Keep Your Kids Catholic

One activity done in the Atrium

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?

Father-child Relationship

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.

Music

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.

School Discernment

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.

Conclusion

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.

 

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32 Responses to Keep Your Kids Catholic

  1. Latenter says:

    Are you worried that you’re too close to recommending a fundamentalist like withdrawal from the culture in your school section? Over sheltered kids too seldom become well rounded adults. Typically they either rebel or become cowardly and disengaged from the culture their whole lives. I say show them that the faith is beautiful, desirable, and true and, by letting them experience it (b/c that’s the only way they’ll believe you), that the culture is ugly and full of false hopes. Or, since I’m certainly no expert, am I wrong?

    • Devin Rose says:

      Hi Latenter,

      Welcome to my blog and thanks for the comment. A balance must be discerned and struck in this regard. We don’t want to over-shelter our children, but we also don’t want to send them out to the wolves before they can defend themselves.

      I totally agree about showing them the beauty and truth of the Faith. But 1) this can be hard to do if your parish seems to almost be working against you with lackluster liturgical reverence, homilies, etc. and the Catholic school (or public school) you send your child to for 8 hours out of the day also works against you. And 2) the culture is strong and especially for young people can appear more attractive because they are still developing that spiritual sense to “taste and see that the Lord is good.”

      It’s like with movies. You carefully discern which movies are appropriate for each of your children, given their ages and maturity levels. A five year old should not be watching the Lord of the Rings, even though the Lord of the Rings is a movie with a powerfully good plot. Same with schools. Maybe one of your children at age seven is ready for school and would even thrive there. Maybe another at age thirteen still isn’t ready for it.

      Finally, there are other occasions for children facing the culture outside of school: sports, scouts, other activities.

      My two cents. Thanks and God bless!

      • Latenter says:

        I see. That makes sense. I suppose the ideal solution is a Parish/School that works for you. Providing an introduction to the culture (by the sheer number of other kids around) in a desirable way. But, not having kids, I’ll take your word for it on the depressing news that such a situation is hard to find.

        • Brent says:

          We home school. There are 1,000 other ways to introduce your kids to other kids. Or, you can always have enough to give them social skills at home.

  2. Silica says:

    Thanks for this! My son is only 1 but I have been thinking a lot about getting a “good start.” Except for spotty church attendance and one week of Bible camp in elementary school, I had exactly zero faith formation. My husband’s parents left it up to his Catholic schools. We would like to do more. Right now it’s about making good habits for us: going to Mass and Confession frequently to strengthen us as parents – and we bring our son with us. We try to integrate a short prayer into the bedtime routine, and I have been looking into some toddler–appropriate board books and toys (hard to find – seems like most stuff is geared toward older children.) I just know, as much as possible, that I want the faith to be normal, not some weird extra thing that gets tacked on every Sunday.

    • Devin Rose says:

      That’s great, Silica! And even though it’s a few years out, you might want to look for an Atrium in your area, and if there isn’t one, starting working to bring one there! My wife got training to be a catechist for the Atrium (there are multiple degrees of training), so that’s a possibility too.

    • I think going to Confession as a family would be really powerful.
      Ice-cream afterwards? Even better.

  3. R.C. Sproul Jr., a Reformed guy who really “gets” this whole topic, has a great quip about the “sheltering” criticism. He says that when people accuse him of sheltering his children, he responds by saying “what will you accuse me of next, feeding and clothing them?”

    Point being, we really can’t over protect our children from our culture. Obviously if we raise them away from the main culture and fail to fill the gap with a good culture, then they will probably rebel back to the default mainstream culture… that may be all they know.

    • Latenter says:

      … or become cowardly adults that never engage the culture and can’t be salt in the world because they avoid the world so thoroughly. Its a clever line, but you don’t mature into a well rounded person only hanging out with your parents. The fundamentalist kids who have been raised like that attest to this. Their growth is stunted by being sheltered like that. So, Devin is right: We don’t want to over-shelter our children

      • Silica says:

        I agree with this. I knew a girl in college who was so incredibly bright but had been so sheltered that she went absolutely nuts. I don’t think it started as rebellion – it’s just that she completely believed everything anyone told her. She had never been exposed to the idea that people lie and manipulate, and she was taken advantage of. By the time she learned to be suspicious, she was suspicious of people trying to help her.

        Obviously this isn’t what most people plan when homeschooling or whatever, but if your child needs to wait a little longer before exposure to the world I think it’s critical to teach them what to expect so they can learn to protect themselves when they need that skill.

      • Latener,
        I was a fundamentalist kid who homeschooled myself through high school. I had lots of friends, a girlfriend, a great social life, I could have a conversation with an adult and look them in the eye, I did not wear black mascara and cut my arms up, and I received at least as good an education as the public school kids down the road. Your characterization that homeschoolers “only hang out with their parents” is just flat wrong. I wonder where you get that idea? And of the outliers where perhaps that is the case, is their disfunction any worse than a roomful of 30+ 8th graders with their cliques and bullying? Is that the “real world”?
        Last time I checked, when I walk down the hall at my office, nobody trips me and insults me. Yet that behavior is the norm in schools. Now that is disfunctional.

        Of my siblings children all of which are fundamentalists (other than us, the weird Catholics), 23 of 24 are/were homeschooled. They are the most well adjusted group of people you will ever meet. The older ones have families of their own now and are starting to homeschool the next generation. They are all wise as serpents and innocent as doves. And of hundreds of homeschooling families I have ever seen, this is by far the norm. There are pros and cons to all “schooling” methods, but I do tire of the baseless, unsupported-by-any-facts-whatsoever charges that homeschoolers, as you put it, “don’t mature into a well rounded person.”

        It would be helpful if you presented some evidence for your position. Or is it just a intuition on your part?

        • Devin Rose says:

          In Lantener’s defense, there certainly are some homeschooled children, including from fundamentalist groups, who are socially awkward/overly sheltered, etc.

          But what’s interesting is that, by and large, the young people I meet nowadays who know how to look me in the eye, shake my hand, and communicate like a normal human being, are more often than not homeschooled. And the public/parochial school kids don’t have a clue how to interact like an adult.

          So there’s truth to both sides here I think.

          • Big Tex says:

            Heck, I see this with my 9 year old and his peers. There is a marked difference in the interactions of the homeschooled kids and adults vs. brick-n-morter schooled kids and adults… generally speaking.

            • Augustine says:

              As a foreigner, I was appalled at the lack of courtesy and manners of most American teenagers. Where I come from, you’re supposed to shake hands no matter your age. Of course, children are excused their shyness, but a teenager is expected to have adult social skills already. It’s ridiculous when a young man or woman, even in his or her early 20’s, behaves like a 6 year-old. From what others tell me, that’s how it used to be in America too. What’s happened to this culture?

  4. As a homeschool family with 5 girls I feel qualified to say that the #1 thing to remember is this:

    PARENTS are the teachers of their children.

    Notice I didnt say they “should be” the teachers. I said they are the teachers. If this is kept in mind, then we should see “school” as helpers in our mission of getting kids to heaven. Personally, we have found homeschooling to fit best for our family with this goal. All the problems with cliques and such only happen with the neighborhoood kids who go to schools and learn that behavior. Homeschooling definately helps us have better socialized kids.

    Devin, you asked for tips or experience. Here is a small one that I have done since my oldest was a newborn. Yes even as a Protestant.

    Give your kids blessings.

    When they are tucked in to bed, I place my hand on their head, look into their eyes and say the traditional blessing:

    “May the Lord God bless you and keep you, may the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you his peace.”
    I then trace the cross on their forehead with my right thumb as I invoke the Trinity. (In the name of…)

    I was quite pleased to learn that fathers actually can give a special blessing in the Catholic Church. I am not totally clear on this, but I believe that of blessings given by non-priests, a parents blessing has a special sacramental significance for Catholics.

    Anyway, the kids love it, and it truly shows where my heart is for them. It also is a good occasion for some of those before bedtime talks about important topics. “Daddy what does countenance mean?” “Daddy, who made God?”

    • Augustine says:

      I actually think that many assume the single child of overprotective parents. Most homeschooling children have several siblings and if someone doesn’t get socialized by one’s siblings, one’s a lost cause.

      • Silica says:

        The girl I spoke of in my comment above was an only child (from a Catholic family, but I obviously don’t know the circumstances surrounding why she was an only child.)

        Siblings definitely change the social dynamic of a household.

  5. Augustine says:

    To my heartfelt surprise, it came a day when people would think that my daughter was my trophy wife when we would go out together, even if merely to the groceries store. So, out of shame, she’s avoided going out with me.

    What’s happened to this culture which used to think of a young wife as the geezer’s daughter but now think of a middle-aged man and his daughter as a couple? It’s not even become the norm, so why do people even assume this case firstly?

    • Drina says:

      I agree completely. A while back, I saw a girl I had gone to school with, and hadn’t seen her in years. She was on a walk with her dad, and had her baby in a stroller. My husband thought they were husband and wife until I told him they were father/daughter. It’s sadly the way our world is.

  6. Brent says:

    (daddy of 2-soon-to-be 3 boys and 2 girls)
    Advice:
    1. Love God, love the Church and do it in front of your kids. Love is an action. Do you go through the motions at Mass or do you really set the example of devotion to our Lord?
    1.1- pray
    2. Love your kids. Don’t let the way you were raised rub off on your kids (if it was less than exemplar). Hug them. Kiss them. Speak to them everyday. Don’t let a day go by that you don’t tell them that you love them.
    2.1- pray
    3. Love your spouse. Nothing makes for a stronger, more stable home life than a good marriage. Don’t over invest in your children to the detriment of your marriage.
    3.1- pray
    4. Don’t spoil your kids. They need you, not stuff.
    4.1- pray
    5. Foster their relationship with Christ. We have the Eucharist! Don’t tell me evangelicals should be getting this one right. Nothing is more personal than our Lord in the Holy Eucharist.
    5.1- pray
    6. Entrust them to the care of a patron saint and foster their devotion to that saint.
    6.1- pray
    7. Celebrate their saint’s feast day, their personal baptism day, and all first sacrament days. Also, celebrate the liturgical calendar, and do it all with joy. To be in Christ’s Church is joy!
    7.1- pray

    all I could think of for now

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  8. shawna b says:

    read your Bible together.
    i love it.

    ..you could also do “everything right” and your child is still able to respond and make their own decisions on faith and of such matters.

  9. Felix says:

    Dads should take the lead in family prayers etc. It’s too easy for Mom to do this, which creates the impression that it’s a girl thing.

    And definitely some homeschooling families can be too isolationist. If you’re homeschooling, please do make an effort to cultivate ties with other families.

    (And, no, it’s not enough to send your son to a soccer team. He needs real friends of his own age to simply hang about with.)

  10. Cheryl Kennedy says:

    I have six sons. The youngest is 8. I am happy to have found these letters as I am having trouble getting us to pray together as a family. My husband sometimes will pray the rosary with me. My husband gets frustrated when we try to pray with our family because the little ones run around and the middle ones aren’t really interested but the worst part is we have totally lost our college age children and I think it happened because I didn’t know how to get them to pray the rosary together.

    Here is what we do. Always attend Sunday Mass, always have an advent wreath, decided to made signs with my favorite scripture verse, psalms, pray prayers on the way to school which is 20 min. ride.

    • Devin Rose says:

      Cheryl,

      Thank you for your comment. This is a common and difficult situation and I commend you with all the things you are trying. The Rosary is beautiful and important, but you might also try to ease into it with only doing one decade with the smaller ones.

      With the middle ones, it might also help to find ways for your husband and children to join together in the Faith in a way that is interesting and attractive to them. That may be through service, or through different kinds of prayer, or through some kind of Catholic young men’s/women’s group. In any case, it can be hard to transform your family’s culture into one where the Faith is joyfully lived out, but by God’s grace I hope y’all find a way!

      God bless,
      Devin

  11. Jennifer says:

    Wonderful article – as a Catholic educator I thank you for it – but you gave me the giggles with Tupak Shakur- he’s been dead for sixteen years!!

  12. MPSchneiderLC says:

    2 reflections:
    1. I have just been reading “Soul Searching” on the spiritual life of teens and it seems to correlate one thing that I never thought about: those Churches where the adults do things more often outisde “Sunday Worship” (i.e. Mass – the author needed some term to include Catholics and Protestants) such as volunteer work, bible study, or a prayer group, the stronger the religious faith of the kids was.
    2. I think your premise is a little off: don’t KEEP your kids Catholic, help them THRIVE Catholics (and become saints).

  13. Maria says:

    When my brother and I were middle school/high school my family and I would watch religious films together. Like “The Passion”, “The Mission”, “Chariots of Fire” etc. Then we’d talk about it afterwards. We have a decade of the rosary followed by other prayers at night. And they bless us and each other before bed as well.

    Keeping your values and principles is not easy even in “good” schools. It’s important that your kid develops a good sense of self so that he is not easily swayed. Though for some kids this comes naturally. I was bullied/outcast most of my elementary-high school life. I had friends but it was not till college that I met people who really understood me and who shared the same values. I am not saying that parents should not care about their kids getting bullied. But there is value in that experience. Personally, it has actually helped me develop a closer relationship with Jesus because I was lonely… I did not realize then… But now I am very grateful for the experience.