Instead of protecting kids from death and sadness, teach them the value of mourning well.
As we honor our dead in this month of all Souls—November 2, so you can mark it at home with your children—let me say that I think we are too afraid of death, and that this is not good for our kids or for us.
My son and daughter complain that my husband and I brought them to more wakes than any kid in town. They are probably right. We still live in the city of our birth, and people, as usual, tend to keep dying: friends’ parents, fellow parishioners, neighbors. This year it was our friends’ son, only in his 20s.
Using the prayer in your family’s day-to-day life will make it come alive when kids recite it in church.
We say it every week in church, and it’s the prayer that most unifies Christians of every denomination. For children, though, the Our Father can be one long line of seldom-used and difficult to understand words and phrases. Helping kids to break down the prayer into smaller, more understandable bits at home will give them a better sense of its meaning. Using parts of the prayer in your family’s day-to-day life will make it come alive when kids recite it in church.
There are spiritual benefits to spending time in nature.
Some of the stones skipped like children across the surface of the lake. A few landed with a single, splashy plop. Others cut smoothly right through with barely a sound or splash.
Three children—my 5-year-old and my friends’ two kids, 7 and 10—waded up to their shins in a small clearing on the banks of the bay, tossing rocks and laughing, challenging each other to farther throws, bigger rocks, more skips. Gentle waves lapped at their skinny, mosquito-bitten legs.
Sometimes, the best way to counsel the doubtful is to speak from a place of experience.
When Lisa Marie, now in her 40s, was a teenager, she began to experience doubts about God. Raised in a faithful, churchgoing Catholic family and attending a Catholic high school, Lisa Marie found these doubts unsettling. “I wasn’t sure if all this I was learning about God was real,” she explains. “So I asked God to give me faith the size of a mustard seed. I basically prayed that God would give me the faith that I didn’t have.”
For parents, it is a challenge to listen when Jesus tells us to put down our work.
I would be a much more spiritual person if I didn’t need to do the laundry.
Our parish offers excellent adult education programs in matters of faith and also has various types of prayer groups. The programs are offered in the evening on just about every day of the week, every church season of the year.
And Bill and I hardly go to anything.
We haven’t always been like this. As young adults, Bill and I attended Theology on tap (Catholic speakers with beer to follow) religiously. We stayed after church for the Advent and Lenten series. We were involved.
Let us be an instrument of peace—while parenting.
My 15-year-old daughter has recently begun asking how my day was at work. The first day she asked, I stammered an answer, “Um. Fine. I had some meetings.” As she continued asking each week, I began to answer more thoughtfully, telling her about an interesting project, a problem, or a funny colleague. As I spoke, I found myself looking at her to see if she was even interested in my story. She was, and I felt a bit incredulous.
With confidence comes the respect of classmates.
Last week, while I was at work, an e-mail pinged in from my friend Machelle. Noticing that it was titled simply, “Recess,” I cringed as I clicked to open it. Machelle has four young children and is not one to send me notes about cute antics; if the title was “recess,” it was about something that went wrong at recess—either with her children or my own.
I quickly read the e-mail. I was right. Her fifth-grade son had approached her, crying, at lunch recess, when she was dropping off her kindergartner for the afternoon. Some boys in his class would not let him play basketball.
Rejoice in all the holy moments of family life.
Prayer doesn’t always come easy for me, particularly extemporaneous prayer—putting my thoughts, needs, and desires in front of God off the top of my head. When I realized that the way to teach my son to pray would be by praying with him, I tried using a simple format: “What do you want to thank God for today?” I’d ask. The answer was often as silly as it was profound: “Dumptwuck,” he’d answer. “And da moon and stahs.” I’d follow up by asking who we should ask God to bless. His response was long; he’d list friends from day care, teachers, extended family, and, of course, Mama and Papa.
There are plenty of ways to foster faith in youth.
When Mary Clare Murray’s 8-year-old daughter came home with questions about why Catholics worship statues, Murray gave a simple explanation. Catholics don’t worship statues, said the mother of six from St. John the Beloved Parish in McLean, Virginia. Statues and pictures help us focus our minds to pray.
The question originated in a playground conversation between her daughter, who attends public school, and a classmate. Her daughter shared the explanation with her friend.
Are you teaching your kids that having fun means buying things?
Samantha, an executive for a Fortune 100 company and mother of two, loves to shop. While her job requires her to be nicely dressed, Samantha admits that she also often uses shopping as recreation. She brings her children shopping with her, and as a reward for waiting patiently while she tries on clothes and looks at jewelry, she’ll buy them a new toy, gadget, or outfit.