Being Catholic, I mean REALLY catholic in today’s world isn’t easy. And raising Catholic children, or at least trying to, is a whole other level.
As parents to 9 young children in just about every age bracket, we have learnt a thing or two about creative ways to help keep your kids Catholic.
1.There is no magic bullet or quick fix
From the outset, we should stress that there is not one size fits all solution. Some things that have worked incredibly well for us, may not be the best for you. Equally, some things you have tried would not have worked at all for our family. Trial and error is the key.
2. Set a good example
It is a fact that parents are the primary educators of their children. Further, the importance placed on faith life and spirituality is a learned experience. Your children will engage their faith life to the extent that you as parents place importance on it. In other words, if you act and speak as though mass is a duty, your kids will reflect that. If you are active in your faith, disciplined in your prayer life and constantly working out your salvation, your children will see how
much you value and will emulate that.
3. Pray together, stay together
It pretty much follows on from the last point. There is only one way to really evangelise somebody: through relationship. Pray with your children all the time, giving them a multitude of touch points throughout their days and weeks, continues to reinforce the normality of faith.
We set aside at least Saturday nights for the Rosary, we pray at every meal and bedtime prayers are a common feature in the bedtime ritual. At bed time, they often serve to create a sense of calm, quiet and peace. But not all the time!
It’s easy to talk at kids, but talking with them is a two way street. Not all kids are happy to engage in a full on conversation about how their feeling. We’re constantly amazed at the different ways in which our nine all communicate. Some just like to talk and talk, until finally they get to the things that are on their mind. Others need my or Michelle’s firm, soothing presence to calm down and express how they’re feeling, especially after being smacked over the head by their brothers tee ball bat! As parents we need to learn how our children best communicate, and try hard to be available when the environment is right for it.
5. Knowledge is power
This sounds a little clichéd, but we have found, especially as they get a little older and wiser, children respond so much better when they have more of the picture, rather than ‘do it because I said so’. By giving them more of the knowledge, more of the story, not only helps them to understand more, but also assists in developing their own decision Making capacity.
It naturally rings true, then for their faith. As they develop a greater sense of who they are and just how big the world is, they start to need more depth of understanding. At this point ‘because it is’ doesn’t cut it, and we need to have more solid ‘food’ to feed their knowledge hungry minds.
6. Trust in Him
At the end of the day, as humans, as parents, we can only do so much. We also make mistakes. A lot of mistakes. All the time.
We have to trust that God has our children in the palm of His hand, that he is the author and creator of their lives, and that He will take care of them. Even when they wander down different paths, we must entrust them to Him. After all, we are really only custodians of our children.
As we said at the beginning, bringing up your children Catholic is no easy feat. But, if you can implant the seeds of our faith, in time, over time and at the right time, those seeds may serve your children well.
Jeremy and Michelle