Watching the events of the last few weeks unfold, I have been struck anew by how many former Catholics there are in the news media. None of them have a clue about what it means to be Catholic. That, coupled with this post at 8 Kids and a Business, got me thinking about how to keep our kids Catholic. I decided to create a list.
Please note: my children are still preteens, so I cannot say, “It worked for us.” But I have done some research on the matter, and observed other Catholic families. I’ve often wondered how my husband and his siblings all remained good Catholics, while some of my siblings did not. I almost left the Church myself in my 20s. I also know that a parent can do everything right, and his children can still choose to leave the Church. We have freewill. This list is not meant for pointing fingers or accusing other parents of failing. It’s meant to help those who are raising their kids now and want to do the best they can.
1. Model the behavior you want to see in your kids.
This is key. Kids copy their parents’ behavior, both good and bad. If you aren’t striving to follow Christ, they probably won’t either. The other tips hinge on this one.
2. Have an open heart.
I’ve written about openness before. Have you rejected any of the Church’s teachings? Are you already dreading what Pope Francis might do? Do you listen when your kids talk, and try to understand where they are coming from? Can they trust you to love them, no matter what?
3. Teach your kids the faith.
Don’t expect Catholic school or religious ed to do this for you. You and your spouse are your children’s first teachers of the faith. Your kids need to know the history of the Church, what She teaches, and why. They need to know the differences between Catholics and other Christians, and the wonder of the Sacraments. Teach them Who founded the Church, and what He promised. Befriend the saints. Celebrate the Church’s feasts. Let the faith influence every area of your life.
4. Teach them to pray and pray with them.
The Guardian Angel Prayer is great, but it’s not enough. Teach them to meditate on the mysteries of the rosary. Teach them mental prayer. Take 30 minutes out of your day to spend alone with Christ. Make sure your children know you do this. Over time, help them do the same.
5. Read and study the Bible together.
Some Christians think Catholics don’t read the Bible. Don’t let your kids prove them right. Read the Bible as a family. Talk about difficult passages. Explain how the Bible came about and its proper place in Christian life. Don’t stop with children’s Bible stories. Study more advanced material together as your children mature.
6. Teach your kids how to think.
Teach basic logic and critical thinking skills. Discuss current events and politics (but don’t equate any political party with the Church). Write letters to the editor and encourage your children to do the same. Read C.S. Lewis, Peter Kreeft, and G.K. Chesterton together.
7. Be humble and genuine.
Don’t judge others, especially your spouse or kids. Take the whole family to Confession often. Apologize when you discipline too harshly, wrongly accuse, or yell. Admit your mistakes. Don’t let your children think you’re a hypocrite.
8. Spend time with your kids–especially you dads.
Moms naturally spend time with their kids–or at least feel guilty for not doing so. But absent or distant dads can drive kids away from God the Father. Put God and your family before work and entertainment. Say “I love you” every day. Children don’t recognize your job as a service to the family. They want you to come to their sports events and performances. They long for one-to-one chats.
9. Know when to protect and when to let go.
Don’t show your little ones violent movies. Keep them off the internet unless you are supervising. Help them choose their friends. As they get older, slowly give them more freedom, but only as they show responsibility. Don’t expect them to act like adults without you’re teaching them how. Give them all the skills they need to live on their own before they go to college.
10. Give them good Catholic mentors besides yourselves.
Grandparents can be lifesavers. In their absence, uncles, aunts, and godparents can love and teach your children. Give them someone to go to when they are scared to speak to you or when rebellion threatens. Don’t be their only model of Christian adulthood–even if you are a saint.
Share with us: Do you have grown children? What worked or failed for you? How are you raising your kids now to keep them Catholic?