Like most parents, I fear for my kids whenever I see all the atrocities going on around us. From rampant hate crimes to gun-touting kids opening fire at their schools to Fifty Shades of Grey, the media alone is filled with content that can do unspeakable damage to such impressionable minds. As much as we’d like to encase our kids in a bubble to protect them from all things harmful, we can’t resort to that. So what’s a concerned parent to do?
I feel very fortunate to have grown up in a household that was so normal, it would have been an absolute bore to watch if we were featured on some reality TV show. I had two parents with a good marriage, a father who was a good provider and a mother who was a strong moral compass to my brother and me.
As blessings go, I married a man with a very similar upbringing and family background to mine. And together, we strive to teach our faith practices to our two kids.
But we’ve seen one too many children of overzealous religious parents, children who have strayed down the wrong path because religious ideals were forcibly rammed down their throats. We don’t want to be those parents. Neither do we want to be apathetic. Instead, we attempt to find some middle ground when it comes to sharing our faith with our little ones.
We bring them to Church on Sundays. Being practicing Catholics, my husband and I were brought up going to Church every Sunday and it’s something we’ve continued doing to this day. So every Sunday morning, we bring our two children with us to Mass. Some people frown upon this, claiming children at that age don’t understand the concept of a Mass yet, plus they disrupt the solemn, quiet atmosphere of the one-hour service. But we believe in exposing our kids as early as possible to the practice of congregating once a week and praying to “Father God” and “Papa Jesus.” It’s something our kids look forward to every Sunday, as they look at it for what it is: a moment to be with Jesus and a time spent with family.
We pray every day. We don’t just limit our prayer time to Sunday at Mass. We also pray as a family before and after meals and at night, right before bed time. We each take turns in saying our own personal prayers and we encourage the kids to talk to God and tell Him what they want. Our four-year-old’s favorite prayer is for Papa Jesus to “please send me a pink princess dress” and our two-year-old son’s is to “please bless Lightning McQueen!” Such sincere, innocent prayers certainly make our hearts swell with happiness and make us realize that we’re indeed doing right by our faith.
We read them books with good values. Both our kids absolutely love books and we’re always at the local library borrowing books by the stack. We make them pick their own stories to take home, but we also choose books that talk about our faith in child-like form. We borrow Bible stories for kids and during Christmas, we read the Nativity tale and we’ve also shared with them the story of Easter. This caters to their love for reading and at the same time, helps them know the roots of the faith they were born into.
We always bring them to our Church activities. My husband and I met in a Church group called Singles for Christ, which has as its members unmarried individuals between the ages of 21 and 40. As members, we always made time for prayer meetings and outreach programs. When we got married, we joined the Church group counterpart for spouses called Couples for Christ and we’re currently very active in the group as well. We try to take our kids to our activities, and there they learn to make friends among the kids of our co-members, sing beautiful praise songs, and simply have a great time serving God. We’re always in hopes that our enthusiasm rubs off on them.
We strive to live by example. The best way to teach your kids something is living by example, which my husband and I always try to do. And it starts with our marriage. Someone wise once said that the best gift parents can give to their children is a happy marriage, one in which their love and devotion to each other are unashamed and unconditional. If they see the mutual respect, trust, and commitment between their parents, children can grow into the best versions of themselves. Showing them through actions is better than any words of wisdom we can impart on them.
At the end of the day, we can never fully shield our kids when the time comes for them to make their way in the world. We just have to raise them as best as we can, hoping and praying that the values we instill, the morals we impart, and the love that we give are enough for them to rise above all the horrors they’ll inevitably be exposed to.
And when we see that they can stand on their own, with two feet planted firmly on the ground and morals fully intact, we can rest easy at night and know for certain that we did good. That we were the best parents we could be for them.