Sunday, September 11, 2011

3 Ways to Add Faith to the Rhythm of Life for Your Young Children (A Part of the Training Happy Hearts: A Call to Faith Formation for Young Children Series)

The boys take their turn on our portrait of Mother Teresa for her Feast Day.
This week, as my children and I began our new school year, including the celebration of two feast days, I was thinking about daily, weekly and seasonal rhythms. As any caregiver of young children knows, children thrive on regular routines and enjoyable rituals.  They also love a celebration!

So, today I offer three simple ways that we celebrate our faith, making the practice of it a familiar and happy habit in our young children’s lives:

  • Pray Daily: As the saying goes, habits are caught, not taught. Praying within earshot and eyeshot of your children, and inviting them to pray together with you, can be far more effective than instructing children to pray. So, instead of (or in addition to) waking up before your children to get some time with God, how about allowing your children to observe your prayer practices? Invite them to join you as well. Morning offerings, mealtime blessings, bedtime prayers, spontaneous praise and petition. All of these can become joy-filled, meaningful practices for you and your child to share. And, just as your young ones imitate talking on the phone like grown ups do, they will model after your conversations with God. 
  • Participate in Mass Weekly: It should go without saying that a vital aspect of a young child’s faith formation is participating in Mass each week. Yet, as I look around at church each Sunday, I sometimes wonder where all the children are. I don’t see many in the pews near our family, nor in the back of the church, nor on the church steps, where I so often find myself with one of my busy children. What a missed opportunity! For even youngsters who are as boisterous as mine are at Mass get much out of going, I believe. Through participating as a family in Mass from infancy onward, children learn the importance of setting aside time each week for God, no matter how busy life gets. This positive example can last a lifetime. Also, everyone loves a free gift! What better gift to offer your children than the weekly graces gained from gathering together to celebrate as a united Church each week? 
  • Explore the Liturgical Year with Your Senses Seasonally: I have spent the past several years reintroducing myself to the rich heritage of our faith as I select child-friendly feast days to celebrate with my children. Creating liturgical tables, cooking up Saint Day teas, reading storybooks about the saints, fingerpainting interpretations of church teachings, dancing to praise and worship music, studying and drawing faces of love… Through offering activities that engage the senses of smell, taste, sight, sound and touch, as well as those of balance and movement, I not only help my children to explore the liturgical year at their own levels, but marvel at how accessible and engaging our church heritage becomes. So many children can name popular characters from their favorite storybooks, videos and games. How many delight in the saints? With a story told here and book snuggled during there, they can!
God is ever-present in our lives and in the lives of our young children. Let’s honor Him by including prayer and celebration of our faith as we move about the rhythm of our days, weeks and seasons!

How do you include celebration of faith in the rhythm of your life? How do you invite your children to explore their own? Might there be a new tradition family could consider to deepen your faith formation?  A new ritual to broaden it? As always, I welcome your thoughts and questions and encourage you to join in on this ongoing discussion of how we might work together to train up the young children in our lives to love and live the faith.

Please continue to join us here each Sunday for new thoughts, tips and sharing about Training Happy Hearts: A Call to Faith Formation for Young Children. Comments or links to your own ideas or questions on this topic are encouraged!


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