A while back I did an article on encouraging faith in infants and toddlers. As a quick recap, I talked about sitting at the front in church (read about why in my article about keeping kids quiet at church). I also mentioned reading stories about the faith and having icons and crosses on the walls for the kids to see. Now here is my updated article with more ideas on sharing the faith with children. (Including ideas that work with older children)!
1. Let the Little Hand Know What The Big Hand is Doing
I know in scripture it says not to let the left hand know what the right hand is doing when giving alms. However, this principle doesn’t work with children. They need to know that we are being charitable. And more than that, they need to know why. Kids are really good at misinterpreting situations. A couple of parents have come up to me and bragged about how good their child is… and then mentioned that their child doesn’t go to church anymore. (At this point I’m usually confused – are they talking about the same kid here?).
The point here is that when you feed the poor, children know it is the right thing to do. What they don’t know, and aren’t being told, is that it is the right thing to do because it is the will of God for us to do these things.
So next time you do an act of mercy or charity, be sure to talk to your kids about it. And if you see them doing good, commend them for their good work. Then remind them why the work is good. And that good works apart from the love of God are worthless. #1Corinthians13
2. Thankful Hearts for Children
Talk about having a Christian attitude. Model this for your children. With our two year old (Little Fox) we use the concept of having a thankful heart. Throughout the day we comment on things that give us a thankful heart. “Wow I really like this lunch. This lunch gives me a thankful heart. Thank you Jesus for this lunch.” Or, “Thank you God, for this time I have with Little Fox and Little Badger. Being with my babies gives me a thankful heart.”
We also use the concept of thankful hearts to talk about when things are going wrong. “Little Fox is not listening to Mama. This gives Mama a sad heart. Mama wants to have a thankful heart, so Mama is going to go and talk to God about her feelings. Maybe when Mama comes back, Little Fox will be ready to say sorry and listen to Mama.”
Obviously this will need to adapt as Little Fox ages. However, the general principle will be the same. It is important to model the christian worldview for our children. By living the faith, (and talking about it!), our children learn what sets us apart as Christians.
So teach your kids to have attitude… a Christian attitude.
With most children, out of sight means out of mind. Unfortunately, faith is something that is often hard to see. However, there are several things we can do to make our invisible God visible to our children.
First of all, we can have images of the angels and saints in our children’s rooms. We can use icons, crucifixes, and saint cards. Next, find a space to make a little shrine to the Theotokos. You could use icons, statues, rosaries, and prayer ropes to adorn this area. This would also be a good space for a children’s bible. Make the space you dedicate to the Theotokos a space of relaxation.
Hang Christian Word Art. We have a free set of printables for the Heavenly King prayer which you can find here. You can also hang bible verses or have the children colour/make their own bible verse art pages to hang in their room. If you want to have some creative fun, find bible verses that connect well with their favourite book/TV/movie characters and make some art with that!
4. First Things
Children will see what our priorities are by how we live our lives. And they are naturally copy-cats. If Little Fox sees me reading books, she pretends to be doing the same thing. But if I am working on the computer – that is what she wants to be doing instead.
The same thing applies to whether or not our children see us spending time dedicated to God. Do they see us at our icon corner? Do they see us reading the bible? And do they hear us talking to God? If we don’t place God at the forefront of our lives, our children will not make God an important part of their lives either. Pray before meals. Bless yourself and your children with holy water every time you leave the house. Make prayer the first thing you do with you children when they wake up, and the last thing before they fall asleep.
5. Show Children the Faith is Present in All Things
Faith isn’t just a Sunday thing. God made the whole world, not just the Church. Starting with your child’s favourite subject, introduce how God is a part of every “subject” in our lives. When we study science we study God’s creation. Mathematics is an example of how God created our world to be perfectly ordered to Himself in truth. History reflects God’s story of salvation and how He works with us to bring about His will in the world. Art reflects the beauty and creative nature of God.
If your child is an English Major in the making, I recommend Ignatius Critical Editions of Classic Literature. [https://www.ignatius.com/Ignatius-Critical-Editions-C1090.aspx] Read the classics along side your child and discuss the faith at the same time. Also read Lord of the Rings together. There are several books about how The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings portray a Catholic worldview. Not to mention that Tolkien himself stated that his writings are very Catholic works. Our library includes: The Hobbit Party: The Vision of Freedom that Tolkien Got, and the West Forgot by Jay Richards and Jonathan Witt, Frodo’s Journey: Discover the Hidden Meaning of the Lord of the Rings by Joseph Pearce, and The Philosophy of Tolkien: The Worldview Behind The Lord of the Rings by Peter Kreeft.
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