Following up on my post from earlier this week, what specific things can you do to help your children embrace their faith and not fall away?
Take your daughter out on dates. For her birthday, for Valentine’s day. Show her how a virtuous man acts and what she’s worth. Develop a relationship of trust, where she believes she can share things with you. This is just the tip of the iceberg but gives some ideas from good fathers I know.
Likewise, be involved in your son’s life: sports, camping, hunting, house/car projects. Demonstrate how manly men act: with selflessness, courage, and faith.
Pray with your children and for them. Let them see you pray, verbally and silently. Go to daily Mass with them; take them to adoration as their age allows.
Relationship with Christ
Catholic families don’t always do this well. Protestants, especially Evangelicals, do it great. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you can take your child to CCD and get her the sacraments and Mass on Sundays or even also during the week, and all will be well. All that is excellent, but all this should serve to help her form a relationship with Christ.
When we are grounded in Christ, we are less easily swayed by bad external (or even internal factors). We know that Jesus will never fail us and that we can always trust Him. Of course, the Church also will never fail us, being guided by Christ, but the people in the Church certainly will fail us, in big and small ways.
In addition to devotions and memorized prayers (Rosary etc.), try spontaneous prayer, Bible reading, good youth groups, etc. Share with them your own experiences with Christ and your relationship with Him. This may feel awkward at first but need not be elaborate; just the simple way you have come to know Him.
Finally, especially in the formative early years (3 – 6), look for the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd in your area. Also called “the Atrium,” this program is based on Sophia Cavaletti’s work and is proven to be a great way to introduce children to Christ in a manner they can understand and take to heart. For example, when they are little, they respond best to Christ as the Good Shepherd, who protects them, who gives them His light at baptism.
Good parish, good priest
Maybe you can stomach the bad liturgy and worse homilies at a particular parish. You are mature in Christ and firmly rooted in Him. But your children are not yet mature. They need beauty, a beautiful liturgy especially, and a priest in whom the love of Christ radiates. A priest whose homilies are pastoral, truthful, joyful, and clear.
There is certainly something to “sticking it out” and working to improve your parish, but not if it as at the expense of your child’s faith. You must prudently discern this balance, as every situation is different.
The music in Mass is important, but here I’m talking more about secular music. Some is better than others. Good classical music is excellent of course, but much of the pop music should be avoided. Do you really want your daughter listening to Lady Gaga? Or your son listening to Tupac Shakur or whoever the latest rap sensation is? No. This music, in addition to being offensive in many ways, can create an alternate language among young people, an alternate culture, one in which the parents aren’t invited and cannot enter.
Let’s say your child is homeschooled but you plan to put them into public or parochial school at some point. Are they ready for it? Do they have the maturity, the personality, the understanding to be prepared for what they will face? One size doesn’t fit all: some of your children may be ready by 4th grade for it. Others will need til 8th grade. One or two might need to be homeschooled or with some kind of cottage/homeschool co-op all the way through high school.
The school culture is often a different world: kids socializing other kids, and this is usually not a good thing. Bullying, cliques, keeping up with clothes/appearances/secular immodesty, poor education (yes even at supposedly “good” schools). I say this as someone who went to public schools his whole life. There are good aspects to public and parochial schools, but also many dangerous ones.
This is short survey of things to watch for. None of us are perfect, nor do we have perfect foresight or insight into our children’s lives. But these are fundamental things to help do your part to form your child in the Faith, trusting that our Lord will always do His part!
I’d love to hear your tips, experience, comments, or critiques on this important subject.