Our families are a domestic church and Christ is truly present in each moment of family life. The love that is shared within the family is a true grace and blessing that builds faith in a powerful way.
Children learn about God’s love by first experiencing love from their parents. What an awesome gift this is!
But, this isn’t always easy. Families are made of humans who don’t always have the answers and sometimes make mistakes.
So, how can parents help their children grow in awareness of God’s tremendous love for them and learn how to discern important choices in their lives?
How can parents help their children learn to bring God’s grace and their faith into all their decisions?
Maybe a good place to start is encouraging within the child a deep friendship with Jesus.
Some ways to encourage this include taking time with the child at the end of the day to talk with God about all the things that have happened that day.
Everyone in the family can share together or it can be one-on-one. Parents can model what this might look like.
Children would love to hear some examples of how Mom and Dad talk to God, who can even offer examples of how God has been a part of their decisions or helped them through difficult things. This strengthens faith and a recognition of God’s presence in all moments of life.
Creating moments to share gratitude increases a sense of joy and appreciation for the gifts one has received. This gratitude leads to a sense of service and a desire to give to others.
Sharing of gratitude can happen over family meals and can be catered to the developmental stage of the child.
A family can also create a gratitude journal together that can be tailored to the abilities of the child. (Pictures and squiggles are okay!)
Participating in the sacraments as a family also has a lasting effect on how children see faith as being relevant in their lives. When children see parents praying with their faith community, it helps them to have a sense of belonging in their faith community, as well.
Having a movie night as a family that involves watching a movie about a saint or a person of faith can be inspiring and thought-provoking. Following the movie, sharing reflections about the movie can deepen its meaning and relevance.
Inviting a priest or religious over to the house for supper provides the opportunity to get to know the person on a human level. The young people can connect with the priest or religious in a real way.
Hopefully, the children will notice joy in this person and that will attract them to learn more about what his or her life is like. If this isn’t possible, stopping and having a conversation with the priest after Mass to get to know him better is great, too!
On vacation, a fun and enriching thing to do can be to stop and visit a beautiful church on the way to your destination while taking the time to look around and say a prayer and invite God into the family time together. Google can help locate wonderful churches easily.
These are just some suggestions that I offer in the hope that they might be helpful. They also may inspire other thoughts or ideas to grow and blossom.
May God bless all families with all that they need to faithfully grow together in discernment, grace and love.
Benedictine Sister Sarah Yungwirth is the associate director of the Vocation Office.