesson, 20-min game).
- Watch one video or read one story at breakfast, then discuss it in the car ride to school.
- Watch one video or read one story at dinner, then discuss it at bedtime.
- Look for lesson themes (courage, humility, forgiveness, etc.) as you watch a family movie together, then use that theme to discuss the related lesson topic later in the week. Combining the lesson with something fun will spark more engaging conversation, and quality movies almost always explore a universal virtue of some kind.
Above all, if the experience starts to feel difficult, think smaller. A consistent small habit will yield big results over time.
Here are some examples of what an Uplift experience might look lik
Emma and Jeff have three girls, ages 7, 9, and 15. Their family opens the Uplift lesson at the same time each Saturday morning by inviting one of the girls to light a candle. They then sing one of their favorite family songs — usually a song that Emma loved as a child.
Emma and Jeff then follow the week’s lesson, which happens to be a lesson on grit, walking through the stories and activities. In this case, Jeff tells a story about his grandparent who exemplified grit. The family then role plays how they might better embody grit in a variety of contexts, setting them up to internalize the teachings.
They close by singing one more song and blowing out the candle. Total lesson time: 20 minutes.
On some weeks, Emma and Jeff read through the lesson beforehand, save it to their phone, and then go on a nature walk and picnic where they discuss the concepts informally.
Uplift On the Go
Dave and Kristy have three kids, ages 4, 12, and 17. The wide disparity in ages makes it difficult for them to have regular sit-down lessons. They’ve tried and have found a sit down lesson just doesn’t work.
But Dave has time with the two older kids in the 10-minute car ride to and from school. On Sunday each week Dave reads through a lesson from Uplift, thinking about what might be best to bring up in the car that week. Then he thinks about how to bring the stories, quotes, ideas, or questions up organically. If it doesn’t work one day, or two, or three, he doesn’t worry. He follows his intuition, knowing that the point is to connect at a deeper level with his kids. Uplift serves as a reminder to stay centered instead of lapsing into mindlessness.
This approach does require Dave and his two kids to make sure they get up early enough to not be rushing out the door each day, but over the course of integrating this practice for three months, Dave finds that he’s closer than ever to his kids. He finds that they even sometimes follow up in the evening with questions about what he’s shared, opening up rich conversations that bring a sense of stillness to the family dynamic.
Amy and Breanna regularly meditate, do yoga, and talk about spirituality with each other, but they realize they don’t do these things with their kids, ages 10 and 13.
When they broach the topic, their kids actively resist the idea. So, rather than force anything, they simply pull a single prompt from Uplift as their kids wind down at night. The kids find themselves drawn into the conversations.
After some time, the kids start naturally wanting to learn more, such that some weeks they’re open to the possibility of gathering together for something more formal.
The primary intention of each lesson is to open up the possibility of experiencing awe together. If you open up that possibility, whether it happens during a sit-down gathering or whether the sit-down gathering creates the conditions for such an experience later on, consider your work a success. Nothing else is as important, from getting through the stories and activities to making sure everyone is being perfectly attentive. The material is secondary; the experience is primary.
If it would be helpful for you to discuss how you want to gather together, start with this lesson:
Otherwise, we recommend starting with the foundation lessons.
One helpful note: You can add #teens, #kids, or #littles to the end of the URL to skip straight to those sections. For example: https://upliftkids.org/lessons/inner-compass/#kids.