What are we parents doing to ensure our children grow up with faith and morals? I know it's tough-- there's a lot out there that teaches our students values and lessons contrary to what we're trying to teach them. If we take a moment to consider the influences on them, we might find that we're still allowing bad media into their eyes and ears.
Consider the issue of time. How much time are our children spending with any kind of media that reinforces negative views, violent behaviors, or anti-faith attitudes? This would include apps where this media can be found (Instagram, Snapchat, Musical.ly), games (either on iPads, smartphones, or game systems), on the Internet (YouTube), television (including movies and "teen/tween" shows), and music.
Surprised by any of this? Sit down with your child the next time he or she is watching a teen/tween show, like those on the Disney channel, and observe the show's attitude towards and portrayal of parents and adults. Or, watch and listen the next time your child is playing Call of Duty or Counter Strike over the Internet on their Playstation or XBox. Sometimes we don't even realize what our children are being exposed to. As the old saying goes, "You reap what you sow." I might amend that to say, "You reap what you sow and allow to be sown unknowingly." It may be time to make some changes in the media that our children are exposed to.
However, we can take this a step further and ask, of the time we spend with our children each day, how much of it builds up their faith, their sense of right and wrong, or their sense of service to others? Gratefully, Sunday Mass makes for a weekly reminder to our children, and seeing us worship with them builds up its importance in their minds. Daily prayer is another way to sow good seeds in our students' faith lives. This can be done on the way to school by turning off the radio, mentioning intentions to pray for, and praying together during the drive. Each night, we parents can bless our children as we're putting them to bed. We can trace the sign of the cross on their foreheads or place a hand on their heads and pray aloud for their health and well-being.
Ready to step it up to the next level? Try praying the Rosary together as a family once a week, or add an extra day per week if you're already doing so. We can get a children's bible story book and occasionally read a bible story to our children, especially young children, and talk about how each story shows God's love for us. One great way we can really show our children how practical the Catholic faith is would be to take the family to Confession once a month.
Raising Faithful Kids
One of my favorite radio programs is Catholic Answers Live which airs on Immaculate Heart Radio (AM930) each day from 3:00-5:00p.m. I recently heard an old episode via podcast called "Raising Faithful Kids" with guests Greg and Lisa Popcak. Greg Popcak is a psychotherapist and Catholic author, and he wrote a book with his wife Lisa that focuses on what Catholic parents can do to raise faithful children. They mention four things Catholic parents must do in order to increase the chances that our children will own their faith personally and carry it into adulthood:
- Children need to experience and understand the faith as the source of the warmth in the home.
- Dads need to take the lead in faith and character formation.
- Parents need to facilitate their children's personal and meaningful prayer relationship with Christ.
- [Parents must spend time] Creating relationships with other families and giving kids the opportunities to create relationships with peers who value their faith as well.
During the course of the show, they talk about each in greater detail, and they cite data, personal experience, and common sense to support these claims.
Hearing this really convicted me. Were all of these requirements in place, my children's spiritual "soil" would be effectively tilled so that the Holy Spirit could work in their lives. They'd understand the faith is not something we do only on Sundays, but something we live out in each moment, each interaction, and each decision.